From A to (Gen) Z: Connecting marketers with the newest generation of spenders through online communities

Timo Pelz
By Timo Pelz | 2 April 2023
Timo Pelz; image supplied by Reddit.

Timo Pelz, VP of Business Marketing at Reddit

Gen Z is the world’s first generation that grew up with the internet fully embedded into their lives. It’s also no secret that Gen Z spends an enormous amount of time on social media platforms – 84% of Australians aged between 18 to 34-year-olds reported using social media, compared to 67% for those over the age of 35. As they reach adulthood, they bring a newfound spending power and preference that is highly influenced by their digitised upbringing, presenting a huge opportunity for brands. 

When it comes to making purchases, Gen Z’s values impact their decisions more than any other generation. This means they’re less likely to fall for traditional marketing tactics, so those mass-reach buys and hollow influencer campaigns won’t gain much traction with this audience. As you think about strategies to effectively target  Gen Z, how can you ensure you’re reaching this coveted audience in a way that will cut through and resonate?

To start, it’s equally important to understand how and where to reach them. Luckily, the how informs the where. Successful marketing to Gen Z is all about understanding what drives them and understanding how your brand can add value. Gen Z is a value-conscious generation, making decisions that align with their ethics and purpose more than any other generation. Being values-driven and standing for something real is important, but it must be authentic. Be wary of performative virtue signaling because Gen Z can sniff that out a mile away, and they don’t hesitate to call out brands. 

Tinder is a great example of a brand demonstrating authentic values and backing them up with action. In collaboration with the LGBTQIA+ community and the First Nations Australian community, Tinder launched The Big Rainbow Project, unveiling a “BIG'' landmark that celebrates regional LGBTQIA+ pride and inclusion. This was accompanied by $100,000 AUD in funding for LGBTQIA+ regional NGOs, as well as a virtual space to help bridge geographical distances between LGBTQIA+ communities while encouraging connections. The response was overwhelmingly positive because the activity not only resonated with the core values of Gen Z, it also stayed true to the brand and so which ensured it remained authentic and backed by substance. 

Understanding what’s driving Gen Z and how to meaningfully connect with them is only half the challenge…it’s time to meet them where they’re at: online communities. Online communities have emerged as flashpoints of belonging and trust. They present a sharp contrast to the influencer-heavy marketing that tends to dominate social media today. The thing about community is, it’s hard to create. You can’t force it and you can’t fake it (kind of like Gen Z marketing 101, right?). Reddit recently partnered with  Talk Shoppe to better understand how the role of online community has shifted as people search for authentic dialogue and meaningful connections with other, and the role of brands within these spaces

The good news? We found that online communities welcome brand participation, and they provide a meaningful opportunity to cross the bridge from “outside advertisers” to fellow “members”. As members of a community, brands can break the fourth wall and be less traditional with their tactics. We saw this when Aussie redditors were highly engaged in election discourse during the 2022 Federal Election. Reddit hosted an AMA (aka an ‘Ask Me Anything’) featuring the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) on r/Australia that sparked meaningful dialogue around the voting process and answered questions in real time. The activity worked so well because people were already talking about the election – they were discussing and asking questions of each other – so to have the AEC join in and bring helpful answers and advice added value to the space. 

This is just one example of the kind of meaningful brand or advertiser engagement on Reddit every day. Because online communities are so highly engaged in a particular topic or interest, there are countless opportunities for experts or brands to join in, offer solutions and add value. And as we know, real and value-add brand participation creates trust, which encourages consideration of new brands, informs decisions, and ultimately drives purchases. 

When trying to reach, engage, and convert a Gen Z audience, there are two important things to remember: clarify your brand’s values and how they connect to Gen Z’s values, and meet them where they’re at. Brands can dive into online communities and add value to the discussions. Once you understand the conversations of Gen Z, it’s time for your brand to make some magic and meaningfully connect. Your brand has a big opportunity at hand, to harness the power of the collective and be part of the community. Gen Z is ready for you.

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