This guest post about digital marketing / web design, was submitted as an entry for The Web Design for Generation Z Scholarship, vote for this post below and share on social media to help the author Alexandra Marlette have a stronger chance of winning the scholarship.

Generation Z: Young, Puzzling, and Not Underestimated 3.61/5 (6)

Well design websites can make or break a brand, whether that be a personal brand or the brand of a fortune 500 company, and in today’s word brand is everything. As a whole, the younger generations are more conscious of not only what they buy but also how it was made and the reputation of the company that has made it.
Generation Z though still adolescence have grown up through the Great Recession and seen the struggle that millennials have had when trying to find jobs, while their parents also probably went through one hardship or another. They as a generation were raised to live more practically because they were forced to live within their means. Due to that they appreciate well-made products and to appeal to this generation a brand must show that they produce a high-quality product while being socially conscious.

Brand Responsibility and Public Relations

The world is more connected than it was even five short years ago and with everyone connected as they are it is impossible to not see the strife in the world. A collapsed Bangladesh factory that produced clothing, killed over 2,000 workers, unsafe and overcrowded conditions led to a high death toll. This exposed the terrible working conditions that people worked in to make our favorite brands, Walmart, Nike, and J.C. Penny being a few. Generation Z wants to see their favorite brands produce quality products while also appealing to their morals. A brand can convey this in their website by showing where their clothing is made, whether it be in the country of that brand’s origin, which can sway potential customers, or in another country far away. Transparency can increase the respect of a brand regardless, in the about page a person or company has to talk about how their products are made and how they help communities. A company who’s marketing campaign is successful with Generation Z is Tom’s Shoes, look in any middle school or high school and you see canvas shoes adorning the feet of students. They are mostly unremarkable shoes, one could buy a similar pair for a third of the price from Payless, however, the big selling point of TOMS is not the originality nor the price but the impact of the shoe. TOMS has a buy one, give one campaign and makes corporate responsibility a priority of their marketing campaign. In the book Screw the Usual Business, Richard Branson states that TOMS ”look for communities that will benefit most from TOMS based on their economic, health and education needs while taking into account local business so as not to create a correlating negative effect.” They state this on the front of their website that they as a company are out to make an impact, this goal to make an impact is a priority over even their product because a shoe is not the first thing you see when you get to their website. You first see the smiling face of two girls who benefited from the One for One campaign and that, is what makes TOMS a top seller for Generation Z.

Social Media and Sponsored Content

Most likely those in Generation Z will not stumble upon a brand’s page, they have to be reached through advertisement on the channels they consume information through. However, social media brands should not fall into the Facebook trap, for the 21+ crowd, Facebook works but the main social media app for those under 18 is Instagram. An eye catching photo, say of two young girls with their TOMS shoes and the One to One campaign logo, can convey far more than a wordy post on Facebook and caters to the shorter attention span of adolescents. A company can expand an Instagram campaign by sponsoring the post top Instagrammers like Selena Gomez, The Rock, and Kim Kardashian, or Instagramers that have many followers but also can connect with the company. Any post made on any social media should be front and center on the website, and on every page the easy “share” buttons should be next to but not intruding upon the view of the product. When a young girl sees a pair of shoes and thinks of her best friend a share should be quick click away, just like if young business woman wanted to share a Forbes article with her coworkers. A website should also include a blog page where a collection of the articles written about the company are gathered along with articles written by the company. I mentioned early that the Generation Z age group has a short attention span but everyday they flock to sites such as Buzzfeed to get entertainment news and interesting articles, some of which are sponsored. A sponsored article on “10 Ways TOMS Makes a Difference” will not only reach the audience that subscribes to reading a brand’s blog but also those who read that website’s articles. A brand’s website should be the keystone that supports the many media channels a brand has to be on to attract the attention of Generation Z, they must be visible but unintrusive giving the perception that they are a natural part of the page and add to the experience instead of distract from it.

The Best of Both World: Making Your Campaign Go Viral

Like stated before Generation Z is pragmatic and globally minded, they care for others and believe in social change. The key to a viral campaign is to tie your product to either social change, self-love, or support for a downtrodden group. The Beats by Dre #showyourcolors campaign was set up to promote that anyone from any background can be great with beats and encourages diversity and individuality. It went viral because not only did celebrities promote the campaign but the average person was able to connect with it on such a level that on Instagram alone it garnered 13,000 post, not counting the shares or likes that those post received or the screen time that came from promotions. That was a short campaign and returning to the TOMS shoes model the #OneforOne has been used over 181,000 times. These successful campaigns pander to Generation Z in non-visible ways, they are on the social media platform they use, they get the celebrities they love to endorse their product, but when it comes to the wording of the their marketing they avoid using slang and treat their audience as adults. Many teenagers already think themselves adults and as pragmatics as this generation is, speaking to them as adults rather than speaking like them can garner more interest. Making a product go viral for Generation Z can be tricky however if you promote not just the product but an ideal, people feel more obligated to share, like, and explore the campaign.
Going back to the Tom’s website their top and only three tabs cover the three most important facets of brand and marketing, “Shop”, “How We Give”, and “Blog” with their social media share buttons close at hand floating off to the left, out of the way of scrolling but still in view. The carousel of images on the front page promotes the One for One campaign their new Christmas items, and article about their CEO’s world view. A simple scroll and you can view the products for purchase while again seeing a small advert for the One for One campaign. A well designed website is expected in today’s world not a appreciated rarity, a brand has a precious few seconds to draw in a Generation Z customer. That difficult to do with just a website but if your website is consistent with your social channels and your brand image as a whole it is not something new but something recognized and familiar. This familiarity buys time for the brand as the customer lingers on the website and easily finds more information on products, a company’s mission, and company news.

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Alexandra Marlette