A generation with a short attention span, but a nuanced worldview; swift thinkers and movers, they are avid followers of Ariana Grande’s “Thank You, Next” philosophy. We are talking about the diverse digital natives with a no-nonsense attitude – Generation Z. They have entered the job market, proving to be a sheer force to be reckoned with; the Generation, Next! But before diving into their expectations and challenges, let’s take a step back to distinguish what separates one generation from another, and the evolution of marketing and advertising, by extension.
Shaping a Generation
Every generation is defined by significant historical events that they have witnessed and experienced in their lifetime. It is these experiences that shape their reality, and understanding of the world they live in.
Baby Boomers emerged after the end of World War II and the Great Depression, which instilled within them a sense of hope that the forthcoming era would be filled with safety and prosperity. When it comes to marketing, Baby Boomers gravitate towards promoting brand loyalty, are susceptible to traditional marketing and sales tactics. Slowly adapting themselves to the digital landscape, they use Facebook more than any other social media platform.
Millennials, on the other hand, witnessed the rise of the internet and social media, along with events such as 9/11, Iraq War, and the Y2K phenomenon. Millennials are the most lucrative market, are highly engaged online, who believe in creating authentic content and interacting with brands and retailers.
Alternatively, Gen-Z was born amidst the era of technological innovation, and has never seen a world without the internet. As the oldest of the Gen-Z turns 24 years old, they have entered the job market swiftly, and the impact of their entry has sent ripples across industries.
Keeping this in mind, let’s view the workplace from a Gen-Z perspective.
Transforming Work Culture
This generation has a unique perspective on careers, and their definition of success varies greatly from previous generations. While salary expectations always tend to be an important factor when searching for any job, it is not the number one priority for Gen-Z.
Compared to previous generations, Gen-Z is more informed from an early age, due to the plethora of information that they consume from the internet on a daily basis. The information overload, coupled with the interconnectivity of social media has allowed them to connect with causes that matter to them, and they apply the same meaningful ideology to their career paths.
They are inclined towards mission-driven companies that integrate social consciousness into everything they do. These job searchers want to know what their duties and projects entail, and how they are contributing to the company as a whole.
Having grown up in the era of excessive data, this generation is willing to learn and is always looking for ways to grow. They are also more likely than previous generations to switch when a better opportunity comes along. They do not believe in sitting idle and know the value of their potential.
Moreover, they are challenging traditional methods and approaches of recruitment, as this is a generation of self-starters who willingly go out of their way to search for jobs. They not only want to succeed, but they want to be challenged.
Above all, this age group believes in expressing their individual truth. Simultaneously, they are also more accepting of other people’s truths as their search for authenticity generates openness, understanding, and empathy. They are avid believers, that the “truth” is not always one-fold.
With all these factors in mind, the question arises whether and how this age group pictures itself in the field of advertising. Let’s find out.
Entering the World of Advertising
For a young individual entering the field of advertising, Gen-Z leans towards working for brands that have an established set of values centered around diversity and inclusivity, are politically correct and socially progressive, with a transparent and empathic communication tone. In a nutshell, these brands must demonstrate their commitment towards a larger set of societal challenges such as sustainability, quality education, climate change, poverty, and gender equality. Brand neutrality on societal issues is no longer an option for brands as well as agencies if they want to connect with this age group.
After the impact of COVID-19, many Gen-Z’ers are reconsidering their career choices due to certain industries being negatively impacted by the pandemic. Marketing sales and content production is something that not only appeals to them but is also a field that they see immense value in.
Gen-Z has also proven that they can effectively rise above a situation, as was obvious from TikTok rising in prominence during the pandemic as an effective marketing platform, This also goes to tell us that this age group is inclined to new and innovative formats of content and storytelling. They are more inclined towards working on native ads, sponsored lenses, and filters; and are also extremely design-conscious, with an appreciation for aesthetics, as they value the use of immersive formats.
On the flip side, however, just because they grew up surrounded by technology does not necessarily mean they find all forms of digital marketing appealing. Most of Gen-Z find online ads disruptive and are most likely to physically avoid advertisements as compared to any other generation. The idea is to create content that will stop viewers from this age group in their tracks, and grab their attention in the first few seconds.
This brings us to the next step. How can brands and agencies combat these challenges?
The Holistic Gen-Z Experience
Even though this generation is the most technologically advanced, they crave connection more than ever. They appreciate collaboration and interactions, which is why agencies should promote a culture of having more open dialogues and discussions in the workplace. They highly value feedback and do not want to wait for their annual report to know how they are doing. Instead, they want to know their current state of progression and work towards having measurable goals.
This generation is at the earliest stage in their careers and views their first job as stepping stones. They are more likely to switch jobs if they feel that they are not being challenged. In order to avoid this from happening, agencies and employers may benefit from giving them stimulating projects, which keeps them engaged and motivated. The last thing this generation wants is to find themselves stuck in a rut.
Companies should encourage this curiosity and aspiration for professional growth by keeping both formal and informal meetings, and including them from the start especially when adding new projects. Their unique perspective is a valuable asset to the company that can be beneficial in the long run.
Like every age group before them, Generation Z has brought on its own set of pros and cons. Traditional advertising is evolving, and a new generation entering the job market has brought on its own set of challenges. The next step of advertising is already upon us and with that we warmly welcome Generation, Next!
This article was originally published in Synergyzer Issue 2, 2021.
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