Why Teenagers Are More Valuable To Your Operations Than You Think
It’s a common theme throughout human history: the older generation is quick to decry the youths of their time. “Our sires’ age was worse than our grandsires’. We their sons are more worthless than they: so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more corrupt,” writes Horace, circa 20 BC. Even today, the thought of Millennials ruining the world remains a hot topic for publishers born before 1975. The reality is each generation is faced with the same kind of loathing from their parents and then their parent’s parent’s generation; and one day they will do the loathing themselves. It’s an inevitable cycle.
But I ask that you, dear reader, consider breaking the cycle. Today’s teenagers, known as Generation Z, are too important to your operations to ignore.
Most of us were raised before digital technology effectively took over the world. You’ll remember a time when you had to go to the library to look up information or when your phone was attached to the wall. My father, a graphic designer as well, would touch-up photos with an actual airbrush that shot out particularized paint directly on the photograph. Going somewhere new required a map that may or may not have folded back together to fit in the glove compartment.
Gen Z-ers, conversely, had a different upbringing. All the information in the world could be accessed at lightning speeds and pinpoint accuracy. Cordless phones came on quick and strong, with many households opting out of landlines completely. “Photoshop” became a verb and Google Maps was simply how your family got around.
Because of their constant exposure to digital technology during their childhoods, Gen Z-ers are changing the landscape more radically than any other generation of consumers. Thanks to the Internet, a single individual has a great deal of impact, and Gen Z-ers are more aware of this. They use information to interact with brands and agencies to a degree never seen before; expressing grievances and gratification on the world stage for all to see. So what does this mean for your operations?
In a June 27th Social Media Social Hour podcast, Youth Marketing Strategist Connor Blakey (born 1999) reveals Gen Z-ers influence 85% of in-home purchases made by their parents. Today’s current teenagers are the most educated consumers to ever exist and parents not only trust the product information their children dig up, they act on the information. Gen Z-ers act as a gatekeeper between a product and their parents’ wallets. So even if teenagers lie outside your target audience you still need to appeal to their core values.
Above all else, Gen Z-ers insist brands and operations be authentic. They have finely-tuned B.S. meters and can sniff out when you’re being fake. When marketing to today’s teenagers, take some time to do some soul-searching and broadcast a message that’s true to your own narrative. Blakely says it best: “No one wants to see a fake version of yourself.” If/when you mess up, publicly admit your mistake (at this point the public already knows, they just want to see if you’re going to try to sweep it under the rug), apologize (a real apology, not one of those “sorry you’re offended” types), and promise to do better next time. Everyone will appreciate your honesty and even your toughest critics will acknowledge the effort it took to be that transparent. And it’s very likely those critics will include a few members of Generation Z.
Another technique to worm your way into the hearts of teenagers is to experiment with different social platforms. Don’t be worried about whether or not you should be on Snapchat/Instagram/Musical.ly, take the plunge anyway. Like all teenagers, Gen Z-ers just want to feel like they’re important. By experimenting with new and trendy platforms, you’re demonstrating that you value their attention and want to develop a relationship with them. Gen Z-ers will appreciate your attempt no matter how awkward you look.
Generation Z is here and they are making an impact on your operations. It’s tempting to write them off as self-indulged and attention-starved, like our parents did to us. However, the reality remains: they are informed consumers and have tremendous influence on the purchases their families make. So take a different approach and roll with it; you might end up having a lot of fun along the way!