We recently partnered with Serial Marketers to host the roundtable event Beyond TikTok: How to Influence Gen Z. It was a great conversation with some of the leading minds in esports, the creator economy, and advertising all discussing a really important question: How do brands reach Gen Z, especially if TikTok goes away?
We began the event with a poll to get insight into the confidence our participants had with different platforms. Here is a snapshot from a small sample:
It is no surprise opinions varied about these platforms. But our participants all agreed it’s the connectors – community, creators, and interests – that are bringing Gen Z together.
Here are 5 things that kept coming up:
1. Follow the people, not the platform
One of the central challenges many brands face when it comes to connecting with Gen Z is choosing which platform to spend their time and attention (and money) on. Although it is important to pay attention to platforms, we have to understand where they fit in the larger creator economy. Platforms are distribution tools, and we have to remember their effectiveness will change over time. Gen Z will follow a creator, community or interest, regardless of platform – as long as the platform shows forward momentum through its network effects. We have seen many social platforms rise and fall and expect that will continue. But the connection points utilizing those platforms – the creators, gamers, and communities – have endured and remained despite all those changes.
For brands and advertisers, this means it’s more important to follow the creator, community or interest and build a multi-channel strategy around them.
Different levels of followings are helpful for different initiatives. Larger communities that gather around a creator or community are more effective in building brand awareness. Smaller creator/community audiences may work better for conversion. With this in mind, brands and advertisers will want to tailor their plan to use the people they partner with in different ways on different platforms.
2. Gen Z needs to care and relate to the person streaming or creating content.
Across the board, every breakout session came to some form of this conclusion that relatability is essential. Gen Z is influenced by like-minded communities. They are not looking for a product or a brand or a service; they are looking for a community, especially one that shares their values and concerns. They are looking for someone they feel connected to who will guide them through the troves of information and show them what to watch, wear, use, and purchase. They are not as influenced by traditional advertising as with previous generations. They are influenced by stories, values, and peers.
For brands to succeed with Gen Z, they have to tell their story and speak to the audience authentically through channels where the Gen Z audience is already spending their time (such as live streaming, social, gaming, in-person events, etc.). Brands should build through trusted relationships across a diverse community.
3. Gen Z has moved from traditional television to livestream and IRL experiences built around community interaction
Gen Z is looking for community experiences. Whether it’s an activation at a festival or an esports tournament, Gen Z shows up to be a part of something bigger. These are huge opportunities for brands to introduce themselves and create a touchpoint for future engagement. Especially now, as live events are getting back to normal and in many ways bigger than ever, there is a growing appetite for people to get out of their house and be with each other. Similar to the idea of following people instead of platforms, brands need to pay attention to where Gen Z gathers…And it’s not usually the same place as other generations.
One of the important elements that make Gen Z unique is that there is little to no distinction made between virtual interactions and IRL interactions. Both present an opportunity to build a relationship.
4. Show, don’t tell (and make it meaningful)
Gen Z wants to see what works, so brands need to work hard to show their value before telling them about the product. It’s important that brands show how a product or service actually lives out their values. Brands and advertisers can’t pander through this or fake it. Brands rooted in something meaningful, whether it’s ethical sourcing, inclusivity, or other initiatives that showcase their values will connect better with Gen Z than brands that don’t.
Many of the participants in our roundtable found that the most effective approach, regardless of platform, is to pair different advertising approaches together to create ongoing awareness and drive to purchase.
5. Measurement starts with outcome
Measuring success is one of the other big challenges facing brands. Deciding how to navigate the multiple advertising opportunities, especially less trackable options is difficult. There is no agreed upon currency for measuring ad spend within this new media. Even metrics like reach, engagement, and viewability can be insufficient in truly measuring success.
Instead, many of our participants point to starting at the end. What is a brand actually trying to do with Gen Z? Is the goal to develop an email list based on participation in an event? Is it to build brand awareness through a livestream sponsorship? Is it to gain audience insight through a second screen activation? By defining the outcome, it’s easier to tailor the metrics of success when developing the campaign.