Posted by Conor ● 29 October 2021
Is Your Brand Gen Z Friendly?
Gen Z, Digital Natives, Post-Millenials, the iGeneration - they are no longer the future, they’re here. Born in the mid 90’s and now in their early twenties, the oldest of this cohort are entering the workplace and they will be for the next seven years.
They are vegans, flexitarians, meditators, environmentalists, mental health advocates and pavement activists. Their attention span is shorter than that of Millenials and they’ve never played Snake on a Nokia 3310.
Our audience has changed, and naturally the strategies for attracting and retaining the top talent have changed too.
So what makes a young person look at an employer and think ‘Wow! That’s a brand I want to work for’?
Here we will focus on three key areas, with examples of innovative campaigns we’ve seen to help you shape your talent attraction strategy for 2019 and beyond.
Gen Z are preoccupied with brands that are authentic - brands that they can relate to and share their values.
They have grown up in the era of fake news and have the digital savviness to realise what is real, and what is not. It’s the same with brands; young people can see through a carefully constructed brand image if an organisation doesn’t live up to it.
Remember the backlash from the Pepsi ad in 2017? The ad trivialised the Black Lives Matter movement and reappropriated imagery from real protests to sell their product. Pepsi quickly pulled the ad and apologised.
Gen Z engages with brands that they can have a personal connection with, so how can you achieve this?
Young people want to see the human side of a company, which means real people doing real work in the real environment that they might one day work in. Unilever’s video for their Future Leaders Programme is a great example of content that humanises a brand.
It plays on the stock imagery that we see used exhaustively in job adverts - models pretending to photocopy or pretending to type. The image below is a classic example - who actually does this during a meeting?
Stock imagery is a pretence - it’s not authentic. The video shows real Unilever graduates on the job and, most importantly, having a marvellous time.
Instagram and Snapchat stories can be utilised to create something similar. Have a student, intern or any young person in your organisation takeover your Snapchat for the day. They’ll become micro-influencers, showing their peers what goes on behind the scenes. Show off your offices, daily operations, let them meet the team! It’s authentic, shareable content on platforms that Gen Z devour.
Students want to know what’s beyond the curtain, so invite them in.
We live in a digital age, and it’s all Gen Z have known. Dial-up internet is alien to them. Not many will remember a time before Facebook. 98% of Gen Z carry a smartphone - the Motorola Razr is to them what the abacus is to the calculator. And yet, young people still crave face-to-face interaction - especially when meeting employers.
A study by Millennial Branding revealed that Gen Z prefer face-to-face communications in the workplace over instant messaging and email. Think about it, how many of our relationships exist only through digital means? Our strongest relationships - at home and at work - require face-to-face interaction. It’s essential. Young people relate to brands they have a personal connection with - Gen Z genuinely want to meet you. They demand to see you in person and chatter about their career.
96% of students that responded to a RateMyPlacement.co.uk survey said it was beneficial to meet employers on their campus. Are you giving them an opportunity to do so?
2. Encourage entrepreneurship
Gen Z have a natural entrepreneurial spirit. Young people are earning money and launching their own careers as Instagram influencers, as vloggers and even through gaming.
BBC Sport recently filmed a feature on Sam Morgan, a seventeen year old college student known as 'The Garms Dealer'. He has used Instagram to connect with Premier League footballers, and is now a personal shopper for some of the biggest names in the sport. Can you imagine this happening five years ago? It didn’t! It’s a new phenomenon, and Gen Z are taking advantage of it.
It’s not surprising that young people have so much get-go when you consider the environment they have grown up in. Gen Z’ers born in the mid to late 90s will remember the financial crisis of 2008, and the subsequent loss of trust and confidence in big banks and corporations. Those born after have undoubtedly been affected by it. Three years later, more fun - tuition fees skyrocket.
These circumstances have not discouraged nor disheartened the Post-Millenials, it has emboldened them. Research from the US has revealed that 72% of high school students, and 64% of college students are eager to start their own business. Gen Z want to take control of their own careers. Sam Morgan didn’t wait to go to university or for a company to consider his talents before launching his business - and he’s not alone.
So how can you make your brand attractive to this entrepreneurial youth?
When most of us read the words ‘Enter for a chance to win...‘ we are naturally compelled to enter to be in with a chance of winning. We’re not yet entirely sure what we are entering, or what it is that we might win, but our instincts tell us, we must enter. Competitions are an immediate and potent call to action.
In this way, they are an incredibly reliable marketing tool...
- they deliver brand exposure
- they create excitement and increased engagement with a brand
- consumers often end up doing your own marketing for you, as the intrigue surrounding the competition or the prize compels entrants to share with their peers
Competitions are also a way of harnessing Gen Z’s entrepreneurial spirit.
HSBC developed a competition named ‘Grow Your Future’ in conjunction with RateMyPlacement.co.uk, which encouraged students to pitch a business idea. £1,000 of seed funding was awarded to the most innovative idea to help launch the business. Students were inspired to be innovative because there was a genuine possibility that their business idea might be funded. It tapped into their entrepreneurial nature, and over a four week period, the campaign reached over 90,000 students.
This campaign was cunningly Gen Z friendly, and relatively simple to replicate. We suggest...
- inviting students to suggest a charity and a campaign to raise money for it (it could fit in with your own CSR initiatives)
- asking students to develop an environmental initiative to lower the carbon footprint of your offices or their campus
- Gen Z are vocal about mental health, so get students to create content for you on the subject
For each of these ideas, an employer would support the winner(s) in delivering their ideas, or incentivise them with the offer of an insight scheme… Gen Z’ers will come running.
3. Nurturing candidates
Often, you’ll hear early talent experts describe Gen Z as ‘digital natives’. They hold their tribal gatherings over WhatsApp, they communicate via hashtags and emojis and gather food for posting on Instagram.
Young people have also grown up with marketing automation through e-commerce sites like Amazon and ASOS. Students are accustomed to, and have now come to expect communications that are personalised, persistent and permission-based. They demand the same when communicating with employers.
The key to giving students this personalised experience when they’re on the job hunt is data.
Gen Z despises SPAM - not that anyone looks forward to it. But Gen Z in particular are turned off by brands that send them irrelevant content.
You can imagine the delight of Sally, a student based in Dundee, who receives five emails a day from you about work experience in London. Her friend Ruth, an engineering student, is equally overjoyed reading your emails about internships in the marketing sector. Alan, another friend, doesn’t even know why you’re emailing him, he’s never heard or spoken with you before.
Alan’s very confused, Sally and Ruth don’t even open your emails anymore. You’ve lost potentially top talent!
Collecting students’ data, their preferences and crucially their permission enable organisations to nurture candidates instead of annoying them. Employers that we work with who are embracing this personalised approach have seen email open rates of up to 70%. They’re sending out content based on students’ individual preferences, and are being rewarded with high engagement.
So, capture student data, understand their preferences and send them relevant messaging, personalised to them - it’s what Gen Z friendly brands do.
We asked Steve Keith, founder of The Branding Man (and Gen Z expert) for his thoughts on what makes a brand Generation Z friendly.
"The themes shared here reinforce the importance of trust for Generation Z. Trust in what you say, trust in your commitment to their development (be that intra/entrepreneurially), and trust built through establishing and harnessing the power of emotional connections.
“What we are seeing here is a shift from company first branding (why do you want to work for me?) towards candidate first (how can we help you to better understand the work that we do and the contribution you can make?)
“As a result, the employers planning to evolve their existing brand and attraction strategies, to better serve the wants and needs of Generation Z, should be paying attention to brand advocacy and empowering existing employees to share their stories to amplify their brand in a digital age.”
In the end, it really does come down to trust. If they don’t trust your brand, are they going to trust you with their career?
RMP Enterprise can help you to transform your early talent attraction strategy. Our digital and face-to-face solutions connect your roles and opportunities with undergraduates and school leavers across the UK, and see 10 million interactions with 14-24 year olds each year.