Influencing Gen Z

By: Sisi Berhe, Account Manager & Camilla Castro, Account Associate

An emerging demographic – one that has rapidly become a critical target for marketers and brands to understand – is Generation Z. This post-millennial generation is loosely defined as those born between 1993 to 2011. They are the first generation to be born in the digital era, they don’t know what it is like to not have access to the internet, and they represent a large consumer base for retailers – contributing billions of dollars to the Canadian economy each year.  Most of their earned funds frequently fall into the following categories: car, groceries, entertainment and hobbies, studies, mobile phone, cosmetics, etc. They’ve become an immense influence on decision making in their households, and as an agency, we’ve taken notice of these digital natives.

To better understand this emerging, innovative and influential generation, we hosted roundtable discussions with high school and university/college students in our Toronto and Montreal offices. Here are our four biggest learnings from the Gen Z sessions.

1. Social Influencers Impact Gen Z’s Decision-Making

Gen Zers typically look to their friends and family for product recommendations first,before looking to their favourite influencer for inspiration.

They want to feel a connection with their favourite social influencers, and micro-influencers seem to lead this generation’s content consumption. Many assume that higher-reaching influencers are paid, and “insincere” as a result.

Quebec Insight:
In Quebec, this generation sees high reaching influencers as inaccessible. They do not feel a connection with them and are primarily focused on following their aspirational lifestyle, but not necessarily engaging with their content.

Unlike older generations, Generation Z is not as sensitive to language differences. They follow influencers who are based across Canada and the U.S., so they’re used to seeing and reading English content.

2. The Shorter the Better, and Make it Video!

Generation Z admits they have shorter attention spans than generations before them. When it comes to content – digital or otherwise – if their attention isn’t captured within the first five seconds, they lose interest very quickly. On social media, a long caption will also cause them to quickly lose interest in the content.

The type of content that resonates best with this generation is digital, with animations and videos performing better than static imagery. They prefer to learn visually and audibly through a short video on Instagram, rather than read a lengthy caption next to a picture

3. #Ad isn’t always a Dirty Word

 For this generation, social posts with #Ad or #Sponsored are considered inauthentic, but only when influencers are posting about several competitor brands in a short period. Long-term brand partnerships are perceived as more authentic because the influencer can naturally speak to the product benefits. Their Gen Z followers are thus more likely to believe that they actually use the product after seeing it featured in multiple posts.

There is a great opportunity for brands to engage in long term partnerships with social influencers over one-off partnerships, to build the relationship with the influencer but also to resonate with their audience.

 Quebec insight:
Conversely, in Quebec, Gen Z isn’t fully aware of the full scope of a paid partnership and what it means when someone includes #Ad in their post, which means they might be more open to sponsored influencer posts and see them as genuine and authentic.

 4. Social Networking is Getting Personal

It should come as no surprise that Generation Z spends a lot of time on their phones and are highly active on social media. The apps they use most frequently are Snapchat and Instagram, more than any other social media platform. They use Instagram stories specifically to engage in an authentic connection with influencers.

Snapchat is their primary choice for engaging with their friends and keeping up to date with their daily activity. When looking to kill some time, they turn to the SnapchatSnap Map or Instagram’sDiscoverfeed, to explore what’s going on with their friends and networks. On Instagram, this generation is likely to participate in contests and giveaways.

Facebook is used only occasionally, typically for school-related conversations via Messenger and for engaging with older generations, such as their family members.

Looking Ahead

As this generation ages, gains buying power and develops into even more influential Canadian consumers, brands will need to ensure they reach Gen Z in an authentic way, through the channels that they trust and use. This includes understanding how to adapt to the rapidly changing needs of this generation, and considering new ways of sharing earned content to gain and retain their attention.

If you’d like to learn more about the Gen Z sessions, please get in touch! We continue to learn more about this generation every day, so stay tuned for future findings.

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