Gen Z: The Future of Marketing to College Students

Pete Schauer

Marketing Director

So much attention has been focused on the millennials, we’ve forgotten that a new generation is right behind them: Generation Z or Gen Z. This fresh generation shares a lot of similarities with the millennials, but there are obvious differences that make the two distinct.

One thing to know about Gen Z is that they haven't known a world without social media. Sharing their favorite foods, vacation destinations, or brand of clothing happens naturally online. It doesn’t come as a surprise that marketing to this group of college students will be different.

Let’s explore some of the ways that Gen Z college students are different from the millennials and what you can expect in terms of marketing.

They are young and social, though communication has changed.

Those in the Generation Z group were born between 1995 and 2010. Currently, they make up about one-quarter of the U.S. population, but this number will grow to one-third by 2020. Because this generation has grown up alongside computers, mobile devices, technology and social media, they are highly social. Sharing opinions, voicing feedback, interacting with peers, and engaging with brands are all freely done online. Communication has evolved, too, thanks to the use of hashtags, emojis, and short videos.

They are conscious about spending money.

Seeing their parents bounce back from a major recession, Gen Z is aware of finances and look at spending money as an investment. Now, you may be thinking that this generation is a bit too young to be spending money, but the oldest ones are already in college. This means that choosing which school to invest in is happening right now. With so much of their life online, 84% say that friends and family influence their purchase decisions.

They prefer personalization from brands.

You would think that a generation that has spent their lives on social media would be more likely to “pretend” to be perfect. After all, many do have a case of FOMO - or Fear Of Missing Out. But this isn’t the case. In fact, Gen Z believes that “perfection” is fake. Rather, the new generation prefers authenticity.

Generation Z craves personalization. However, personalization in their eyes is different from what the millennials asked for. The millennials may have wanted you to group them into categories based on gender, income, interests, location, etc. Gen Z defines themselves more through individuality. This means that as you market to this group of college students, you will have to get even deeper into their individual characteristics.

What does all this mean for you?

Already, Gen Z is entering college. Fortunately, this generation shares a lot with the younger millennials so your initial marketing tactics will be effective. However, as the years go on, you will need to adjust your marketing strategies to better reflect the individual needs and wants of Generation Z. In the end, being authentic and genuine will be key.

 
About the Author: Pete Schauer

Born and raised at the Jersey Shore, Pete Schauer is the Marketing Director at SEMGeeks. He holds a M.A. in Digital Communications from William Paterson University and has 8+ years in the digital space with companies such as Bleacher Report and Social Media Today in addition to SEMGeeks. His background includes creative and professional writing as well as strategic digital marketing communications and management.

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