How should marketers navigate Generation Z mistrust?

“We have to win Generation Z’s hearts and minds by being relevant, interesting and above all entertaining. We have to relate to their passions.”Starcom strategy director Dan Coleman.

At a time when young people look for brands to share their values and environmental concerns, agencies are having to become increasingly more focused on winning over Generation Z audiences.

Just last month digital consumer research firm Bulbshare reported that a whopping 99% of Generation Z consumers have admitted to frequently skipping ads.

Gathering insights from thousands of consumers around the world, the study also found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of Generation Zs use ad blockers to avoid online adverts.

A further 74% of those born between 1997 and 2012 claimed that they felt bombarded and irritated with adverts and the incursions they place on their time.

“Today’s brands face the very real danger of being part of an indistinct but annoying wall of noise,” Bulbshare founder and CEO Matt Hay said.

“The desire for authenticity makes it imperative that brands not only have products worth recommending but that they cultivate communities where authentic recommendations can take place. In fact, there’s real hunger for this among Gen Z consumers.”

Most recently, eBay chief marketing officer Eve Williams branded the young audience as “an incredibly discerning generation who care deeply about the impact of climate change and extending the life of products.”

How should the marketing world attempt to appeal to this ever-more distrusting Generation Z?

generation z

READ MORE: The Body Shop establishes ‘Youth Collective’ to give young people a voice

Dan Coleman, Starcom strategy director and expert in media context

Coleman believes that successful marketing is not just a case of “winning over Generation Z or Millennials”.

“I wonder if using Generation Z as a scapegoat is almost a useful short cut for the times we find ourselves in,” he says.

“I would suggest that there are macro factors driving a change in how we should all be working – specifically the environmental crisis and the relative weakening of the West economically.  The assumption that consumerism drives growth in the marketing world is outdated and making marketers more irrelevant.”

Coleman believes that reducing everything down to maths and other “ghastly KPI’s like engagement” misses the point when measuring the success of campaigns.

“We have to win Generation Z’s hearts and minds by being relevant, interesting and above all entertaining. We have to relate to their passions.”

“This is as true now as it has ever been.”

On the topic of consumer choice, the agency director also referenced a Bill Bernbach quote, saying: “The average person doesn’t come to many decisions purely on an intellectual basis. They are confronted everyday by people trying to sell things. Dig down deep into instincts, aspirations. Relate to what they feel passionately about.”

The appeal to people’s passions is key for overall growth, Coleman claimed.

“We need new models that help everyone. Plans that consider the environmental and societal benefit of the product and brand. Most essentially campaigns need to be entertaining.”

“If we need to be part of a big change, advertising should be flourishing as the main way to communicate business. However, if we continue to accept the status quo and just ‘be irrelevant’, we can’t be surprised if 99% of our audiences skip our ads.”

generation z

READ MORE: Analysis: How should marketers adapt to changing consumer behaviour?

Matt Hay, CEO of Bulbshare, a digital consumer research firm 

Hay believes marketing messages that seek to broadcast rather than engage are “falling on deaf ears” as Gen-Z audiences reject advertising.

“Where once, the core brand marketing objective was one of interruption, it must now be premised on interaction,” he states.

“Gen-Z audiences are rejecting advertising. Ad-blockers are widespread, scheduled television is fast becoming seen as a thing of the past, targeted pop-ups are viewed as ‘intrusive’ and social media ads are an irritating disruption.”

Hay believes that people who grew up with social media want to be “involved” in the marketing they see, rather than being “passive recipients of advertising messages”.

“We’ve just seen a brand we work with, NYX Professional Makeup, creating its first-ever campaign based purely on user-generated content, ideas and insights direct from its own customer community,” he says.

“These kinds of campaigns, based on collaborative, democratic brand-customer relationships, will drive more dynamic, authentic and original content and build a sense of trust with their audiences – including Gen-Z.”

Hay claims that young people recommend and endorse brands that treat them “not as customers, but as colleagues and collaborators.” He believes that the marketing industry will move beyond asymmetrical relationships and into a future in which the line between creators and consumers is blurred.

“People will be empowered to influence the decisions brands make and ultimately shape their experiences. Products and services will not only become more customer-centric, but brands will create levels of transparency not seen before.”

“There is a growing desire to see brands with a moral compass – or a strong social and political stance – that mirror those of their customers.”

Hay also believes that Gen Z is more political and mobilised because it is growing up in a climate crisis, perceived to be the fault of older generations.

“Brands that get behind causes in an authentic way and don’t just talk the talk, but back up their messaging with actual, tangible, real-life actions are gaining cut-through with younger audiences.”

generation z

READ MORE: Waning influence: UK public turning its back on influencers amid deep-rooted mistrust

Danny Denhard, marketing growth expert and coach

Denhard sees creativity as one of the most important factors when appealing to those born between 1997 and 2012.

“Gen z are truly ‘mobile first’ because they have experienced everything on their smartphones. Brands should leverage ‘the anytime anywhere generation’ and offer solutions that appeal to their creativity,” he says.

“We need to help younger audiences be creators, not act like influencers. In this way they can co-promote products in their natural environments and be actively rewarded by friends engaging with them.”

The marketing coach also points out that “ads that don’t feel like ads” work the best.

“Brands must help Generation Z understand what problems their products are fixing and how relevant the products are to them. A lot of companies just try to apply themselves to every calendar event and sell at any given moment, lacking any real authenticity and appeal.”

Interestingly enough, Denhard also encourages marketers to reward campaign engagement with a dopamine kick.

“Gen z has been engineered for pleasure and reward from using apps. Brands must apply this in their campaigns by pushing variable rewards and encouraging engagement around notifications.”

“Young people also understand that trending items and products go out of fashion very quickly. Companies should push into creative experiences and social networks that give Gen Z a kick, like TikTok, Instagram Reels and Snapchat.”

“The generation understand more than most, how these social media algorithms work and understand how to craft a public view. Brands should definitely utilise this.”

Click here to sign up to Marketing Beat’s free daily email newsletter

FeaturesOpinionThis Week in MarketingWhy it Works

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.