There is a new audience out there. Call them by whatever name – youth, Gen Z or whatever. Born in the age of access to information, entertainment and experiences on demand. Here’s an audience which has always been presented with choice, in consumption, entertainment or relationships. They have therefore, a well-developed mechanism for choice-making. Here are a few characteristics that we need to be aware of if we want to succeed with them.

Searching for the new

In a world defined by ‘scrolling’ and ‘play next’, there’s a constant search for the new. Another influencer, another meme, the next Netflix series, the next in fashion, the newer short video platform and so on. We are now collective explorers of the new. It makes for our shared interests. To discuss and share material that we have discovered; that’s interesting, amusing or just surprising. It makes for social currency. Discovery has become the operative word for this generation. It’s a pursuit in itself – discovery of content, the next big trend, or what gives you the feel.

What this means for marketers and brand builders is that they need to think newer formats — memes, GIFs, podcasts, games, video content in various formats, influencers and so on. Meme’s have become the voice of social media; a reel challenge can go viral overnight and Instagram is the new currency for creating buzzworthy content. Marketers also need to think in terms of many rather than few, when it comes to stimulus. Today, it’s not about a few focussed pieces of content that will build the brand, it’s about a constant flow of content around a consistent narrative. It’s also about being found at places where your audiences are — an OOT series, a popular game, in the feed of a cool influencer and so on. In a world searching for the new, we have to increase our chances to be discovered, we have to actively engineer serendipity.

Questioning everything

Information is commodity today. Students know a lot about their concepts before the class begins, patients know about their symptoms and what they may mean, by the time that they meet the specialist. Today’s audiences are empowered by the overbearance of technology and an abundance of choice, which has given them access to information and choices more than ever before. And the more information we have, the more we question everything around us. All authorities are up for questioning today. Nothing is taken for granted. Doctors, teachers, scientists aren’t sacrosanct any more. Neither are the brands.

No longer are consumers taking brands at face value, they want to know what goes on behind the scenes, how does each ingredient in a product affect them and their surroundings. They get their information from multiple sources, many of which are online. From following influencers/celebrities to gathering social recommendations to reading user reviews before making a purchase, the generation of today is digging deeper.

It’s important for brands to get their backyard in order. The fine print is no longer fine. The labels need to be bigger. The sourcing practices need to be cleaner. We know that what goes around comes around. This generation is not willing to turn a blind eye to an inconsistency in your story. Claim what you do and do what you claim. Today, brands are made of their deeds and not their projection. And it’s not so difficult to keep pace with what your audiences want today, there’s plenty of data and technology that can help you execute things real-time. But don’t be prying, that’s not cool.

Entertainment galore

Spotlight is good. Being interesting is important. Entertainment is table stakes. Here’s a generation which is borne to be a centre of everything. Today’s generation enjoys being in the spotlight and demands that brands create a world with them as their central focus. Brands need to see themselves as experiences. They need to have layers of discovery embedded in them. Marketing needs to create material (read content, product, experiences, collaborations) that today’s audiences can play with, share and make it their own. We need to use data and technology not to be more intrusive, but to be more playful. Using personalisation and interactivity, brands can be more intimate and personal, offering customised experiences to the generation that’s always looking to discover new.

Being responsible

Access to all this information, coupled with a questioning attitude, also means that this generation isn’t reckless.

They know that there’s no planet B. The concern for a more conscious living isn’t coming from being woke, its coming from an understanding of the damage that’s already been done.

Let’s not spoil it further, is what they seem to be telling the senior generation! Today’s generations like to support brands that are good citizens because it makes them feel like they too are making a difference in the world. In today’s times, a brand’s social commitments must be a part of the brand’s purpose and seamlessly align with its business goals.

As we enter yet another year of marketing, its time that we made these connections seamless. It’s almost as if the karmic cycle of marketing is kicking in — what’s good for people, is good for brands, and is good for the environment — the connections are almost linear. Just make sure that you aren’t boring while doing so, and find ways to be discovered, serendipitously!

(Dheeraj Sinha is CEO and Chief Strategy Officer, South Asia, Leo Burnett)

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