Gen Z

The Gen Z Frequency: Content Strategies and Marketing Tips

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The following is excerpted from “The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune in and Build Credibility” by Gregg Witt. First published in the U.S. in 2018 by Kogan Page Limited. All rights reserved.

Perhaps the most important content goals, when marketing to Gen Z, is to attract and keep their attention, and help them look cool, especially to their peers. They demand instant gratification, “likes,” social post views and personal expression.

In a time when they are being overwhelmed by information, and their screens are being filled with images of perfection and curated reality, Gen Z is also seeking interaction that feels real and authentic. In the age of social media, provide them with a way to help build their personal brand and they will embrace your brand.

There’s a reason why Gen Z loves Instagram and Snapchat: both brands offer tools (filters, digital/AR stickers, fonts) that provide them with social validation and self-esteem and make them look cool to their friends. In the case of Instagram, the secret sauce is the easy-to-use filters and digital stickers that transform an ordinary smartphone photograph into a masterpiece. A quick double tap of the screen gives them what they crave most: instant feedback and validation.

There are lots of ways to convey your voice and brand authenticity to your tween community, but no matter what you do, make sure to create content that serves the community’s social needs – content that will make them look cool if they share it with their friends, or that will make them feel as if they have added a layer to their identity.



Mobile first

Any brand seeking to connect with young people must have a mobile-first video strategy. No exceptions.

Research conducted by Adobe in 2017 found that 76 percent of Gen Z inherently choose a mobile device to watch video, livestream, play games and video chat.

A survey conducted by Gen Z media platform AwesomenessTV found that 71 percent of Gen Z’s typical video consumption is streaming, and one-third is viewed from a mobile device (AwesomenessTV, 2017).

If you want to connect, present content in a format that is current and has social value. Finally, understand that social platforms also offer an opportunity for “seeded serendipity,” where your audience can feel as though they “discovered” fresh content that they can share with their peers via their favorite hubs – thus earning social capital in their circle of friends.

Creating a memorable brand voice

A consistent and memorable social voice is key to building relationships with youth audiences. Your followers and community should be able to recognize your content, even when they don’t see any branding, because the voice becomes as familiar as their real-life friends. Voice should always remain the same, but tone can change depending on the context. You’re always the same person, but your expressions and language should adapt to the social platform.

For teen and younger audiences, an aspirational voice is often recommended. Gen Z wants to be liked – rather than a persona too far out of reach, such as the celebrities and influencers they idolize.

When creating content that appeals to Gen Z, it’s vital that you develop and fine-tune your brand persona, voice and tone across social media.

An excellent example of this is The Walt Disney Company. A brand that once had a reputation as a staid stalwart of old media, Disney found a new formula for success by discovering and embracing a unique voice that resonated with Gen Z audiences. The next step in its transformation was creating and sharing content that reflected this shift in tone. Existing content was reimagined into new formats such as GIFs and Musical.ly videos.


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A case study: learning how to embrace the fans

  • Brand voice and tone: Taco Bell presents Gen Z with the opportunity to align themselves with a brand that is “young, adventurous and cool.” They can reflect this persona and retain cultural relevance across all the content they share on their social platforms.
  • Content strategy: Whether it’s Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram, Taco Bell creates memorable, share-worthy experiences and story-driven branded content. Their content is like a mini-TV show – it tells a story.
  • Snapchat: As one of the first brands to embrace Snapchat, Taco Bell uses the platform to test new ideas, connecting with its community through humor and storytelling. By calling for Snapbacks, it provides co-creation avenues for fans and an opportunity to engage directly in a conversation with its community.
  • Instagram: Taco Bell is selling the persona that it is fun, hip and cool. It does this by making sure that new food items are Instagram and FOMO worthy. By focusing on the needs of its Gen Z customer, it also fuels innovation and helps Taco Bell stay abreast of current trends and generational sensibilities (Taylor, 2017).
  • Twitter: Taco Bell leverages platform application programming interfaces (API) to create engaging experiences that make its community look cool. Its #Tacogram hashtag generated a fun Twitter Card to share with friends.
  • Why it works: The Snapchat campaign is all about treating Gen Z like personal friends, not consumers.
  • Make me look good: Taco Bell knows that Gen Z carries smartphones with cameras and its food will end up on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. It worked with its food team to get the perfect formula for stringy cheese so that fans who Instagram their food had FOMO-worthy photos (Taylor, 2017). Every single time.
  • Tell me a story: Taco Bell uses social media and embraces elements of storytelling to weave together a narrative that is often funny, irreverent, collaborative and shareable.

“The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune in and Build Credibility” is available now at fine booksellers and can be purchased via StartupNation.com.

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