4 Key Rules to Keep Your Gen Z Advertising Real

They say honesty is the best policy, and the same applies when marketing to Generation Z. The younger generation isn’t interested in false advertisements or cheesiness: what you see is what you should get.

Every year, the independent school enrollment decision-maker gets younger and younger. Long gone are the days when parents solely made the choices of where their son or daughter attended school. Prospective students have opinions, are following your social media and talking to your current students. You need to have a clear marketing plan for Gen Z — and one that speaks to their unique perspective.

Advertising to Gen Z shouldn’t feel daunting. You need to tell it like it is and be straightforward. By following four key rules to marketing to Gen Z, you won’t have to worry about your campaign being a total flop.

As digital natives, Gen Z lives and breathes media through their laptops, phones and tablets. They know how to use technology, and they’re not abandoning it anytime soon. In fact, Adobe research shows that Gen Z is the demographic most easily swayed by online advertisements, despite that they may be reached in a less conventional way

Start thinking about your advertisements through a Gen Z lens.

1. Authenticity reigns supreme.

Being authentic is crucial when marketing to any “Gen Z’er”. Take your cues from the approach by consumer advertising. Native advertising is important, as Gen Z would prefer to see their peers or real people in advertisements, rather than paid actors. When selecting current students for profiles or to be in videos, use their authentic voices and experiences and use fewer adult “talking heads.” 

Brands or companies that are committed to social causes, diversity and tied to organizations often appeal to Gen Z’s desire to make the world a better place. Sharing how your school is committed to social justice, inclusion and equity issues, environmental issues, etc. will grab Gen Z’s attention. 

Gen Z tip: If your school has an active social justice program, instead of only creating a webpage on your initiatives, focus on the communication vehicle that will resonate with your student audience. Ask your students to create short videos, talking about why equity and justice issues are important to them — and how your school is addressing it. Post them on social media as a story. The more self-produced the video is, the better. It speaks to real students doing real work right now.

2. Keep it short and simple.

Attention spans are short, and immediately capturing the viewer’s attention is crucial. This doesn’t have to be done in a flashy or ostentatious way; in fact, it can easily be done on social media or through videos. Giving Gen Z the option to skip over ads will play favorably in their response and perception to your brand.

Get to the point! Viewers should recognize your branding and know what you’re promoting within the first three seconds of viewing the ad or video. 

3. Know your platform.

No two advertising platforms are alike. Get to know the platform on which you’re advertising along with its associated trends, audiences and results in order to learn whether or not it’s the best placement for your ads. You wouldn’t post the same type of content on Twitter and Instagram for your personal accounts, so think about what audiences on each platform are looking for. Likewise, don’t make memes or gifs just because it seems cool, they need to actually be funny, entertaining and speak to your prospects’ interests and passions to capture attention. 

Keeping up with trends is incredibly important when trying to tune in a Gen Z audience. Learn what works best on each social media platform to maximize your advertising success. While certain content may work on some sites, it may completely flop on others.

As social media platforms work to compete with each other, you now have a variety of ways to post content, such as stories or posts. If content can be fleeting or will only be relevant for a certain period of time, a story may make the most sense. Posts are usually visible on your profile for longer periods of time and should be focused on detailing information that is long lasting and continuously relevant. Think: story for advertisements for a time-sensitive event, and posts for highlighting students’ accomplishments

From my own experience as a student at Boston University, I have done three “Terrier Takeovers,” where students take over the story feature on the BU admissions Instagram account each Tuesday to answer prospective students’ questions and highlight their own experiences. The BU Instagram also does “Major Mentions” and “Feature Friday” weekly on their stories to promote programs and opportunities offered by the university. Your school can use these concepts, too, to show quick snapshots of the campus, programs and students.

Gen Z Tip: It’s not always easy to tell if a post is better for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Generally, visually appealing content does well on Instagram, whereas text-heavy posts are better for Facebook and Twitter. Also being mindful of your audience (larger Gen Z presence on Instagram than Facebook) will allow you to make the most of the content you post on each platform.

4. Don’t try too hard.

Trying to be extremely Gen Z-centric in advertising will make it completely obvious that a “Boomer” created it. Talk to the demographic themselves to test out different techniques. You’ll never know what works and doesn’t until you try it.

Using social media and being authentic through real testimonials and experiences will serve you well when attracting the Gen Z market. In the coming years, Gen Z will be the biggest audience for advertising, so why not perfect your marketing towards them now!

Gen Z Tip: Students are interested in seeing if their teachers can master the latest dance trends on TikTok. You can’t put yourself into Gen Z’s shoes just to seem relatable. Don’t have valuable information and content looked over because it was cheesy or too advertisement-like. Remember that not all content needs to push people to your website or sell the school. User-generated content helps influence people’s decisions just as much! Making sure your social presence is engaging and interactive will drive people to your page more than a cheesy call to action. Quality over quantity will always impress Gen Z. 

Photo of Channing CapacchioneAbout Channing Capacchione

As Digital and Communications Associate for Kalix Marketing, Channing Capacchione is a senior studying Advertising and Sociology at Boston University where she works as a Student Admissions Representative at Boston University Admissions Center. In addition to giving tours and presentations to prospective families, Channing has interned with the Boston University Marketing department designing flyers and handouts, writing copy and aiding with website development. Prior to Boston University, Channing attended Garrison Forest School, an all-girls private school located in Owings Mills, Maryland. Her 14 years at Garrison provided her with the opportunity during high school to gain knowledge and experience working with the admissions and the communications department.

Read Channing’s insight on another key marketing learning for Gen Z.

3 Valuable Tactics That Will Attract Gen Z to Your School’s Website

President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

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