Brands have been encouraged to put out “relevant and insightful content” if they want to engage with teenagers and young adults.

According to Patrick Hourihan, head of research at Yahoo in northern Europe, the so-called Generation Z has grown up in the digital age.

As a result, this group have got used to a world in which online networking has been the norm and therefore expect brands to do this as a matter of course.

Mr Hourihan has advised businesses to respond to this development and make a point of consistently providing this demographic with “authentic and engaging” messages across all promotional channels.

These, he stated, should offer relevant insights and help people become more knowledgeable about certain issues. Nike was cited as an example of a brand that has got this right, as it “engages with its followers as if it were one of them, sharing favourite training routes, times, personal bests and tips”.

Mr Hourihan said a major difficulty when it comes to engaging with Generation Z is the fact it is “notoriously fickle”, which means they are a “tricky group to reach”.

However, he insisted that trying to engage with this demographic is “well worth the investment”, since their disposable incomes and “astronomic levels of online engagement” make them a “prime target” for a large number of brands.

“In order to increase the chances of engagement, brands need to first understand what is important to Generation Z and what excites them,” Mr Hourihan commented.

He said Yahoo’s research into the tastes and preferences of teenagers and young adults has shown they value a “feeling of belonging and connection” with others, even if they do not actively contribute to their online networks.

“Brands that create or enhance these communities have the opportunity to connect, inform and assist Gen Z – an excellent way to build loyalty and engagement with a brand,” Mr Hourihan stated.

Companies were encouraged to actively interact with young web users, so both parties can participate in discussions and forge a genuine relationship with mutual respect. Mr Hourihan said this could be aided by the use of a relaxed tone of voice, since playful language when talking on subjects like celebrity gossip would be used in a conversation between friends.

Businesses were also advised to make sure any content they create is “punchy and short”, as it needs to keep young people “who live and breathe” social media interested.

Mr Hourihan went on to note that turning members of Generation Z into long-term loyal customers is difficult, but said keeping on top of all the latest trends can make it easier.

He added that brands need to be willing to take a few risks to engage with this market and be “brave in embracing the latest fashions”. Nevertheless, he stressed this does not mean they should abandon more established means of promoting and engaging with their target audiences, as many of these still have value among younger people.

For example, the emergence of Snapchat does not mean a company should move away from using Facebook. Furthermore, offline marketing material can also still have an effect and support an online campaign.

Promotional merchandise, for instance, can be sold or given away to draw attention to its web-based portals, or offered as incentives to get people following brands’ social media pages, blogs and company websites.

Generation Z: the Holy Grail for brands?, Marketing Magazine

Posted by Robin McCrink