As an agency predominately focused on delivering consumer PR campaigns for food, drink and lifestyle brands, we spend the majority of our time targeting millennials. And for good reason – they make up nearly a quarter of the UK’s population.
But at what point should FMCG brands seriously start to engage Gen Z and view them as a core audience? What do we know about them? How do they differ from millennials and how can brands best earn their way into the conversation?
Dubbed ‘Millennials on Steroid’, by 2020 Gen Z will account for 40 per cent of all consumers, and while they share many views with the generation that preceded them, they bring a whole new range of challenges for brands and agencies.
Demand for transparency & purpose – Unlike teenagers of years gone by, happy to indulge in high-sugar and high-fat foods full of e-numbers, Gen Z are much more aware and concerned about what they’re consuming. 43 per cent regularly read food packaging, actively avoid artificial sweeteners, flavourings and preservatives. Gen Z choose products with clear ethical and environmental credentials, products with values; products that stand for something. Consequently, agencies and brands need to be much more aware and concerned of not only what they communicate, but what they do. Supply chains, practices, provenance, and the wider socio-economic and environmental impact of brands is under scrutiny. This doesn’t mean that every brand needs to be worthy, but they do need to be authentic. Transparency is not just a trend. Brands need to be clear what they are and what they stand for, and then communicate this clearly.
Always On – The first fully digital natives, Gen Z spend vast amounts of time online with access to huge quantities of information (33 per cent spend nearly 10hrs a day plugged in). They can survey vast amounts of information instantaneously, but their short attention spans (as little as 8 seconds) means information can be dismissed just as quickly. To counter this instant discard, brands will need to be smarter about how they are communicating. Little and often will be the buzz phrase; brands will need to create frequent, impactful, short-form content, which delivers a singular, focused comms. message.
Born Global – Gen Z have more in common with teens from around the world than adults in their own countries. This means more than ever before, brands need to be aware of generationally specific trends emerging around the globe; and importantly how they can leverage these to activate campaigns quickly and locally. Audience-centric teams will need to be put in place, to instantly react to breaking news, social trends and key global events from a brand perspective.
Disappearing footprints – The transparency and volume of information in the digital age has also impacted the way Gen Z interacts with brands. A default position of scepticism has emerged, influenced in part by a number of high profile brand and political scandals. This scepticism is apparent in their media choices, choosing formats (Snapchat, Instagram Stories) that don’t leave as large a digital footprint. With these formats in-play, agencies need to develop their digital content offering, ensuring they have teams and production partnerships in place to create content that resonates.
Influencers are here to stay – 75 per cent of Gen Z have had an ad blocker installed and are twice as likely to trust an influencer than a brand. Google reported that 40 per cent of Gen Z feel that social media influencers understand them better than their friends. With new influencers, sites and social channels popping up on a daily basis, agencies will need to invest more time and resource to keeping track of what’s new and what’s popular with an audience constantly on the lookout for the next new, cool thing.
Ultimately, like with Millennials, as this audience comes of age and their preferences evolve, it will be brands and agencies that are able to spot and react to these emerging trends first, responding in interesting and creative ways to win over an exciting, but challenging, new audience.