Gen-Z will be the first generation to grow up completely surrounded by social media and technology since birth. Let that sink in. The generation, which was born after 1996, accounts for 61 million people in the U.S., a number that’s already larger than Generation X and two-thirds the size of the baby boomers.

Nowadays, the average American spends a whopping 12 hours per day digesting digital media. This shift towards consuming more and more online media is largely due to the shift in population—Millennials and Gen-Z are challenging companies to think differently. Businesses can no longer stick to their old ways of creating media and content. With these new shifts, come new attitudes.

As Gen-Z begins to establish the way they want to receive and engage with media, they’re also re-establishing what types of media they want. Here’s what’s shifting:

They Want Authenticitybrand ambassador team marketing SK Energy on campus

As resentment towards intrusive marketing tactics deepen, demand for more “authentic” and shareable content is rapidly increasing. If you want to gain the attention of Millennials and Gen-Z, use the power and appeal of branded content, a progressive form of advertising that uses original content as a means of creating brand awareness and aligning your company with certain values.

Branded content is more than a buzzword. We are living in a world where, due to easily accessible information, there are 14-year-olds with political views and beliefs—and they’re making their voices heard! Gen-Z stands for diversity, equality, individuality, creativity, and justice. Want these young people to buy your product? Get them to buy into your brand first. The most promising way you can do that is by showing them that you believe in what they believe in, and meaning it.

According to Google’s research, consumers choose the brands that engage them on their passions 42% more often than they do with brands that simply urge them to buy the product. Research also proves that the use of branded content is the best way to establish this type of connection.

They Hate Online Ads

These young people are making it clear—they hate ads! In 2018, 30% of all internet users opted to block online ads and 69% of Gen-Z already avoid ads. And who could blame them? Online ads are typically rooted in terrible end-user experiences.

They’re a video generation, yet advertisers continue to push ads to them via videoless, noninteractive mediums. These young adults are using ad blockers and skipping as much content as they can in an attempt to cut through the clutter.

They Love Videos

Fifty-three percent of online viewers watch videos to be inspired or entertained, and YouTube is the number one platform 18-34 year olds use to explore their passions. Stacy DeBroff, CEO and founder of Influence-Central, says, “This generation has grown up with instant response as its baseline expectation.” Having branded content in the medium Gen-Z likes to receive it (video) is how marketers are going to meet that expectation. Visuals and videos have truly surged, and consumers—particularly Millennials and Gen-Z— have embraced pictures and videos as a way to gather and share information.

All of this goes to show that typical TV and print ads have become a thing of the past. With an increasingly digital world, paired with a rising generation that hates advertisements but love videos, it’s safe to say that a shift toward more engaging, branded, visual media is soon to become a necessity.

They Expect Tailored Content

Express digital marketing used on campus

As the demand for video content continues to grow, marketers must also be aware that the one-size-fits-all approach to their advertising strategies are soon to also become a thing of the past. Running the same video campaign across all digital channels won’t be enough to address Gen-Z’s need for content. A consumer’s attention span for an ad on digital is much shorter than it is for one on TV, which means different story arcs and ways of triggering emotion are needed. Even the part of the screen that viewers focus on while watching a video varies from TVs to laptops to cell phones.

There are vast opportunities that come with the new digital revolution, but there are also new practices and ways of thought that marketers, and businesses alike, must consider. Recognizing and embracing these changes are the only way marketers are going to be able to truly capture the attention of Gen-Z. This is a generation with a set of goals and beliefs that are waiting to be tapped into. These young people want to engage in authentic dialogue and be inspired by the content they’re exposed to. Do your advertisements answer this call?

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How can YMC Help?

Want to engage the coveted Millennial and Gen-Z demographics with branded content? Finding the right partner is key to your success. Here at YMC, we’ve been helping brands connect with 15- to 29-year-old consumers for two decades—and we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!

The continually evolving digital landscape has caused a rise in the popularity of influencer marketing, changing the way brands advertise and launch new products. Nowadays, it’s easier than ever for influencers to digitally share what they’re excited about—and savvy marketers have taken notice. Brands across all industries are turning to influencer marketing as an alternative to traditional advertising, which can be expensive and inefficient.

Instead of focusing on their target market as a whole, brands are identifying “influencers,” or individuals who have influence over potential consumers, and building campaigns around them—and the timing couldn’t be better. Consumers are increasingly distrusting of traditional advertising (83% of Millennials and Gen-Z trust the recommendations of their peers above all other forms of advertising). And it makes sense—you’re more likely to trust the recommendation of your good friend Sally than a commercial.

You may be asking, “Who are these influencers, what do they look like, and how do I find them?” Great questions! Recruiting and selecting influencers for your campaign can be tricky business. It doesn’t matter how much strategy and thought goes into the campaign—if you select the wrong influencers, it can be detrimental. With different brands looking for different qualities in their influencers, it’s important to do your research. Here are three qualities we always look for in every influencer:

  • They’re connected and engaged via social media 24/7—it’s a central component of their native social lives
  • They’re experts at producing compelling content across all social channels, including Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube
  • They’re great communicators—able to clearly convey the core value of products and services

Some influencer campaigns are sales and acquisition based, while others are focused on brand awareness. Before selecting influencers for your brand, get crystal clear on your goals and what you expect from your influencers.

Here are four factors to consider:

Macro vs Micro Influencers

Celebrities and macro influencers (AKA Instagram celebrities) typically have hundred of thousands to millions of followers. While these types of influencers have the highest reach, they don’t necessarily have the greatest amount of influence. Because of their high follower count and/or name recognition, they’re always being approached by brands, which means they’re typically promoting many products at the same time, making them appear less authentic and more salesy. However, due to the sheer size of their following, they may be perfect for a brand awareness campaign.

Micro influencers typically reach an extremely targeted audience. While they tend to have fewer followers than Instagram celebrities, they normally enjoy a higher level of engagement, likely because they appear more relatable. They aren’t strangers—they’re your sorority sister, your lab partner, your class president. Micro influencers can have immense influence because they have a more authentic relationship with their social media followers.

Brand Fit

Influencer Marketing

This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s incredibly important to select influencers whose personal brands align with your brand. For example, a brand selling weight loss products shouldn’t try to partner with a body-positive activist. It would dilute the validity of the brand and the influencer alike. Where as a skincare brand would partner well with a micro-influencer student who is studying dermatology. Finding an influencer who embodies the brand doesn’t just lead to his or her individual success, it ensures the success of the entire campaign. Aerie, the body-positive female retail brand does an incredible job selecting appropriate influencers. Their spokesmodel, Iskra Lawrence, is known as a body positive activist and aligns perfectly with the brand.

Digital Footprint

The right influencers are able to successfully reach and influence hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of people at once. This influence is created through an engaged social media following, a strategic and unique posting style, and an informed knowledge of the overall digital landscape. Additionally, your product should align with what the influencer typically shares on their social channels, otherwise their followers are going to recognize the branded post as an ad and tune out. You wouldn’t see the woman on the cover of Forbes posting about her paid sponsorship with fitness tea.

Short-Term vs Long-Term Relationships

Many brands work with a variety of influencers on a short term basis, exchanging product and/or compensation for a fixed number of social posts. However, more and more brands are looking to create long-term partnerships with influencers who may become something of a spokesperson. This strategy creates the opportunity for your brand to develop a meaningful relationship and for influencers to generate authentic content over time.

Keep in mind, not all influencers are created equal. Your brand must be selective when choosing which influencers to partner with. Never make the decision solely by looking at an individual’s follower count. Trust me—you won’t get the results you’re looking for. In order to launch a successful influencer campaign, you must take the time to properly vet potential influencers, making the best choice for your brand.

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How can YMC help?

Want to leverage micro influencers on campus but aren’t sure how to get started? Finding the right partner is key to your success. Here at YMC, we’ve been helping brands connect with 15- to 29-year-old consumers for two decades—we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!

User generated content (UGC) is a constant player in the marketing world. By definition, UGC is any type of content that has been created and put out there by unpaid contributors or fans. To put it simply, it’s when someone promotes your product or service on their own social media channels. Their content could come in the form of an Instagram post, YouTube video, tweet, blog, online review, or many other mediums. 

UGC is authentic, organic, and trusted by Millennials. In a recent study, it was stated that 47% of Millennials trust UGC over content created by brands. As you can see, UGC is effective, but how can your brand encourage its customers and fans to create more content on the brand’s behalf? The answer is a user generated content marketing campaign. Below are six examples of campaigns that worked well for brands in the past.

Highlight a Lifestyle

There are multiple lifestyle brands that encourage customers to feature products on their personal social media channels. This encourages individuals to showcase how the brand is incorporated into their active lifestyles. For example, if you check out the L.L. Bean Instagram account, you’ll notice that they frequently regram customers who have featured L.L. Bean product in their Instagram posts. Customers are encouraged to post on their social channels using the hashtag #beanoutsider, which has generated 60k+ posts to date.   

User generated content

Host a Contest

Hosting a contest on social media is a popular way to generate UGC—that’s what the athletic apparel company, Outdoor Voices, did last year. Referencing their “doing things is better than not doing things” moto, they created an Instagram contest around #DoingThings. Outdoor Voices gave a lucky someone a year of leggings (one pair each month) in exchange for them posting a photo with the hashtag #DoingThings and following @outdoorvoices on Instagram. Even after the contest concluded, fans of the brand still use the hashtag #DoingThings when including the brand in their posts (91K+ posts to date).

Have an Evergreen Hashtag

Many brands generate content by promising to share UGC on their websites or owned social media channels, eliciting a competition among their followers. Madewell is a good example of this, “Share your Madewell denim love with us. Submit a photo here or on Instagram with #denimmadewell—we’re showcasing our favorite snaps.” Not sure if the denim will fit you correctly? Take a look at the hashtag and you’ll be able to see it on 23k+ girls with your size or style. Seeing denim on a variety of “regular” people is especially useful in encouraging purchase consideration.

User generated content

Have Seasonal Hashtags

MeUndies also features UGC on their account if a follower posts with their hashtag. The difference between their campaign and the Madewell example? MeUndies switches up the ask, and the hashtag, based on the season or product feature. For example, prior to Valentine’s Day, MeUndies posted, “Tag photos of you, your boo, and maybe your pooch too with #MatchMeUndies for a chance to be featured during V-Day Season.” Switching up the hashtag keeps the contests new and exciting, and allows the brand to generate seasonally relevant content.

Support a Movement

In a groundbreaking move, Aerie decided to discontinue the use of Photoshop in 2014 and has been a champion of body-positivity ever since. Their campaign #AerieREAL is about encouraging others to embrace their real bodies, be inclusive, and of course, no retouching. Aerie asks their users to “let the real you shine” and share how they are #AerieREAL through unretouched photos on social media. Aerie often utilizes this content on their own social pages, website, and even on images printed in stores. Also incorporating a charity aspect, Aerie recently donated $1 (up to $25K) to the National Eating Disorders Association for every unretouched swim photo shared on social media with #AerieREAL. 

Hire Brand Ambassadors

While many UGC campaigns are done organically, hiring brand ambassadors guarantees high-quality content and allows you more control over the narrative. Aerie taps into the social media savvy college demographic through their brand ambassador program. These brand ambassadors embody the #AerieREAL mindset, and promote Aerie on their social accounts to peers. They also encourage friends to post with the hashtag, which spreads the #AerieREAL message across college campuses. Express is another brand that has capitalized on student brand ambassador content and activations. Express finds that the content created by their brand ambassadors often generates higher engagement than content created by the brand itself. Hiring and training brand ambassadors often pays for itself by reaching new consumers, driving awareness, and increasing sales.

UGC is effective, relevant, and authentic. Each of the above examples show how UGC can be achieved in a variety of ways. It’s important to assess your brand and figure out what type of campaign works for your specific needs; whether that is a seasonal promotion, a charity component, or a contest. Figure out what resonates with your fans and let them bring your brand to life.

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How Can YMC Help?

Want to reach the coveted Millennial and Gen-Z demographics by creating a user generated content campaign? Finding the right partner is key to your success. Here at YMC, we’ve been helping brands connect with 15- to 29-year-old consumers for two decades—and we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!