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The Skills You Need to Build Brands
that Gen Z-aged Consumers Will Love
Originally, developing a brand meant getting together a team of experienced marketing experts and trying to mathematically game the system so potential products and services would reach the greatest number of possible consumers.
Some people might still have the idea that brands are built behind closed doors in a high-rise office building located somewhere on Madison Avenue.
That being said, those who are trying to reach out to younger clients might run straight into a wall if they try to establish their brands this way.
Members of the so-called Z Generation are looking for something very different. Marketers who want to build a brand that appeals to their needs will still want to master basic presentation skills and everything else they'd normally need to run a business. However, they're also going to seriously need to refocus their efforts.
Mastering Some New Skills to Build a Gen Z-focused Brand
Companies that are trying to reach out to a younger demographic will want to seriously ask themselves what kind of message they want to be sending.
It's important to remember that representatives of Gen Z haven't ever really known a time where they didn't have instant access to information online. As a result, they've become jaded and will question pretty much everything that they hear.
Considering the large numbers of scandals that have been uncovered in the past several years, it simply makes sense for these consumers to not want to trust anything that they hear. That's especially true if it's coming from a conventional source. Anybody who wants to reach this demographic will want to really master the art of brand identity design, so they can be sure that they're presenting a genuine image and have all of the materials that they need to back it up.
Ironically, Generation Z's consumers seem largely interested in the quest for authenticity, which actually harks back to an earlier era in some ways. Those who came of age in the 1960s probably remember how the counterculture of that time sought to be more real than the establishment institutions that were around them, but such thinking eventually gave way to the glam-like excesses of later decades. Brands that are able to return to some degree of homegrown authenticity are going to do better than average.
Learning How to Present Things in a Truthful Way
Companies that have taken the time to be completely honest while also taking advantage of a little bit of virtue signalling have been able to make a name for themselves in various industries. These tactics are important for people in any market segment to learn, since shoppers from Gen Z seem to have a tendency to support brands of nearly any kind that have framed their messages in the right way.
Perhaps one of the biggest examples of this is the beauty-brand Glossier, which is known for using real models who have a variety of body shapes so that they can advertise their Body Hero washes and lotions to those who might have otherwise have avoided products from larger companies. While many of the consumers who fall into this category claim to not like major corporations, this kind of marketing has proven extremely effective with them.
A report regarding Glossier's somewhat infamous billboards that were hung in Los Angeles and New York City also found that these consumers have responded extremely well to brands that are built around grassroots heroes as opposed to conventional celebrities. Marketing experts brought up Molly Soda, a New York artist who was deemed relatable on Instagram because there's nobody heavily promoting her image or trying to lead her in any specific direction. Quick about-face turns have been seen right through, but long-standing shoe companies like Vans and Converse have been able to successfully reach these consumers by focusing on their own degree of authenticity and reaching out to local athletes instead of signing big name contracts with national figures.
That being said, it's important to keep in mind that these are essentially perceptions more than realities. All of these examples are more complex than they might appear at first, but they've understood the importance of image when it comes to marketing.
Harnessing Imagery & Emotion in Branding
Standing out from other companies has traditionally always been difficult, but the fact that Gen Zers tend to view many companies as having very similar traits has made it even tougher. As a result, managers are going to need to go far beyond graphic design and catchy slogans if they want to attract a younger crowd.
Some firms, like Apple and Starbucks, continue to do very well with younger audiences in spite of the fact that they should technically be held as accountable as any other major multinational company. However, the fact that they have an innovative image and can prove that they have at least some sort of policy that helps local communities have assuaged criticism to a degree.
Naturally, you don't want to try and have any issues in your firm that need to be addressed. Transparency is always the most important thing, even if you are not trying to reach a new demographic. However, it's important to note that established companies that might otherwise have been seen as old and stodgy could be given a decent image if they don't make a sudden fake-looking turn. You'll want to solidify your brand by gradually proving that your new direction is, indeed, sincere.
Consider partnering with a YouTube celebrity type or another social media icon. Fashion brands may want to focus on promoting real people with genuine body images as opposed to those who otherwise would have been dressed up by style consultants. Regardless of what style of change you make, you'll want to ensure that you do it gradually.
Along the way, you'll eventually pick up on the best ways to communicate with younger consumers. That's perhaps the single most important lesson to take away from any Gen Z-related brand building campaign that you embark on.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Based on our popular management and analysis content the Skills You Need Guide to Business Strategy and Analysis is a straightforward and practical guide to business analysis.
This eBook is designed to give you the skills to help you understand your business, your market and your competitors.
It will help you understand why business analysis is important for strategy—and then enable you to use analytical tools effectively to position your business.
About the Author
Philip Piletic closely follows the impact of technology on education, and its evolution from traditional to modern methods that include e-learning, courses, gamification, and others. He has also helped the Sydney-based IT & Business school in developing their IT courses.