Last week, I attended the industry-vibrant NYC Adweek conference. The agenda was a tapestry of marketing and advertising trends. Panels discussed everything from AI to traditional digital advertising. Social selling and the creator economy took center stage. A vivid forecasting of the transforming landscape.
Today’s blog brings you the inside scoop of Adweek. Learn how to reach Gen Z through a bold, transparent, and community-centric strategy. Discover the paradigm shift steering marketing towards community-building and social selling.
The Gen Z Conundrum
In marketing, the 18-to-34 age group has long been a coveted demographic. As Gen Z becomes the focal point within this cohort, marketers are deciphering their buying decisions. Gen Z is the first digitally native generation. This digitally native generation possesses a keen ability to discern and dismiss ads, particularly on social platforms. Signaling a departure from traditional tactics.
Audiences and Communities
How can marketers capture the attention of a generation that dismisses traditional advertising with a swipe?
The focus is shifting from targeting audiences to curating audiences and nurturing communities. Recognizing the power of social selling in building lasting connections with Gen Z.
Let’s delve deeper into this shift through the lens of the panel discussion “Gen Z doesn’t have an 8-second attention span, you’re just boring.”
The panel featured four dynamic Gen Z entrepreneurs, building B2C and B2B brands within the content creation space. Providing invaluable insights into the evolving landscape. Nadya Okamoto, the founder of August, highlighted her unique social media strategy, emphasizing transparent and unedited content. Patrick Finnegan, a 30 under 30 founder, stressed the need for frequent content releases to stay relevant in the ever-changing digital space.
The discussion illuminated social selling as the next frontier in the industry — using social media platforms to laser-target prospecting and establish rapport with potential customers for sales.
Social media usage statistics further reinforce the shift in consumer behavior. With a significant percentage using these platforms for inspiration, products, and brand-related content. Recent data research on social media users reported:
- 27% use social media platforms to find inspiration for things to do and buy.
- 26.2% are seeking products to purchase.
- 49.2% worldwide log on to learn about brands and see their content.
- 77% discover new products on social media.
So, if the data shows users are ready to buy, why are the traditional forms of social media advertising not resonating with Gen Z?
Further research on social media users reveals:
- ~ 50% seek content from their favorite brands for connection.
- An additional 23.9% are there to share opinions.
- 23.4% look to make new contacts.
- 21.7% want to find like-minded communities.
It’s not that brands are inherently boring; traditional marketing tactics do not offer the space to connect and build a community. Gen Z isn’t looking to be talked at but rather talked with, according to the data.
What are your thoughts on what the panel would be speaking on upon reading this event’s name?
Analyzing the event’s name, my immediate takeaways were Gen Z’s affinity for kitsch and unconventionality. A clear value proposition isn’t a priority. This conversational and bold approach perfectly illustrates Gen Z’s preferences.
When August’s founder spoke about her social media strategy- I realized this was a channel for curating audiences that related and connected to her. To build her brand, August, Okamoto uses content creation to speak on vulnerable subjects in her life. With a focus on constipation and her period. Topics that women discuss mostly confidentially but resonate globally.
Her content as she coined it, is “shit posting”. Which means it’s a non-edited transparent style. It’s putting the actual reality into “reality (C)TV”.
So how does this content grow the brand, August? Well, it’s a lifestyle brand reimagining periods. Can we find similar themes between her brand name and the title choice of the panel discussion event? Love for kitsch and an unclear value proposition. Panel speaker, Patrick Finnegan, 30 under 30 founder of Prepprep Showcase and WorldState (which focus and target Gen Z audiences), explained that content needs to be released multiple times a week, preferably daily, to stay relevant. Most marketing and ad agency models do not have systems in place to crank out such a robust content creation process. Therefore, the topics’ titles and content will be very much appropriately kitschy.
Diving further into a lack of a clear value proposition, August is known as a month. If we look up its definition, it means respected and impressive. It’s used in a sentence as a verb, for example: she was in august company. Its synonym is distinguished.
Not a definition on par with today’s or historical views on periods. So, if I am to put my Gen Z thinking cap on, my bet is that there is an unknown double entendre. Her brand is a lifestyle brand working to reimagine periods, focusing on the mission rather than products. The name “August” aligns with her company’s mission, tying into her candid content on social media.
A study from Impero found that 82% of Gen Z want to be part of a community. Conversations on bold topics are part of the building blocks for community. Vulnerability is a building block in curating her audience. Okamoto’s followers are those who resonate with her and want to meet others going through similar experiences or find like-minded individuals. So, she’s built a community in Geneva, an all-in-one communication app for organized, ongoing conversations.
This poses the question to the older generation of marketing gurus:
Why do brands have to add value and not just show up?
Okamoto explained this is how her followers become a community, and she even holds office hours to connect with them. She’s not talking to her audience; she’s talking with her audience. They provide feedback on her current products and even on what kind of products they’d like to see in the future. This is amazing for a holistic and cost-effective market research strategy! So, it’s safe to say that Gen Z consumers are in favor of inward-facing community platforms. Additional research from Impero found:
- 65% of Gen Z feel more confident online when using community-focused social apps (such as Geneva Discord, Twitch, Telegram, and WhatsApp) over feed apps like Instagram and Twitter.
- ~ 41% of the data and privacy-minded generation think of closed community platforms as private spaces.
- 70% of respondents joined a community for a feeling of ‘belonging’, followed by ‘voice’ (66%) and privacy (61%).
I resonate with this shift as I am already part of online communities. Through Fems in STEM, I’ve connected with a group of female entrepreneurs in the science, tech, engineering, and math space.
This experience is more fulfilling than a feed app. What started as an online publication has grown into an online community with a comprehensive goal to empower one another and mentor the next generation of young women entering these fields. Working remotely, this set of women has become an addition of “coworkers” whom I can turn to ask questions, discuss industry news, and grow my network. Fostering connections further, monthly events are held, such as an intimate dinner with a guest speaker who shares their journey in entrepreneurship. In collaboration with Fems in STEM at Adweek, I was able to put a face to the names of the sheroes whom I’ve been speaking with in our WhatsApp community, making the experience more personal.
So, what does this millennial see in Z future of marketing?
The Z Future of Marketing
Meaningful interactions and problem-solving take center stage. Transform insights into action — craft your brand narrative with authenticity, engage boldly, and cultivate communities, not just audiences. Embrace social selling to forge lasting connections with discerning Gen Z. Start meaningful conversations, build trust, and convert your curated social media followers into a community that drives impactful sales. The revolution is here — make your mark!
Do you want to learn more about Fems In STEM? Check out their website https://femsinstem.com/
Have you experienced a shift in your marketing approach towards community-building? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories!
Share your insights in the comments below and let’s continue the conversation on navigating the Z Future of Marketing together!