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How Gen Z is altering digital advertising and marketing

22, 2020

5 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

Social media. Short sentence, long conversation. Gen Z is the next generation digital marketers need to focus on and the only effective way to do that is through social media.

The era of banner advertising is slowly but surely dying out. It might have worked for older, less tech-savvy populations, but it won't be nearly as effective in the future.

It's not just hearsay either. Banner ads were most effective the first day you went online, and their popularity has declined since then. On average, 0.8 percent of users actually click on display ads, and 50 percent of those clicks are accidental.

This is a terrifying number, especially when you consider the amount of money you can invest in these display ad marketing campaigns. Even more terrifying, however, is the fact that banner advertising is actively harming your brand. Display ads have reportedly left potential customers with a negative impression, either of the product or of the brand itself.

The reason for this is not clear. It could be that banner ads are now synonymous with viruses, or that users don't want browsing to be interrupted. In any case, their use should not be in the picture. This is especially true for Generation Z, as it is the most technologically competent generation to date. In fact, Gen Z may be the first digital native group in history.

The generations before that are digital immigrants. Most can remember a time when the internet didn't exist, which meant old-school marketing techniques were working on it. If these conventions are thrown out the window when dealing with people for whom the internet is a way of life, what else do we need to use?

Related: 41 Percent of Gen Zers Plan to Become Entrepreneurs (Infographic)

Social media marketing

The simplest case is Wendy's. Its approach isn't typical of a social media campaign due to the brand's already massive awareness, but it can be helpful to study anyway. Wendy hired a social media manager to run its online presence, which is Twitter. This manager, although not exclusively Gen Z, understood the Internet, understood the language and the culture. She used her already established personality to surpass Wendy's online presence in the stratosphere and make her one of the most famous and respected accounts on the internet.

So great was her success with the company that it led many of Wendy's competitors to adopt the same strategy, which had dire effects. The feedback was so bad that it inspired its own genre of memes and mocked brands for trying to look less corporate than them.

Why was there such a difference in success? It depends on how natural the execution is. The corporate brands that tried to replicate Wendy's success have been doomed because of their double efforts alone. Wendy's, on the other hand, happened relatively naturally. Sure, the social media manager has a job to do, but she wasn't trying to force results. It added a little personality to the post and it worked wonderfully. In particular, it worked brilliantly with younger populations who appreciated this level of sincerity and were able to recognize when the attempt by other companies was lacking.

Delving deeper into this rabbit hole would lead us to a discussion of intergenerational change in politics and how younger generations lead to a philosophy that more "the rich eat," but that's a topic for another whole day.

For you as an entrepreneur, the most important thing is to appreciate individuality and sincerity – if only to make your brand more attractive to younger population groups. There is a difficult line between being sincere and effective and enforced. If your audience feels like you're trying too hard, they'll turn you on very quickly.

Generation Z and the future

Learning how to customize your marketing for the future will be the crucial factor in the long-term success or failure of your business activities. This adjustment will primarily take the form of effective social media marketing. Fortunately, the landscape is still very unknown. Sure, there are examples like Wendy's that can teach us a lot about how to get social media right, but there's plenty of room for experimentation.

Related: Gen Z teams are magic for startup leaders tackling this challenge

Shift your digital marketing efforts away from display ads and pump the money into your social media campaigns instead. This does not mean that you should promote all of your posts, but that you should focus on the content primarily. Be sincere and unique. Younger viewers will appreciate a sense of individuality that the “corporate line” doesn't put above anything, even if you do.


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