Is your brand talking effectively to the right generation?
If you’ve ever tried online shopping with your parent or child, you will know that your buying brains work in very different ways. Indeed, the way each generation has grown up means they have different expectations from consumer brands.
To stay ahead of competitors and future-proof their business, many brands are now adjusting their strategies to target younger generations with their marketing, products and services. So, as Generation Z grow into one of the most influential consumer groups, how can you adapt your brand strategy to better meet their needs?
How do different generations interact with brands?
The nature of the societies we’ve grown up in all have an impact on our buying habits. From where we buy products to what influences our purchases, all are driven by the exact makeup of our surroundings. This means that different generations hold different preferences, values and priorities when it comes to their interactions with brands.
Aged between 58 and 76, the baby boomers generation grew up in a post-war era of great change. Born and growing up during the transition from war frugality to the youth culture of the 1960s and 1970s, this was an era of optimism. Despite this forward-thinking influence, boomers tend to be relatively conservative in their buying habits.
Growing up without technology or the influence of social media, boomers are influenced by more traditional forms of technology like TV and print media. Although they are becoming more comfortable with online shopping and often use the internet to research products, in-store experiences are still important, as is brand loyalty. Indeed, 71% are part of customer loyalty programmes that earn them discounts and deals.
Although 42 to 57-year-olds were the last generation to grow up without easily accessible technologies, they are fairly confident in their using digital tools, particularly ones they’re familiar with. You might not find them on TikTok or new social media channels, but they’ll be familiar with platforms like Facebook and YouTube.
In a similar way, they have a hybrid approach when it comes to purchasing methods. Although they prefer to use credit cards, debit cards and cash, they are also comfortable purchasing via mobile and digital wallets. Both in-store and online shopping experiences are familiar to Generation X, with trust in brands being an extremely important factor in their purchasing decisions.
The first generation to grow up with easily accessible technologies, they’re happy to embrace new digital tools, channels and platforms. Born between 1982 and 1996, social media also has a significant influence in their life and purchasing decisions, although they are often distrustful of ‘too good to be true’ marketing messages.
Indeed, authenticity and honesty is a key value when millennials are choosing brands to purchase from with 75% stating that they felt brands giving back to wider society was important. When it comes to purchases, comfort, convenience, luxury and value for more are all key drivers. A 30% discount would switch 66% consumers between brands, 69% buy clothes for reasons other than necessity and a significant number of millennial have no savings, showing their preference for spending disposable income.
Known as digital natives, Generation Z were born between 1995 and 2010 and don’t just use digital tools and technologies, but actively create and influence trends themselves. Used to accessing reams of information easily, they’re happy to compare multiple sources of information to find the truth, and this is how this generation approaches their buying decisions.
Similarly to millennials, trust in brands is important to Generation Z. Whether it’s data protection, a personalised customer experience, or causes that match up to their values, authenticity is key. Although the digital world is one where they feel perfectly welcome, 81% of this generation like to shop in-store, seeing it as an opportunity to disconnect from the influences of online and social media.
How are brands reaching younger generations?
To ensure real longevity, brands have been adapting their approaches and strategies to meet the demands and preferences of younger audiences, particularly Generation Z, who have $143 billion of spending power.
From its first inception, McDonald’s has been known for its convenience and low-cost offering. However, to truly engage with younger audiences, the global fast-food chain has had to prove that they take their commitments to the planet and customers’ convenience seriously.
Their ‘change a little, change a lot’ brand platform has been built to clearly communicate the business’ commitments to people, farming and the planet, including targets to meet net-zero by 2040 and supporting 3,000 apprentices by 2025. As well as understanding and reacting to the values that millennials and Generation Z care about, they adapt their marketing to the specific contexts of these two audiences.
With 83% of Generation Z reacting positively to spending personal time at home, McDonald’s Night-In campaign celebrated the so-called ‘Cocoon Culture’, with ads targeted specifically at the youngest generations. The Generation Z ad was titled ‘#FOMO is out. #JOMO is in. Tonight. Are you in? McDonald’s.’ and the millennial ad was called ‘Work out, chill out, go all out. Tonight. Are You In? McDonald’s.’ with activities in each chosen to resonate with each age group.
Plus, the promotional channels that were chosen for the ads were specifically selected, with millennials targeted on Facebook and TV while Generation Z is promoted on TikTok and Instagram. This level of personalisation is exactly what these generations expect, and shows the level of McDonald’s commitment to reaching younger audiences.
Alongside their iconic, genderless product, Vans have had a belief that’s sat at the core of their brand since their inception in 1966: the link between creative expression and streetwear.
From using imagery that harks back to their Old Skool retro roots to collaborating with subculture icons like Anderson Paak, Kanye West and A$AP Rocky, their brand remains at the forefront of youth culture, whichever generation they’re marketing too. Even their product offering demonstrates their commitment to creative expression, with a custom design offering being launched in 2004.
This authenticity drives their marketing strategies and success, with 63% of 16-24-year-olds considering Vans to be one of the most genuine brands on the market.
Having captured the hearts and minds of millennials and Generation Z since their childhoods, Disney continues to deliver their escapist, storytelling content in new and more convenient forms. Having grown up with the 24-hour Disney Channel, two-thirds of the US audience for their streaming service, Disney Plus, is made up of Generation Z and millennial viewers.
In their merchandising and stores, Disney have also emphasised the importance of personalisation, sophistication and customer experience. Offering boutique and designer items, upgrading their eCommerce and providing a holistic online store with their one-stop solution ‘shop Disney’ are all part of a multi-pronged strategy to target younger audiences.
In their merchandising and stores, Disney have also emphasised the importance of personalisation, sophistication and customer experience. Offering boutique and designer items, upgrading their eCommerce and providing a holistic online store with their one-stop solution ‘shop Disney’ are all part of a multi-pronged strategy to target younger audiences. As Jennifer Ye, consumer markets leader for PwC Chinese mainland explains: “This can be done by having greater sensitivity on current events and cultural happenings that matter to Chinese consumers, promoting and supporting social and environmental causes, while remaining true to their brand image and relevant to their demographic.”
Authenticity captures the younger audiences’ attention.
The consistent element that younger audiences look for in their preferred brands is authenticity. This is the core purpose of your business, it’s the meaning behind what you do, why you do it and the values that drive your brand forward. By uncovering this core purpose, you can start to develop a marketing and business strategy that targets younger audiences in an effective way.
As a brand agency, we can help you uncover this core and develop it into a cohesive, effective strategy. To find out more about how we can help your business connect with younger audiences, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org