Reaching Gen Z, Part 1: Paid Media Strategy

Gen Z is the most recent generation headed to college, and just to keep you on your toes, they bring their own particular set of values, beliefs, and preferences to the college-search process—including how they use and consume digital media.

Gen Z is often described as the first digital-native generation, meaning that while Millennials grew up during the introduction of digital technologies, Gen Z was born with all of it at their fingertips. Think about it: Kids born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s have never known life without cell phones and the Internet. This shapes the way they understand and interact with the world, for better or for worse.

Higher ed marketers, who may feel they’ve just got the hang of the Millennials, must now adapt to a whole new generation. First stop: Revisit your paid media strategies. Here are three tips for ensuring you’re maximizing your digital efforts to reach—and resonate—with your Gen Z prospects.

  1. Make it relevant and personal: Long gone are the days where you could blast thousands of people with one message. Because they grew up during the early days of display advertising, Gen Zers are discerning consumers. They can spot a generic ad from a mile away, and they prefer—if not demand—relevancy and personalization. Ideas: Segment your prospects by academic or extracurricular interests in order to effectively communicate the benefits of your institution. From an owned-media perspective, create Snapchat filters for events like open houses and preview days, or compile tailor-made Spotify playlists for different types of communication in order to create a connection with your prospects.
  2. Serve bite-sized information: There is a negative stereotype that Gen Z has short attention spans; however, the exact opposite is true. They take the time to pay attention when it’s relevant for them (see bullet no. 1). They are experts at sorting through information quickly to deem what is most important to them. Get on their good side by making their vetting process easier. Ideas: Whether it’s a :15 second pre-roll video or ads on Snapchat, make top-of-funnel communications about the benefits of your brand short, concise, and to the point. Then, as your prospects learn more about you and begin to express interest and engage, they will start wanting more information and be willing to spend more time with it.
  3. Multi-platform campaigns win: It’s been said that Gen Z is the best generation at multi-tasking. At any given moment, they can be watching TV while doing homework on their laptop and snapchatting a friend on their cell phone. It’s vital to diversify your media mix so your brand is not appearing only on one type of medium. Ideas: Consider including ads through online streaming services, and make sure your programmatic digital buy incorporates mobile ads and optimizes to the best-performing channels. The more platforms you appear on, the higher chance your message will be seen and resonate.

Above all, just be human. All paid media efforts, and even larger marketing initiatives, will be more effective if you humanize your institution through your brand. In order to win the trust of Gen Z, be honest about your institution’s culture and personality. Find authentic ways to evoke emotion through your paid media and marketing strategies that align with your prospect’s values and motivations.

 

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