A Marketer's Lens By Danette Amstein
Danette Amstein is a managing principal for Midan Marketing - a full-service agency that solely focuses on supporting the meat industry.

Four keys to win over Gen Zs

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

College recruiting is an interesting genre of marketing. I am not talking about the recruitment of athletes but of scholars. For the past year I have been on the parent side of this, fascinated by the marketing efforts that went into capturing my daughter’s attention. 

Given that my daughter is firmly a Gen Z, the first generation of digital natives, I was surprised by how much physical mail found its way to our mailbox. Some schools appeared to market to her as if the advent of social media had not yet occurred. Then there were the better marketers: Those that did not bother with mail — or even e-mail — but instead focused primarily on reaching her where she was: Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

As a marketer, I enjoyed being on the other end this time, watching how their target (my daughter) responded to their marketing tactics.

The summary of my observations about what earned her attention versus going immediately into the trash seemed to evolve around four key factors: authenticity, transparency, caring and community-minded.

Interestingly enough, those four factors translate into how Gen Zs are expressing their opinions, values and patronage with brands. This young, digital-savvy generation has learned a thing or two here lately. In the blink of an eye, their world changed. The pandemic is just one of the many things that impacted them: They have also begun to understand how the threads of history have led to today’s social and civil unrest. All of this will greatly shape who they become and how they shop.

The Gen Zs share those four factors more so with younger millennials than older ones. Part of that is life stage versus actual age. Getting married, settling down and raising babies definitely changes buying behaviors. Add in a pandemic and working (or studying) from your bedroom is vastly differently when alone or with a roommate as opposed to having toddlers under foot.

So, while my Gen Zer was physically distanced from her friends for the end of her junior year and start of her senior year, she was as connected as ever socially. And colleges used that to their advantage to connect with splashy ads, videos with fun music and funny lyrics or quick posts on the top five reasons to consider their school.

How can I apply what I learned from college recruiting to marketing meat? Authenticity and transparency are concepts the industry has been working on for some time. It is the latter two — caring and community-minded — that need to be dialed up now. It is not that we haven’t cared or been community-minded. We have. We just didn’t talk about it as much as we should. As a result, the industry has come across as cold and harsh to some. It is time to change that.

I know it can feel awkward talking about how much you care, so instead focus on showing it. Show the effort your team members make to help others both in your community and around the world.

Most of you are already donating meat and funding local community initiatives. That goodwill can be helpful not only in your local communities but also with international consumers. Use your social media channels to share the faces of your team members and, in their own words, how they care and contribute to the community.

For my daughter the decision ended up being an insanely easy one when she was accepted into the school she had dreamed of attending since sixth grade. The front-runner prior to that notification, however, was a school that wasn’t on her radar prior to their marketing efforts. Now the marketing from her chosen school has shifted to promoting the places and activities around it; by engaging her early they are building brand loyalty before she even arrives on campus.

Impressionable as she is, companies and brands are working to gain her favor now so that once she is a graduate and has a real paycheck, she sticks with them for life. The lifetime value of a customer is at stake and credit card companies, clothing companies, cosmetic brands and even universities know it. The meat industry can’t lose sight of it either. These kids have to eat! Consider how your brand is reaching this generation and the importance of garnering their approval as they graduate and become even more critical to the success of your products. What can you do now that is authentic, transparent, caring and community-minded that will gain you further consideration when Gen Zs have more disposable income? 

This generation is the most marketed-to ever. Begin investing in them now to earn their dollars later.

Interestingly, as this blog content was coming together a team member pointed out an Ad Age short video and article on the rise of the Gen Z that validates some of my own observations and explores Gen Z’s focus on activism and values-based commerce. Be sure to check it out!


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