Gen Z: Why grabbing our attention will be harder than ever
[Written by Arun Johal, 16, on work experience here at Carve]
We live in a world run by technology; where the only time your face is in front of a book is when you’re scrolling through embarrassing pictures your mum tagged you in, where the only time people go on safari to Amazon is to order late birthday presents, and where this is apparently funny. Frankly, it must be very confusing and slightly terrifying to most people.
But one generation has been born into it.
Whilst millennials only truly discovered the wide world of the internet and social media in their teens, children born in the last two decades have been exposed to this at an earlier age and at an increasing scale.
I’m a Gen Zedder, and whilst companies have a great understanding of the internet, social media and technology, companies are finding it difficult to understand how to market their brand to us.
The scale of Gen Z’s influence and why you must prioritise us
Gen Z currently makes up 32% of the world’s population. This percentage is only set to increase too, with scientists predicting by 2020 that it will go up to 40%.
Consequently, companies have decided to make Gen Z their preferred target audience. And with good reason too. Everyone I know has a phone, most have a laptop and many have tablets too. We abuse these devices too; some days I’ll spend more time on gadgets than sleeping in my bed! And I’m a moderate user compared to some of my mates. This proves to be the key for brands trying to market to us, as the advertising reach is often twice or three times what it was even just 10 years ago. They know there is money in reaching us but most are failing miserably.
Every generation is influenced by events and views of their childhood, which is why there are an increasing number of depressed Arsenal fans. The results of this on Gen Z have produced a generation of cautious but technologically savvy people, where the gadgets that were luxuries for our parents are now everyday essentials for us.
We don’t believe what we are told anymore. We always check reliable sources before we believe anything. We see something slightly cringeworthy and instantly reject it. Yet these traits don’t stop companies from attempting to market towards us in some tragic ways.
How to (and how not to) market a brand towards Gen Z
One of the many ways companies try to get through to my generation is through social media – and it makes perfect sense. Social media is Gen Z’s favourite way to engage with a brand and 42% say that social media actively influences their life and the decisions they make. Although not all of us get influenced by social media. I just have multiple different social platforms where I post pictures of my life for approval and validation from others. I assume most others are just as moderately influenced as I am.
From personal experience, there have been loads of times when I’ve been out with friends when they resort to swiping through Instagram, instead of what we were meant to be doing; watching a film or crossing to me at the back post. And even someone as moderately influenced as me has their moments.
What this shows is that social media is a major staple of Gen Z life. It is the hub of all social activity and companies have immediately recognised this. Yet it is almost muscle memory to just swipe past any advert I see on Insta or Snapchat. No one my age has any time for boring, dull adverts. Especially when 84% of young people don’t trust traditional advertising anyway. Placing traditional adverts on a young people’s media doesn’t make it edgy, it remains stale.
Furthermore, with all the countless assemblies we’ve endured during school, there’s no way we are going to trust any kind of pop up ad.
The misunderstanding of memes in marketing
Meme culture has exploded since the birth of Generation Z, and it has crawled out of the deep, dark hole it was birthed in into the mainstream. Scrolling through memes is one of the first things I do when I wake up. The relatability of memes seems to drag people through the boring times in their lives and reassure them that everyone goes through the same highs and lows. Seeing this communal feeling, companies have hijacked the culture to get to Gen Z.
“What is a ‘dank meme’?”
There is a commonly held belief in Gen Z that once something goes mainstream it loses that authenticity that made it so great. Many memes have been very popular… until they get ruined by the wrong person or brand. Often we appreciate a brand through a seemingly accidental meme more than a company cheesily attempting to relate to us through overused existing memes. It is truly Gen Z’s territory and we are extremely protective over it.
In fact, usually these brands end up being tarnished by trying to be topical and use trends. For example, the Pepsi advert where Kendall Jenner single handedly turns the world into a utopia by offering a Pepsi to police during a protest. The attempt to increase their brand with a famous influencer was distasteful and poorly received. The advert was ridiculed online by Gen Z and Pepsi’s brand has been tarnished in the eyes of that generation. Need proof? Pepsi deleted it just weeks after release.
This not only shows the subtle difference in views and opinions between millennials and Gen Z, which Pepsi clearly did not recognise, it also shows that we don’t typically take too well to companies attempting to adapt to our trends and we’d rather they stayed out of it completely. We don’t need to be persuaded by political agendas, or whatever is trending at that present time. We simply care about the quality of the product, and the trust between client and company. There is no clear way to grab our attention, and that continues to puzzle companies.
Attention deficiency: The source of the problem
It’s well documented how poor Gen Z’s attention span is. Just 8 seconds. It’s actually so severe that many psychologists claim that lots of Gen Z children have attention deficiency disorder.
But this is no coincidence.
Whilst in previous generations children were allowed to play outside and make their own fun, nowadays parents instantly give their children iPads and XBOXs to cure their boredom. In the short term this might make them decent at Fifa but in the long term, disastrous for Gen Z’s social ability and attention span.
YouTube’s uprising is another example of this. Gen Z is trading multiple short videos over long, detailed films. Trading independent content over potentially agenda pushing films. The fast pace of Snapchat and Instagram have also contributed to the destruction of our attention span.
So now let me ask this, how do you not only grab our attention with your marketing, but also keep our attention?
Just give us good, reliable products.
Give us the chance to trust you.
No memes, no trends, no YouTube ads.
We make our own decisions and form our own opinions.
If we want something, we don’t need to be persuaded to get it. We need to be convinced to get it.