Gen Z – the elusive generation of digital natives that are consuming more online content than previous generations, whilst simultaneously being more selective about which platforms they invest their time with – know ‘good’ and ‘bad’ content.

With this in mind, how can brands ensure they are noticed and not ignored?

To gather further insights, at MoFilm we talked to Gen Z filmmakers and influencers from our global community, from Croatia to Canada – a group of creators already successfully engaging an audience of their peers – about the future of social content as they see it.

Based on these insights, here are five key takeaways to help brands effectively communicate with them:

Put us to work

“The main issue is that they are not employing young people who are part of the culture”

Gen Z can tell instantly who is behind a campaign and won’t be fooled by appropriated memes or stolen vernacular from brands attempting to pass as relevant. For brands and their agencies, this means having a creative process that integrates the voices of Gen Z creators.

Almost all of our Gen Z creators highlighted the importance of the creative and advertising industries putting less emphasis on years of experience when hiring, and instead calling for young people to be given a seat at the table. Whilst that doesn’t mean your next CMO should be recruited from a university, brands should be auditing their entire creative process and identifying ways to ensure voices of all ages are able to influence the outcome.

Buy into us, not our numbers

“Instead of handing creators a script, brands need to actually say ‘Hey you know what, we want to buy into your lifestyle. We believe in the type of content you make that aligns with our brand. How can WE help YOU?'”

A recurring theme influencers discussed was a frustration with brands being overly prescriptive when briefing for content. They unanimously highlighted that the most successful content is created when brands loosen the reigns a little and give creators permission to have fun with their brand and trust that they know how to engage the audience.

That might sound scary to many brand managers, but it needn’t be. It doesn’t mean giving up brand control – it means working collaboratively with someone who gets your audience better than you do, whilst ensuring the value exchange for the creator goes beyond just money.

Don’t be fooled by ‘best practice’

“I won’t just watch a 6-second video – I’ll watch a 30 minute compilation of 6 second videos”

When it comes to format length it’s often assumed that shorter is better when it comes to reaching Gen Z; wisdom reflected in many of the best practice guides provided by the major platforms. But that doesn’t tell the full story. Ultimately Gen Z want to be entertained – whether that’s for six seconds or 30 minutes.

So next time the subject of format length comes up, consider first whether the content itself is worthy of engaging with. If not, then length is essentially a moot point.

And beware of repetition – “I want to see something once, once I’ve seen it, I don’t want to see it again”. Don’t waste time and money on frequency targeting where it will undo any good work you achieved through being creatively resonant.

Positive vibes only

“I want to see media that reflects the good in the world and the opportunities to take action.”

Our insights into this demographic showed they have become disengaged and numb to the constant bad news narrative taking over some of their social feeds – from political division and environmental timebombs to bleak predictions about future prosperity. It’s understandable that a generation of people who’ve spent the majority of their formative years in a post-recession world is craving positivity.

A day in the life of… chief content officer at Jungle Creations

Not that they’re standing by idly. They’re seeking out content that inspires them through positive stories (so long as they’re true) that showcases the real actions of brands with a commitment to a purpose beyond profit. To truly inspire this generation, brands should consider aligning themselves with real stories of real people overcoming adversity and making positive change in the world.

Just be honest

“Traditionally brands just want exposure, but on social, that doesn’t work. Gen Z can see through this  – we see the ads, we know the influencer campaigns, we know sponsored ads. We want you to be really real and authentic.”

Gen Z are extremely intuitive when it comes to knowing when they are being targeted. They are therefore much more receptive to an honest, personal experience and react far better to good storytelling rather than anything that feels deceptive or fake. When it comes to social, brands need to tailor their approach accordingly to ensure they’re coming across as genuine

Summary

Many brands looking to communicate effectively with this generation of potential consumers are going to have to do a lot of soul-searching. The themes of honesty and integrity came up time and time again, which is something that will only come from a solid understanding of brand truths – and crucially what Gen Z perceive to be the truth about your brand.

It’s also about focusing on what matters rather than what measures. A truly collaborative partnership with a well-matched micro influencer will reap greater rewards than a script handed to a celebrity with a mega following. Likewise, a genuinely entertaining short film is infinitely more exciting to this generation than a six second ad.

Finally, a shift in how brands view the creative process is required. In order to build true understanding and empathy of what makes this generation tick, it’s crucial that brands leverage Gen Z voices in the creative planning process and move away from relying on token nods during execution.