How to Attract Gen Z without Looking like a Buffoon

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“What do the kids like these days?” This cringeworthy, but relatable question of how to attract Gen Z is something brands, agencies, and parents alike have asked. Sure, you might be able to throw around a couple of terms that seem hot, but attracting Gen Z takes some in-depth understanding of what’s appealing to consumers between 18 and 24. 

Don’t worry, we’re here to help. Here’s a rundown of what it takes to grab Gen Z’s attention – something that can help your brand and possibly impress your nephew.

Connecting with Gen Z on TikTok

We couldn’t have a convo about attracting Gen Z and not mention TikTok, right? Even though TikTok’s popularity has spread well beyond young consumers, Gen Z remains heavily invested in this platform.

The Scoop: TikTok is a video platform that allows for quickly produced, timely, and often humorous videos. When it launched, it was called Music.ly and was heavily focused on lip-syncing. Music remains hugely popular on this platform but has evolved well beyond this. 

The How-To: TikTok is a playful way to participate in collective activity. Lots of times, a challenge will surface, giving entertainers, tweens, brands, and unsuspecting parents a chance to put their own spin on it. Jumping in on a challenge early gives you a chance to show off some originality in an existing format. Hashtags are crucial to searchability, so be sure to use them both for research and when posting. TikTok also releases new features that enjoy fast popularity. Keep yourself up to date with what’s new, so you can immediately integrate the latest in your videos before it gets old. 

The Gen Z Hook: This isn’t a place to advertise directly. You are brand building in the TikTok game. This is your chance to demonstrate that you like the same things as your fans, you get their frustrations, you share their excitement. You’re not promoting 20% off. Instead, try jumping on trends early. If you have layers of approvals, you’ll end up like every brand: showing up to the party late.

Establish guidelines and align on your TikTok strategy before your brand jumps into the platform because you need to be prepared to move fast. In moving fast, some may fear their TikTok content won’t come across with the polish needed to meet brand standards; that’s actually a good thing – overly produced videos feel unnatural within the TikTok feed, tipping off users that ‘you just don’t get it’. 

In other words, if there’s no chance ‘rough around the edges’ video will pass your team’s creative review, then influencers may be a better way for your brand to tap into the exposure TikTok has to offer.

attracting Gen Z using tiktok
You kids doing the TikTok?

Tapping Influencer Vloggers

Vlogging has been popular for a while, but Gen Z’s interest has contributed to its continued growth.

The Scoop: A vlog is a video series in which a host or hosts cover topics, give updates, provide analysis, or share opinions. They range from feeling deeply personal, like someone sharing an entry from their diary, to having a professional vibe to them. 

The How-To: If you have someone at your company who is extremely personable, engaging, or entertaining, they could make for a good vlog host. The true value in vlogs, however, comes through tapping into existing vloggers and their networks. Established vloggers have goodwill and the trust of their fanbase, so recommendations can carry a lot of weight, (not to mention exposure).

The Gen Z Hook: If you’re targeting Gen Z consumers, there’s a good chance they subscribe to one or more vloggers on YouTube. As with any influencer initiative, audience research is essential.

Gen Z Gamers follow very different vloggers than an outdoorsy Gen Z culture. Consider whether or not your product fits with the vloggers’ content and lifestyle. Even if your target consumer is interested in a particular vlogger, context of a brand endorsement makes a big difference. Your product should fit seamlessly and feel genuine, not like a commercial break.

Gen Z has a great B.S. meter. If the transition from content to product placement feels awkward or choppy to you, it will feel all the more cringeworthy to an audience that’s wary of corporations.  

how to attract gen z using vlogging
There’s a lot of talking to the camera, but the kids do love it.

Highlight Genuine Social Responsibility

The Scoop: Like millennials, Gen Z looks at how brands impact the world around them. Sustainability, ethical practices, and transparency impact Gen Z purchasing decisions. This generation wants to know if your good outweighs your bad, or if your presence is a net positive for the world. It was put far more eloquently by NY Times writer Nicholas Kristof: “Doing good is no longer a matter of writing a few checks at the end of the year, as it was for my [Baby Boomer] generation.” 

Doing good is no longer a matter of writing a few checks at the end of the year, as it was for my [Baby Boomer] generation.”

Nicholas Kristof, NY Times

The How-To: As they say, “If you got it, flaunt it!” If your company has an initiative that you’re proud of, turn it into content. If there’s something about your product that’s more socially responsible than your competitors, let your fans know.

You can further leverage these initiatives by participating in the appropriate conversations on Twitter, using relevant hashtags, or partnering with other organizations that have credibility in the space. 

The Hook: Going back to that B.S. meter… If your organization will encounter trouble backing up a claim about your overall good, you might want to hold off on promoting it. The internet is a cynical place, and people have access to all sorts of research (some accurate, some wildly off base).

Take Shell for example. (Sorry, Shell).

To demonstrate their commitment to breaking the glass ceiling, the brand changed its name and logo from “Shell” to “She’ll” at a single gas station. This small gesture did not impress consumers. The brand spent the day getting blasted on Twitter and ending up on the wrong end of PR write-ups.

how to attract gen z
Shell’s original intent was to highlight the promotions and inclusions of women, but probably spent the day putting out fires.

TL;DR: How to Attract Gen Z through Social Media

  • Use TikTok if you’re willing to research your audience, act quickly, and toss some of your regular processes out the window. 
  • Vloggers can give your product credibility and exposure, but do your homework on when and where to insert your brand. 
  • Brag about your social responsibility efforts, as long as your company can walk the talk. 

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