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Written by Whitney Raver
on July 17, 2017

Over the years, Millennials have been the hot topic in marketing. As a matter of fact, we marketers have spent so much time micro-analyzing Millennials' behavior that we seem to have forgotten that while Millennials have become the dominant population of parents, another wave of youth has come to the cusp of adulthood. As a college or university, that means they're at your door. 


This article contains five mindset imperatives to help you successfully market your institution to Gen Z. 


Before you get started, be sure you firmly believe this foundational fact: 

Traditional marketing and advertising methods will not work on Gen Z.


Who Is Gen Z?

Gen Z is the generic stand-in name for the Millennials' baby siblings, children born from around 1996 to present. A defining social distinction that researchers feel is particularly important to note is that your Gen Z doesn't remember September 11, 2001.


A defining social distinction I think is particularly important is that Gen Z has all the traits of their older siblings, the Millennials, but in full force. Where Millennials saw the beginning of the tech revolution and dealt with annoyances like satellite shortages and dial-up internet, Gen Z grew up with WiFi on demand. They excel at and expect online relationships on multiple platforms with the institutions they deal with. It's part of their collective identity.


While Millennials have developed under the onslaught of relentless attacks on their social value rained down from parent generations, Gen Z has developed largely overlooked in their shadow. Thusly, they're coming of age with their self-esteem intact. This, coupled with the fact that they've learned to exist within a vast spectrum of social norms, means they're going to be difficult to segment and selective with their time. They know how important their attention is, and they won't be bullied into giving it without something in return. 


It's one of the things I love about them. 


One more very important demographic point: in the vein of self-worth, Gen Z owns their space like no previous generation. We can't count on celebrity influence to drive behavior anymore. Remember the Pepsi ad fiasco? The moral of the story there is it's no longer up to marketers to tell youth who to follow. They tell you. 


And despite what it may look like from the outside, Gen Z are avid movers, dedicated to social progress. They don't take slights against their values lightly. 


OK, now that we've set the stage a little bit, let's explore the main topic of this post. Following are the five mindset imperatives for marketing your college or university to Gen Z. 

The 5 Mindset Imperatives

What I mean by mindset imperative is a foundational set of attitudes that should guide your communications. Much of the failure to market to Millennials effectively has resulted from a negative attitude toward the group. Organizations have been unable to leverage the kind of value Millennials need and expect, but Millennials have dealt with them to some extent anyway. Gen Z is not so forgiving. 


If you want to market your institution to Gen Z, start from these five truths.  


1. They don't need you.

Gen Z is coming into a world buzzing with new options and opportunities. The advancemnts in digital education pioneered by their Millennial predecessors are being refined at lightning speeds, affording a wealth of options that offer greater independence, efficiency, and personalization than traditional education. And, importantly, these new options are generally more cost effective, a point that's on the tip of Gen Z's consciousness after watching Millennials struggle with exorbitant college debt.


Gen Z are innovative risk takers who appreciate efficiency and the value of the final product over the process of reaching it. They don't need traditional education to be successful, and they know it.  


When explaining the value of your institution's programs to Gen Z it's important to focus on how it relates to their expectations.


2. They crown their own celebrities. 

Maybe it's because they're mostly teenagers, but you can't tell a Gen Z anything - including who to take advice from. They won't take up a trend just because it's championed by a traditional celebrity, and they won't  give companies and organizations time to explain in words why they're so great. Today's teens only care about what their peers , the influencers they've chosen from their own community, have to say


Influencer marketing is rapidly growing in popularity. It's an excellent tool for any organization trying to reach out to younger generations. However, it's wasted if you don't do it right. Make connections with established and potential influencers in your niche and then let them take the reigns. They know how to speak to their audience or they wouldn't have the followings they do. 


3.  Don't mistake their attention habits as deficit. 

I can already hear whispers of negative interpretations of potentially advanced Gen Z traits. Particularly their perceived attention spans. 


Gen Z is coming of age at the fastest pace in human history. They're amazing multi-taskers, often completing multipe projects on multiple devices at any given time. They know the value of their time and won't waste it letting companies try to reel them in. They don't have low attention spans, they have high standards.


When crafting your message for Gen Z, remember that it needs to present a spectrum of value and stimulation. You must command their complete attention if you want their complete attention.


4. Authenticity beats adaptation.

To some degree, you'll need to seem authentic and adapt to changes in Gen Z's behavior. However, there are fundamental aspects of their value set that will have to become foundational to your brand identity if you're going to keep up with their whims. Your institution simply will not be able to adapt to data quickly enough to completely redesign your image every time Gen Z has a shift in expression tendancy.


5. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

While Millennials have really had to process negativity and rejection from parent generations, Gen Z won't give it the time of day. They know their worth, and if they feel you don't you'll have major problems. Exhibit genuine appreciation for their many talents and advancements. Treat their future and the causes they value with concern. Be ready to listen to them, or be prepared to be completely ignored. 


It's not ego, it's self-worth. And it's exceptional. 


If you had trouble marketing to Millennials, you're in for a very tough time with Gen Z. Start personalizing your message now and get ahead and stay ahead.


This is a lot of quality information about an as-yet understudied demographic. Shouldn't you be doing something with it? Download the free Persona Profile Template to start personalizing your message more effectively. 


Click Here to Download Customizable Persona Profile Template


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