Members of Generation Z or Gen Z are a complex lot. They are technologically accomplished, rational, and outspoken to the extent of being considered irreverent. Yet, this second youngest generation has its own concerns. The greatest among these is about an uncertain future brought about by global conflict and financial instability as well as climate change. No wonder, they are hard to please and not easily convinced.

Yet, this generation wields a lot of influence and helps decide the sustainability of a brand. Top brands are now having to work out new strategies to connect to this generation. The brands are now being forced to break out of the ‘one size fits all’ concept and customizing products to suit specific needs. Innovative marketing strategies involving the youth have also come up.

What is it that this young generation looks for while selecting a brand? Half of the job is done once the answer to this is available. But then, Gen Z is not an inclusive lot. It does not like unnecessary interference in its affairs and is apprehensive of surveys and other classical marketing tools. This is where innovative intervention techniques come in handy. The strategy is to get them into the fold, not as unsuspecting information providers but influencers. Once a product or service is accepted by this community, they are to be turned into brand ambassadors to reach out to the larger market.

Gen Z holds sway over a large audience and has communication lines reaching out to peers. These communication lines are to be tapped into by gaining their trust. The performance of the community marketing platforms can be gauged by how seamlessly they can reach out to a larger audience and turn into a trend.

The use of social media is of key importance here. Gen Z uses social media extensively, be it for the better or worse. It takes barely a few minutes for news of an event or happening at one campus to reach another. There is the sense of belonging as well. No wonder, one finds members of the Gen Z community dressed alike, enjoying the same kind of food and beverages, and using similar gadgets. They would also be using similar Apps to place orders. They have icons who set certain trends, including the way one should look. No wonder, one may find nearly all boys on campus sporting beards at a point of time. And then, one day it becomes trendy to go around clean shaven.

Gen Z is loyal but expects honesty before it trusts a certain brand. Double standards do not work with this group. If, at any point of time, members feel that they have been taken for the ride, they will drop a brand like a hot potato. This could herald the beginning of the end for any brand, given the kind of network and fan following Gen Z has.

Unlike the Millennials, durability is not what matters to Gen Z. This generation does not believe in holding on to a trend for too long. However, there are things that matter. While selecting a brand they investigate things such as its contribution towards the environment, whether a part of the profits go towards charity, its beliefs towards gender parity and other issues. This generation is not guided by blind faith on television commercials or advertisements on social media platforms.

Brands trying to use Gen Z will also have to be sufficiently technologically advanced. After all, this was the first generation to grow up with the internet being a part of daily life. Some even call its members ‘digital natives.’ Gen Z has a weakness. It tends to go in for campaigns that are digitally well created. Brands need to keep this in mind.

This generation uses platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat to communicate. Brands need to infiltrate these channels of communication with smart, trendy messages. At the same time, brands will have to reach out to campuses as well as offices physically. The older segment of this generation may have just taken up jobs while the mid- section is in college. Brands will need to reach out during concerts, college fests and sporting events. For those working, brands can reach out during group outings.

While social media is a major platform, brands are also coming up with other ways to reach out to this generation. There can be trendy campaigns at locations where this mob hangs out, be it malls, cafes or even gyms. There can be subtle campaigning through flash mobs or similar attractive events. Mind you, brands that take a stand on social issues create an impact. For example, Gen Z is generally caring towards strays. Campaigns that uphold the need to take care of stray dogs can create an impact.

Brands must be careful about certain factors. Gen Z has little patience and is highly opinionated. But then, it is loyal too. Things that stand out and are most appreciated by Gen Z are clarity in communication, words followed by actions, awareness, and alignment to sensitivities. Empathy and compassion towards the sentiments of this target group and regular communication have often led to a higher degree of brand loyalty and affinity in them.

Mind you, this generation hates sermons. Nowhere in the campaign should members feel that they are being told how to lead their lives. If it's frayed jeans that girls prefer, so be it. If it is a mop of untidy hair that boys want on top of their heads, it's perfectly fine. Brands need to go along and not try and change preferences. As mentioned earlier, Gen Z doesn't tolerate interference.

Brands are learning fast. Not only are they using subtle means to infiltrate this community and turn them into influencers, there are also efforts towards a more direct approach. Youths are being given the opportunity to work as brand ambassadors. They are even being offered internships. This helps in word-of-mouth campaigns at college fests, cafeterias, and common rooms. Such brand ambassadors are the best influencers.

Gen Z has a language of its own - a mix of English and Hindi. This is a great opportunity for brands who no longer have to create regional language campaigns and keep things cosmopolitan.

In the end, it has to be appreciated that Gen Z is playing a major role in influencing marketing strategies. If brands do it the right way though, this generation can turn into influencers in creating large markets.

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About Author

Shreyas Hegde is the CEO and Co-Founder of Viral Fission. Driven with innate innovative abilities, Shreyas co-founding Viral Fission, along with Rishabh Shetty, in 2020 with a vision to bridge the gap between the youth and the experience they need to begin their career. Viral Fission is a culmination of Shreyas’s passion for building innovative solutions and he is instrumental in driving strategic insights and key project integrations along with brand growth and expansion at the organisation.

Shreyas began his corporate journey with Nomura as an intern for the investment banking team in Mumbai. This opened his vision to the world of finance and its applications. After the internship, Shreyas joined a London-based PE firm as an Overseas Fund Analyst focusing

majorly on equity research, deal analysis, investment strategy, and portfolio diversification. In 2018, Shreyas joined The Family Office where his role was centred on identifying investment opportunities across sectors for the organization, before founding Viral Fission in 2020.

Shreyas has a Master of Business Administration in Finance from Welingkar Institute of Management and is an avid sports enthusiast and plays soccer and cricket.

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