After years of radical changes in social media, personal engagement, and relationship building, the next generation of consumers is getting ready to revamp the marketing game again. Generation Z is defined as kids and teens under eighteen years old, all of whom make up about a quarter of North America and two billion worldwide. They control $44 billion in the United States alone, and they will soon be the big buyers in practically every industry — especially foodservice.
To start, Generation Z grew up in a safety-conscious, post-9/11 world that included the Great Recession, bank bailouts, and a host of other social and economic issues. By those benchmarks, it's no wonder that 56% of this generation says they're savers (not spenders), making them more fiscally conservative than Generations X and Y.
However, 72% of Generation Z-ers still want to start their own business, and 26% already actively volunteer. In addition, instances of violence and recklessness have significantly declined with the upcoming generation, with the exception of the fact that they're more likely to text while driving. Overall, Generation Z is a safe, cautious, and organized bunch — the kind of people who prefer structure to chaos, planning to chance, and thought to impulse.
So how do you grab the attention of yesteryear's rugrats?
In December 2014, Instagram reached 300 million users, and the numbers are steadily climbing. While that total may be less than half of Facebook, Instagram is gaining steam with younger generations who prefer photos and bite-sized information to wordy status updates. Sentences have been replaced with images and brief captions (if any at all) to say the most while using the least. Fun photo ops, infographics, in-house art, and more are all great ideas to maintain a steady Instagram presence. The more active you are, the more followers you'll receive, and the greater the chance to increase profits.
Maintaining an Instagram presence also gives you a chance to check whenever someone posts photos of your food — and for most users, photographing food is as common as going out to eat. To give you an example of how powerful this food photography movement is, The Cheesecake Factory averages 26.2 photos per location over the course of an eighteen day period. While that may not sound like much, keep in mind that this is an average — the best locations had as many as 5,000 photos in the same timeframe. Couple that with the fact that 90% of Instagram users are under 35, and you have a social media platform that will advertise to a group of fresh consumers for free.
Even more than Millennials, Generation Z responds to viral marketing. This breaks down to any fresh, new idea that has the potential to be cool, funny, or sometimes flat-out weird. Take, for example, Old Milwaukee, whose ad campaigns consist of ridiculous ways to pass someone a beer, Jose Canseco smashing a can with a bat, and Will Ferrell cracking jokes.
For the restaurants that can't afford triple-A celebrities or the destruction of random product, you can still get inventive with how you advertise. Produce something original that showcases your brand — start a flash mob with your serving staff, jump on a trend bandwagon, or even destroy a sandwich you sell in slow motion. (People love slow motion — there's actually a YouTube channel to prove it.) While it may seem pointless to blow up a meal you've made just for video views, you get the word out about your brand and associate yourself with something that people enjoyed. And that association, along with word of mouth, is more effective than any billboard.
Simply said, Generation Z doesn't respond to buzzwords. They prefer an authentic person-to-person experience that brings a company down to a more relatable level. Instead of flashy graphics and showy ideas, Generation Z wants you to forge a relationship with them. Replying to tweets, maintaining a polite sensibility, and practicing online etiquette are all great ways to gain the respect and business of younger consumers. And above all, don't talk down to them — they might be young and inexperienced, but they know what they like. Using the right strategies can make them like you.