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Since millennials are ruining everything, it’s no surprise more companies are investing more marketing dollars into Generation Z.

Born between 1995 to 2010, “Gen Z” have hit their prime spending years with an estimated $44 billion at their disposal. They’re a massive and influential cohort. There’s 65 million of them in the U.S. alone and will account for 40 percent of all consumers by 2020.

But Gen Z changes the marketing game. While millennials are killing department stores, napkins and light yogurt, Gen Z are not big on loyalty programs. Nearly three quarters of millennials said loyalty offers influenced their purchasing decisions, but fewer Gen Zs are spurred by reward programs to spend.

Access Our Guide on How Best-In-Class Insight Programs Support Customer  Centricity.

Brands looking to capture the attention of a Gen Z consumer are using customer intelligence to their advantage. These companies are investing in learning more about this generation's evolving preferences, motivations and attitudes. Here are some recent examples. 

Sprint partners with influencers

Young people enjoy seeing influencers and consuming content from influencers, so it makes sense that a major piece of Sprint’s #LiveUnlimited diverged from previous marketing tactics and collaborated with influencers rather than celebrities.

But which influencers Sprint chose was just as important: it selected a unique group to develop a well-rounded team to drive brand awareness and brand loyalty. Dubbed “Candybar,” it comprises the best Gen Z and Millennial experts that now run Sprint’s youth marketing, an area where the company has struggled. The #LiveUnlimited campaign changed the rules of telecom marketing by integrating elements of youth culture and building a network of content for maximum engagement.

AXE Canada challenges notion of a “real man”

AXE Body Spray’s traditionally macho advertising approach has made it the target of many memes, but its Canadian “#PraiseUp” campaign took a different tact. The brand challenged young men to record themselves giving praise to their friends, forging deeper connections and demonstrating that sharing affection doesn’t make them less of “a real man.” The campaign featured Toronto Raptor Kyle Lowry and Blue Jay Marcus Stroman in social media videos complimenting each other.

The #PraiseUp campaign was driven by AXE customer insight: A study it found young men ages 15 to 25 are shifting towards inclusivity and acceptance, and that there’s a growing trend showing young men feel more comfortable saying things that may have been considered taboo in the past. The study also found that many Gen Z consumers participate in activities that may not have been the norm for their gender.

AXE ultimately made a significant shift with #PraiseUp, recognizing that the outdated and harmful norms of manhood limit guys’ self-expression. The campaign appeals to Gen Z by creating a social movement aimed at empowering youth.

MTV overhauls program

MTV has always positioned itself as the voice of youth, so it makes that the venerable music network would reorient its programming around Gen Z viewers. The company is looking to align itself with the realities of the values Gen Z viewers have today. 

“The biggest opportunity for us right now is to forget everything we knew and begin to understand a whole new audience, which is something that MTV has always had to do,” Chris McCarthy, president of MTV, told Fast Company.

That reorientation around Gen Z helps explain some of the company’s recent moves. Its 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, for instance, eschewed gender in its categories, while the show’s iconic Moonman statuette was re-branded as the Moon Person. During the show, artists from different genres mixed onstage, addressing topics such as black identity, suicide prevention and body image.

Having struggled to attract the eyeballs of Gen Z tweens and teens, MTV realized these viewers have a fundamentally different worldview than their parents do. It’s a generation less organized along the lines of race, gender and sexuality, and that insight is reshaping the network’s vision.

Pizza Pops gets weird

Teens are feeling a great deal of pressure to look good on social media, but a recent Pizza Pops campaigns opts to encourage their weirdness instead. In a recent campaign, the General Mills brand aimed to embolden teens to define themselves as weird and different.

Elements of the campaign include anthropomorphic Pizza Pops embracing awkward teenage realities such as trying to talk to a crush or coping with literal “pizza face.” Sharing these oddities was a key part of the campaign too, both on social media as well as Microsoft’s XBox. Pizza Pops experimented with the video game platform by creating a Pizza Pops branded avatar that users can download and play with.

Gen Z goes their own way

What these campaigns have in common is recognizing that Gen Z sees the world differently, and it influences their purchasing decisions. As brands invest more time and resources appealing to this cohort, it’s important they understand these differences if they are to build better relationship with these young consumers.

The Everything Guide to Gen Z

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was formerly a Content Marketing Manager at Vision Critical.

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