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Marketing to Gen Z

Marketing to Gen Z

What you need to know to reach this next generation of consumers.

By Andrew Joseph

With each succeeding generation thinking it is the cat’s meow, it is important to realize that for your flower business to survive and thrive, you can’t simply have a marketing plan in place. You need multiple plans.

Each generation of consumer has its own beliefs and foibles that define it—regardless of how others define them or how the generation defines itself. When “The Who” screamed out in the 1960s (and decades later) that they were “talkin’ ’bout my generation” in their song, My Generation, years later, upon hearing it for the first time, I laughed and added my own phrasing: “talkin’ ’bout my dad’s generation.”

But there’s good news. As each generation grows older and a new one comes to dominate, definitions of previous generations change. Take the previously named “baby boomers” category, for instance. 

Below is a generational breakdown. Please note that generational names are based upon when members became adults, per data compiled by Beresford Research

• WWII Generation: born 1922-1927; ages 95 to 100 in 2022

• Post-war/Silent/Greatest Generation: born 1928-1945; ages 77 to 94 in 2022

• Baby Boom Generation: born 1946-1964; ages 58 to 76 in 2022

• Generation X: born 1965-1980; ages 42 to 57 in 2022

• Generation Y/Millennial Generation: born 1981-1996; ages 26 to 41 in 2022

• Generation Z: born 1997-2012; ages 10 to 25 in 2022

• Generation Alpha: born 2013-2025(?); ages 9 and younger in 2022

That’s eight defined generations to which a flower company could market. Although we can dismiss the non-existent purchasing power on Generation Alpha for the time being, we are reluctant to put the kibosh on marketing to the WWII Generation, but we acknowledge that marketing to them can be done as you might for the Post-war/Silent/Greatest Generation, as senior members of society.

Regardless, that leaves six generations upon which to focus your marketing plans. Florists’ Review assumes you have plenty of experience marketing to millennials and older generations (ages 26 and older in 2022), but who’s next? Generation Z—pronounced as “zee,” or “zed,” for our Canadian friends—who are 25 and younger this year. This is the next generation of flower and plant buyers, and we need to start reaching out to them now!

Why Gen Z, and Why Now?

You might wonder why not discuss millennials since the past few years have seen that age bracket become the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. But Gen Z—what do we know about this enigmatic group? They are going to become the next big thing, and they already know what they like and what they dislike. Opinionated? Yes, but no more so than any other generation, regardless of the feelings of those who are wont to opine, “Well, in my day … ”

Gen Z has already begun to make itself known. You’ve heard of 19-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg, right? Right.

Sociologists describe the Gen Z population as being creative and bold—the creators of trends seen on TikTok, Instagram Reels and other platforms. And, despite YouTube’s old-school appearance, Gen Z utilizes this platform, too. These are important things to keep in mind when marketing your products and services to these consumers

Gen Z-ers loves to view content via Instagram, but keep in mind that TikTok usage is on the rise. If you are wondering what Instagram Reels is, creating a marketing plan yourself may not be ideal. Instagram Reels tends to focus on content creation while Instagram Stories keys in on real-time events.

A video showing a flower design is better-suited for Instagram Reels, with its 15-second, multi-clip snaps. Here’s a link to a great explanation of Instagram Reels, ironically, on YouTube: https://filmora.wondershare.com/instagram/instagram-reels-vs-instagram-story.html. Instagram states that Reels enables people a better chance to become known as “creators” and to reach new audiences.

The Value of Values

For Gen Z, it is important to realize that they are very value conscious and tend to favor brands that “keep it real.”—whatever that means. We should find out. 

“Keeping it real” implies being cool, but when applied to Gen Z as a defining quality, it means being honest. With marketing, that means not over-selling something, and just being, well, cool. It may mean allowing the product, such as your flowers, to “sell themselves.” Avoid identifying things as the “hottest new trend of 2022” or “the most popular flower on the market today”; Gen Z-ers will make those determinations themselves.

“Keeping it real” does not apply to only your products; it means the perception of your business, as well. Your company may employ the hippest, most creative floral designer on the planet who has won umpteen awards, but marketing your business and the designer that way will not necessarily attract the positive attention of Gen Z consumers.

Keep in mind that Gen Z-ers have grown up around a society that has an established technological core of smartphones and social media. They don’t know or understand life without the internet. They know nothing about dial-up internet, VCRs and VTRs, records, cassettes and DVDs. TV—who watches that? We’re talking about a generation that gets its entertainment, and, yes, its global information via TikTok and YouTube. They consider themselves to be social minded, and they are more tech savvy than any previous generation. 

While it may still depend on where a particular Gen Z-er lives and each one’s social background, this generation is considered to be the most racially and ethnically diverse generation ever. For example, one in five Gen Z-ers identifies as LGBTIQA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual); nonbinary; pansexual; or other term, when describing their gender, sexuality and physiological characteristics. 

These digital natives are most likely to buy from brands that have established clear values, are inclusive and have a strong online community. Liz Toney, the co-founder of PRZM, a leading Gen Z brand marketing and innovation consultancy, states, “[Gen Z-ers] are driving spending, they are behind some of the largest behavioral and cultural shifts that we see today, and they are making decisions that will affect us for years to come.”

Most of those in this generation seem to walk around with smartphones in their hands, oblivious to all else around them. They aren’t just sending messages or listening to music; they are getting their news, et. al.—all of their content—whenever and wherever they want it. And rather than viewing content created by just anyone, they tend to fixate on content created by their peers—other Gen Z-ers.

Advertisers who market to Gen Z know this, and they have specifically devised marketing content that is short and to the point—ads that “interrupt” the content Gen Z-ers view as a means to match the short content they watch. So, how do you get Gen Z-ers to view your content? Influencers!

Influencers are the A-listers of the internet—the celebrities, the star makers. As the term “influencer” suggests, they suggest or recommend goods and services, doing so like a friend rather than as a faceless brand. Now, no one is suggesting you market using an A-list influencer like singers Drake or Cardi B. (they will work with you, but it will cost major coin!). Instead, consider affordable influencers who already share a natural affinity for the products you sell. While such influencers may not have the same cachet or followers as elite celebs, an influencer who likes flowers or is from your hometown and cares about local businesses will resonate with the Gen Z audience as being authentic. 

But is it practical? Sadly, for most of us, it may not be something we can do. It should not be someone or agency merely capable of “sounding” or “acting” like Gen Z-ers; it must be a Gen Z influencer or agency speaking directly to Gen Z-ers. You know, keeping it real. 

Not Your Dad’s Way

Social media advertising is where it’s at right now. Google, for example, will place ads alongside the content people read online that appears to be relative to their past viewing habits. It’s not ideal on a shared computer, but Gen Z-ers generally view content on their own smartphones and other personal devices.

It’s important to know that marketing on TikTok is not the same as marketing on YouTube, and marketing on either of those platforms is not the same as marketing on Instagram. You will need to create social-media-platform-specific ways to market your products and your business. Unless you know how to do this—possibly utilizing a burgeoning Gen Z marketer in your family or employ—you would be best served by leaving such programs to a professional agency.

This generation knows when a company’s main goal is to make as much money as it can—and it doesn’t care for those brands. They want to know what the brand stands for. We are loathe to suggest broadcasting your politics to provide proof that you care about the environment, for example, as a way to gain trust, but your marketing messages cannot be just lip service. Gen Z wants to know what exactly you are doing for the environment, for instance. In a flower shop, that could include touting your sustainability initiatives, such as buying “local”; recycling (packaging, containers, etc.); using biodegradable flower foams and/or adopting foam-free arrangement techniques; using only natural or biodegradable (non-plastic or petroleum based) containers and packaging materials; using electric delivery vehicles or delivery pools, to reduce fuel consumption; and so on. 

Because one marketing medium does not fit all platforms, and because Gen Z is more diverse racially and ethnically, single-focus messaging is typically less appropriate and effective. You need to determine how to use data in such a way as to communicate with the various segments within Generation Z. That may mean having to find common ground with all the Gen Z segments and catering to their core tenets, characteristics, values and morals (see sidebar).

Generation Z believes that companies play a role in defining our society. Although it’s 51 years old, Coca-Cola’s “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” TV commercial is a perfect example. Love, peace, harmony, environment, etc. The Coca-Cola Company even donated the first $80,000 in royalties earned from the song by writers and publishers to UNICEF, under an agreement with the writers.

That, my friends, means looking at your brand and your products and presenting them in a way that appeals to Gen Z. You may sell beautiful flowers and plants, but using their language, establishing a brand they can trust, using a social influencer voice, and creating a program they can spot on specific social media platforms will propel your products and company into the eyesight of the typical Gen Z consumer.

For Gen Z, brands must demonstrate clear values and a clear mission; be authentic, transparent and accountable (keeping it real!); be entertaining; maintain the brand’s personality; and build an online social media community.

With social media at their fingertips, Gen Z is a savvy bunch. They expect sellers/brands to earn their trust and to believe in the products they offer and their purpose. Gen Z is values conscious; loves bold personalities; and loves belonging to a community, even if it is via a social media platform.

A tough market to crack? You betcha. They have lofty expectations of the brands seeking their money. On the whole, marketing to Gen Z is a refreshing change of pace, but make sure your ideals line up to theirs. And if you need any final impetus to target this demographic, consider that “the cohort has $360 billion in disposable income, more than double an estimate from three years ago,” according to Bloomberg, in November 2021 report.

Core Tenets, Characteristics, Values and Morals of Generation Z

• Gen Z-ers were born between 1997 and 2012.

• The Gen Z population is estimated to be 82 million—making them the largest generation.

• They are our first “digital natives”; their digital sophistication is frighteningly advanced! They do not know life without smartphones, the internet and social media.

• Above all, they value “authenticity”—people and groups that are “real” (i.e., authentic). Lesson: Be true to your brand, and don’t pretend.

• They view consumption as access rather than possession, consumption as an expression of individual identity, and consumption as a matter of ethical concern.

• They possess a considerable degree of pragmatism and are financially minded; they are shrewd consumers, often heavily involved in ethical shopping, such as embracing second-hand apparel.

• Diversity is their norm, and they care passionately about issues involving race and ethnicity.

• Freedom of expression is essential to Gen Z-ers. They value individual identity and the rejection of stereotypes. They care about everyone having the chance to be who they are or want to be. They prefer not to define themselves in traditional terms, instead experimenting with different ways of being themselves and shaping their individual identities over time. For example, 20 percent of Gen Z-ers say they are not exclusively heterosexual and/or are gender fluid.

• They are politically progressive‚ even those on the right.

• They care about the environment and saving the planet.

• They are passionate about human rights, social justice issues and full equality.

• They care about the collective good and well-being.

• At work, they are “ultra-focused,” which is contrary to the perception that older generations often have about them.

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