Gen Z Campus: The New Kids on the Quad

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For brands dedicated to courting college students, a major shift has occurred in the past year. Generation Z has arrived on campus, en masse, with the graduation class of 2015.

Also known as “iGen,” “Digital Natives,” and “Post-Millennials,” Gen Z are people born from the mid-’90s to early 2000s. They wield a whopping $44 billion in purchasing power and represent 25% of the U.S. population.

Unfortunately for marketers, getting them to part with any of that money just got harder. You see, Gen Z college kids grew up watching their parents struggle through the recent recession, making them even more cost conscious and measured in their response to advertising than their Millennial counterparts.

Not to pile on, but their attention spans with traditional marketing messages are pretty much non-existent as well. You think you had just a few seconds to get a Gen Y’s attention? For Gen Z, it’s more like a nanosecond (that’s one-billionth of a second, in case you were wondering).

But hold on… before you pick up your marketing toys and go home, there are some bright spots you can focus and build on.

A recent study showed that 44% of Gen Z is not averse to ads, as long as they’re relevant. Moreover, they are twice as likely as Millennials to want to see “real people” in ads as opposed to celebrities (sorry, Kim Kardashian). This same study said 55% of Gen Zs are more likely to stop and watch an ad if it is humorous, while 45% will love ads featuring great music, and 33% will regard messages that inspire.

Being acquiescent to advertising is a great start, but how about their influence? With Gen Y, you used to have to seek out the influencers. Gen Z has known only a digital world where their opinion can be heard and validated in real time, so they are ALL influencers in their own right.  Deep Focus’ 2015 Cassandra Report on Gen Z surveyed Gen Z parents, and 93% of them said their children influence family spending and household purchases. 

Advertising on campus is a craft that needs to be honed year after year. More than ever, Gen Z marketing will require a keen awareness of college life and an honest look at the brand you want students to experience.

I invite you to check back for part two of this article and learn how to craft your marketing message and chose the right college advertising channels.