Born between 1995 and 2010, Gen-Z individuals are different to other generations in a number of ways. Their ways of seeing the world, interacting and engaging with brands even contrast with millennials (born between 1981-1994). Gen-Z are the first truly digital-native generation, and they look at the world a little differently.
To discuss the differences and more about how to reach Gen-Z audiences on social, I spoke to Avery McCaffrey, Strategist & Futurist at PSFK.
PSFK is a leading business intelligence platform for innovation in retail. Across every major customer-related industry vertical, they help brands identify and leverage customer experience opportunities through a mix of trend reports, immersive events, insight-rich content, ideation workshops and on-demand research services.
Founded in 2004, the company provides membership subscriptions and bespoke services. PSFK’s 2017 bespoke services client list included Airbnb, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Hyundai, Nest and Samsung.
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And Avery, we briefly met at Social Media Week NYC, where you presented on this very topic. And in that presentation one thing you talked about was Gen-Z’s desire to ‘own their identities’. Can you talk to us about what that means and what sort of behaviour that translates into?
What I mean by ‘owning our identities’ is that we really don’t see ourselves through those binary norms, or ways of identifying yourself through labels…But rather we see ourselves as fluid. Whatever we want to be in that moment, we are empowered to be, and we also allow others to be who they want to be.
I think a big distinction between Millennials on social media, versus Gen-Z, is that Millennials were extremely curated in terms of creating this identity through personal branding, in a very professional way…They are much more likely to paint this inauthentic representation of their reality. Whereas for Gen-Z projecting themselves on digital media, it’s more authentic and it’s more real. That’s why a lot of Gen-Zers actually have two Instagram accounts – their Instagram and their ‘Finstagram’ (or ‘Fake-Instagram’). So it’s their actual persona, versus that more curated identity.
Bringing that down to brands and businesses, and related to the work you do at PSFK, what does authenticity look like from a brand towards a Gen-Z person? And could you talk about some big ‘NO-NOs’ for brands trying to reach Gen-Z audiences?
First I’ll say that in order to reach Gen-Z, brands need to deliver on an authentic relationship with their consumers and audiences. So you can kind of think of that like a relationship, where the big ‘no-no’ is you don’t want to ‘hit it and quit it’ or have a one-night-stand with your audience. You want to have a relationship that is built on trust, respect, shared power and collaboration. So I think that engaging Gen-Zers and outrightly showing this attitude of balance and authenticity…all of that is crucial to engaging with us.
What’s one thing that a brand who wants to start building a relationship with Gen-Z should be asking themselves? How should they approach this to make sure they get it right?
I would say that it’s the fact that Gen-Z want to work with brands. They want to collaborate and develop a relationship. We are basically just waiting to see who is going to ‘get it’ first, understand our mindset correctly, and then work with us and give us a voice and an opportunity to collaborate on creating products or campaigns. We’re looking for brands we can collaborate with to educate each other, or educate the public and other generations. We want brands in our life that understand this and who are willing to sacrifice a bit of profit for long-term loyalty.
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