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Posts by Gregg Witt

Bullies Are No Match For The Principles Of Empowerment

February 1, 2019

Most people, at some point, have experienced a form of bullying. In fact, a lot of bullies were bullied, and they are just doing what they were taught. There is no excuse for this behavior, however, and awareness and education around the issue has made a big difference. What more can we do to address the effects of bullying? Starting in about 3rd or 4th grade, when I started riding the bus, I also became a target of bullying. I was taunted, given wedgies, pushed around, and had my bag taken. I was scrawny, they were cool and older – I didn’t know how to fight back. I tried to laugh it off or ignore it, and accepted it as my fate, but I didn’t feel good about it. Circumstances changed, and the bullying died down, only to start back up again when I started high school. This time I was heckled for being a skateboarder, and for being different. And I was, but this time that difference gave me confidence. I was proud of who I was as a skateboarder. I was talented, it made me happy, and I had friends and a whole life outside of school. The intolerance and aggressive behavior, instead of intimidating me, now fostered an internal rebellion. I resolved to be successful and outdo everyone who thought they could beat me down. I started a skateboard company at 16, after traveling extensively as a sponsored amateur skateboarder for Vans. Within a year it became a global company, and this time I was traveling the world entering skateboarding competitions, doing exhibitions and now promoting my own brand. What had been a liability was now a strength, and the bullies were rendered obsolete. I felt powerful, and I could shut down aggressive behavior almost before it began. I had learned to trust and be proud of myself, and developed the valuable skill of never backing down in the face of adversity or intimidation. Trust me, I’m not about to thank my bullies; they also left some pretty deep scars. What I am grateful for was that I developed a strong sense of self around what I loved, and that this gave me the authority to stand up for myself under any circumstance. To answer the question, “What more can we do to address the effects of bullying?” I think we need to continue to look toward reinforcing the confidence and esteem of kids as they grow up, especially during the critical years of self-discovery and development. In my current role as a youth marketer, I observe, interact with and analyze the youth mindset in its various stages. I see daily the interactions and constant evolution of mindset and character, and am constantly reminded of the intensely complex lives, that adults often write of as simple and unchallenged. As brands and businesses, we can make an impact on the mental well-being of our young people, while positively impacting our bottom line. In my role as Chief Strategy Officer at Engage Youth Co., I follow five guiding principles of empowerment in marketing, that are designed to build relationships through mutual respect and benefit, and empower the parties on both sides of the equation. 1. Identity. An individual, and a brand, must know themselves honestly and respect and grow that persona. They must similarly strive to know the identity of the individual or audience they wish to engage. When we seek to understand and respect young audiences, we empower them, and create a sense of belonging, or tribe. This is critical to any relationship, and reinforces the confidence of those involved. 2. Trust. Trust is earned when the relationship is established and respectful. Trust also provides a layer of safety and comfort that allows those involved to let down their guard and explore themselves, their environment and to thrive. 3. Relevance. When a brand provides offerings that are relevant to their audience, it reinforces trust and contributes to a sense of belonging and inclusion…that their wants and needs are recognized and addressed. 4. Possibility. Creating a sense of possibility offers a pathway to the hopes and dreams of the audience. It inspires thoughts and actions, and instills a sense of aspiration that can change the course of a life. 5. Experience. A positive experience is the final piece of the puzzle. When we can create a positive experience, shared or not, we create a reinforcement of the relationship, and a reinforcement of the individual’s wellbeing. These five principles have guided me through my entrepreneurial life since I was 16, and continue to keep my work focused on the empowering relationships that keep clients, audiences, and myself, passionately invested.  If bullying taught me anything, it’s that we must find our path and our tribe, and help others to do the same. Working with people – young and old, big brand or fledgling entrepreneur – to feel good about who they are and where they are going, and to have the resolve and confidence to overcome obstacles and find their best self… that is the best revenge.   Article originally published in youngupstarts.com

Cultural Alignment Key for Brands Aiming at Gen Z

February 1, 2019

Today’s young people tend to be highly individualized and making culturally relevant connections is non-negotiable. If you want to be noticed, followed and garner their attention, find and align with the most relevant groups within youth culture. Successful brand alignment with young people depends, in part, on your organization’s capability to make psychographic and situational context a priority. What does this mean? Many brands default to demographic, geographic and behavioral targeting as their primary filters because they are more convenient, but the reality is that relationships are built in the personal realm. Demographic targeting, such as age, gender and ethnicity, remain a starting point to help organize consumers who are more likely to be a good match with a brand. However, the ultimate goal is audience segmentation that helps us not just organize youth culture, but to understand it. Hyper-individualization is the norm Gen Z is pushing the idea of individualism, sometimes to the point of hyper-individualism. Gen Z defines itself as being more highly individualized than previous generations. This perception is important. Whether or not they truly are the most individual generation of our time is a moot point if they believe they are. It’s interesting when you consider how much exposure they have to the world via the Internet and social media, at a time when they’re developing a sense of self: they may have more options and raw materials to choose from than previous generations. Regardless of studies and statistics, to understand Gen Z’s perspective we have to recognize their self-perception as the most unique generation. A 2017 report by AwesomenessTV found that, “Growing up in a time when intersectionality is the buzzword du jour, [Gen Z] perceive identity on a spectrum — a complex, ever-evolving construction of self rather than a static set of demographic descriptors. Now we are faced with an arsenal of niche, interchangeable and hyper-specific labels …” In fact, there seems to be an infinite number of hybrid subcultures that young people can zero in on and claim as “home.” No identity is too specific or personalized; it can all be made-to-order. Being highly individualized isn’t a barrier to entry or to societal acceptance. One might easily be accepted because of their individuality, instead of being excluded for it. Today’s youth celebrate differences with less judgment or hesitation than previous generations, but it goes beyond just self-expression. Gen Z needs a more flexible identity because they have to adapt to more variety and situations in their lives. Identity is less and less conveyed by a static, stereotypical ‘persona,’ and more by a fluid, evolving, ever-changing condition. We’ve all been in situations where we bring forward a different side of our personality to blend in with others, whether that’s our parents, boss, peers or partners. This is adaptation. Gen Z will try to match themselves to their current situation just like everyone else. Yet, because they’re also at a life stage marked by transition, coming up with the right personality may be more intense, because they’re discovering and defining themselves, as opposed to toggling between more solidified personalities like adults might do. Gen Z is blending characteristics like the pieces in a kaleidoscope. A teenage male entrepreneur who enjoys knitting while he and some friends drive to Coachella is no longer seen as having an identity crisis. He’s making an identity statement. If brands want to connect, they need to understand and adapt to the way that Gen Z defines and identifies themselves. But tuning into the trends and influences that inform Gen Z’s lifestyle and consumer choices means getting out of boardroom comfort zones and into the complexity of youth experience. So, where do we start? Putting alignment into action A brand’s likelihood of building a commercially viable audience is in direct relation to that brand’s ability to identify and connect with the right spectrum of groups within youth culture. The key word here is spectrum. Relying on demographic targeting alone is like casting a net into the water and crossing your fingers. A segmentation method rooted in the lifestyles of youth culture may require more patience and work up front, but it’s far more likely to result in real cultural identification and alignment with the groups that will desire and value what that brand represents. Key stages of youth culture alignment Stage 1: Needs Analysis: Determine the extent of your targeting needs. How big, small, specific, etc. does your audience have to be for a particular offering? Stage 2: Brand and youth personality match: Identify the consumer traits and characteristics you should look for that would be compatible with your brand’s offerings. What qualities do you and your ideal audience share? Stage 3: Identify and prioritize potential subgroups: Develop a list of subgroups that share key personality traits and characteristics with your brand, and determine their alignment with commercial viability for your brand. What groups share these qualities? How deep is the connection, and how commercially viable is that group for your brand? Stage 4: Optimal youth audience definition: How do alignment and commercial viability intersect? Who’s most aligned, who is most viable, and how can you strike the most successful balance? Do you need to sacrifice a little alignment to reach a more profitable group, or will sticking to a smaller group of more aligned youth result in more long-term success? Youth culture alignment tips, takeaways Hyper-individualization is the norm: Gen Z expects unique. When developing creative strategies to reach Gen Z, remember that being highly individualized or even “weird” presents an opportunity to connect with them on their frequency. Traditional demographic targeting models are outmoded. If you really want to get tuned in with this group of individualistic young consumers, focus segmentation strategies on psychographic, lifestyle and situational context as priorities. Embrace the diversity of Gen Z. If you approach Gen Z as a homogeneous entity and fail to appeal to the multitude of segments that comprise it, you’ll be relegated to a limited view of both their world and the motivations behind their decision making….

How Small Banks Can Market to Generation Z

February 1, 2019

As small banks and credit unions strive to market more effectively to the millennial generation, the next cohort has started coming into its own as consumers. And while Generation Z — generally defined as those born between 1996 and 2010, making the oldest among them 24 — is the first truly digital-native generation in history, connecting with them takes much more than building a great mobile app. For one thing, Gen Zers tends to be more fiscally conservative than millennials, says Gregg Witt, author of “The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune In and Build Credibility.” “Because many of them grew up during the Great Recession, they are more apt to care about their financial futures,” Witt says. “We find them to be much more pragmatic than the older millennials.” Generation Z Is Surprisingly Conservative Marc DeCastro, an analyst for IDC Financial Insights, agrees. For example, he points to IDC’s 2018 U.S. Consumer Banking Channel Preference Survey, which found that 55 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 24 prefer opening up a new bank account using a mobile device, laptop or a call center. This compares with 49 percent of those age 25 to 35; 55 percent of Gen Xers (those born between 1964 and 1985); and 70 percent of those over age 65. “I think bankers have to take a step back on the mobility aspect, because it may be a mistake to assume that these young people will do all their business through a mobile device,” DeCastro says. Witt and DeCastro agreed on several other important points. Here’s some advice they offer to small bankers marketing to Gen Z: Become mentors: In one important respect, Gen Z and millennials are similar: Both groups demand authentic relationships with businesses based on shared values. Witt says small banks need to take advantage of their many years in the community by seeking to build genuine relationships with young consumers. But that means doing more than sponsoring a Little League team or the high school marching band. He suggests partnering with the local schools to teach financial literacy, for example. DeCastro agrees, adding that financial literacy is not often taught at the K–12 level. He believes students would very much enjoy learning about the difference between a credit card and a debit card, for example, or to better understand what a credit union does. Tell good stories with video: Witt says anything small banks can do to use video in their marketing would appeal to Gen Z. Consider highlighting the success story of a high school or college student who started a business with a loan from a community bank, he says, or profiling those pursuing their education with money saved in a college fund they had at the bank. DeCastro says it’s important for banks to communicate that many small business owners, such as plumbers and other tradespeople, would never have gotten off the ground if not for a community bank. It underscores the role of small banks in the economic lives of communities, which is important to young consumers. Leverage the potential of chatbots: Witt’s research shows that Gen Z members are more open to chatbots than their older counterparts. They use them in gaming and on social media sites, so if the bank offers a fast response and valuable promotional offers, chatbots can leverage the bank’s brand. Witt says that bankers should expect that Gen Z will break the mold and in their own way disrupt the market. He points to social media sites such as Snapchat and Instagram, which have created new segmented markets for all kinds of products. Gen Z also values diversity, he says, adding that while the younger generation are more fiscally conservative, they don’t follow the staid, old establishment either. “Generation Z expects diversity,” Witt says. “They won’t be on board with a brand unless there’s some diversity.”   Article originally published in biztechmagazine.com

The Gen Z Frequency: Content Strategies and Marketing Tips

February 1, 2019

The following is excerpted from “The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune in and Build Credibility” by Gregg Witt. First published in the U.S. in 2018 by Kogan Page Limited. All rights reserved. Perhaps the most important content goals, when marketing to Gen Z, is to attract and keep their attention, and help them look cool, especially to their peers. They demand instant gratification, “likes,” social post views and personal expression. In a time when they are being overwhelmed by information, and their screens are being filled with images of perfection and curated reality, Gen Z is also seeking interaction that feels real and authentic. In the age of social media, provide them with a way to help build their personal brand and they will embrace your brand. There’s a reason why Gen Z loves Instagram and Snapchat: both brands offer tools (filters, digital/AR stickers, fonts) that provide them with social validation and self-esteem and make them look cool to their friends. In the case of Instagram, the secret sauce is the easy-to-use filters and digital stickers that transform an ordinary smartphone photograph into a masterpiece. A quick double tap of the screen gives them what they crave most: instant feedback and validation. There are lots of ways to convey your voice and brand authenticity to your tween community, but no matter what you do, make sure to create content that serves the community’s social needs – content that will make them look cool if they share it with their friends, or that will make them feel as if they have added a layer to their identity. Mobile first Any brand seeking to connect with young people must have a mobile-first video strategy. No exceptions. Research conducted by Adobe in 2017 found that 76 percent of Gen Z inherently choose a mobile device to watch video, livestream, play games and video chat. A survey conducted by Gen Z media platform AwesomenessTV found that 71 percent of Gen Z’s typical video consumption is streaming, and one-third is viewed from a mobile device (AwesomenessTV, 2017). If you want to connect, present content in a format that is current and has social value. Finally, understand that social platforms also offer an opportunity for “seeded serendipity,” where your audience can feel as though they “discovered” fresh content that they can share with their peers via their favorite hubs – thus earning social capital in their circle of friends. Creating a memorable brand voice A consistent and memorable social voice is key to building relationships with youth audiences. Your followers and community should be able to recognize your content, even when they don’t see any branding, because the voice becomes as familiar as their real-life friends. Voice should always remain the same, but tone can change depending on the context. You’re always the same person, but your expressions and language should adapt to the social platform. For teen and younger audiences, an aspirational voice is often recommended. Gen Z wants to be liked – rather than a persona too far out of reach, such as the celebrities and influencers they idolize. When creating content that appeals to Gen Z, it’s vital that you develop and fine-tune your brand persona, voice and tone across social media. An excellent example of this is The Walt Disney Company. A brand that once had a reputation as a staid stalwart of old media, Disney found a new formula for success by discovering and embracing a unique voice that resonated with Gen Z audiences. The next step in its transformation was creating and sharing content that reflected this shift in tone. Existing content was reimagined into new formats such as GIFs and Musical.ly videos A case study: learning how to embrace the fans Brand voice and tone: Taco Bell presents Gen Z with the opportunity to align themselves with a brand that is “young, adventurous and cool.” They can reflect this persona and retain cultural relevance across all the content they share on their social platforms. Content strategy: Whether it’s Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram, Taco Bell creates memorable, share-worthy experiences and story-driven branded content. Their content is like a mini-TV show – it tells a story. Snapchat: As one of the first brands to embrace Snapchat, Taco Bell uses the platform to test new ideas, connecting with its community through humor and storytelling. By calling for Snapbacks, it provides co-creation avenues for fans and an opportunity to engage directly in a conversation with its community. Instagram: Taco Bell is selling the persona that it is fun, hip and cool. It does this by making sure that new food items are Instagram and FOMO worthy. By focusing on the needs of its Gen Z customer, it also fuels innovation and helps Taco Bell stay abreast of current trends and generational sensibilities (Taylor, 2017). Twitter: Taco Bell leverages platform application programming interfaces (API) to create engaging experiences that make its community look cool. Its #Tacogram hashtag generated a fun Twitter Card to share with friends. Why it works: The Snapchat campaign is all about treating Gen Z like personal friends, not consumers. Make me look good: Taco Bell knows that Gen Z carries smartphones with cameras and its food will end up on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. It worked with its food team to get the perfect formula for stringy cheese so that fans who Instagram their food had FOMO-worthy photos (Taylor, 2017). Every single time. Tell me a story: Taco Bell uses social media and embraces elements of storytelling to weave together a narrative that is often funny, irreverent, collaborative and shareable. “The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune in and Build Credibility” is available now at fine booksellers and can be purchased via StartupNation.com.   Article originally published in startupnation.com

The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune In and Build Credibility

February 1, 2019

Generation Z, which consists of people born approximately between 1996 and 2011 and are currently in their tween/young adult years, is shaping a new era of individuality that impacts every business. An estimated 1.9B people, or 27% of the global population, make up this demographic, which is projected to be the largest consumer demographic in history. The HRC Retail Advisory forecasts this generation to drive 40% of all US consumer spending, and yet it is one of the most challenging generational cohorts for brands to reach. Embodying an unrelenting relationship with information and mobile technology from a young age, Gen Z’s ecosystem is infinitely more complex and varied than any generation before. Staying tuned-in to this demographic’s impatience, confidence and constantly evolving trends can be daunting for any marketer trying to keep up. Fortunately, Gregg L. Witt, a world authority on youth culture and leading brand strategy expert, is sharing his knowledge on how brands can engage Gen Z—and it’s nothing like the strategies companies have just mastered to reach Millennials. Witt is co-author to the insightful book, The Gen Z Frequency, which offers a comprehensive guide for any brand or organization trying to reach this demographic, covering fundamental truths, content creation, engagement strategies and tactics, such as social media and experiential and emerging technologies. It is woven with fascinating case studies and real-world stories from the trenches, plus key insights from leading youth brands and Gen Zs themselves. The Gen Z Frequency is the marketing playbook for this unchartered demographic. “Youth culture is constantly evolving and Gen Z, in particular, is disrupting industries,” says Witt. “Gen Z represents an unprecedented group of innovation and entrepreneurship. This group is focused on niche interests and if brands don’t recognize this now and get on board, they are going to be left behind. It’s also important for brands to adopt a global mindset, as some of the most significant growth is taking place in countries that are either developing or underdeveloped.” Marketers may know all the statistics about Gen Z and why they need to reach them, but they don’t know how to engage this demographic, which is what makes The Gen Z Frequency such a vital tool for business leaders. The Gen Z Frequency will help companies understand and build relationships with tweens, teens and young adults as readers are provided with a framework that helps brands align with youth culture and provides a resource unlike any other on the market. The Gen Z Frequencysolves communication dilemmas, including: Identifying how Gen Z differs from other generations by helping readers understand differences and similarities between generations. Helping brands clearly identify the most influential and commercially viable consumer groups. Providing a strategic approach for brands to determine the right mediums to reach audiences. Detailing a step-by-step framework to develop engagement strategies that will work for individual brands. Offering insight into what motivates young consumers and providing fundamental principles to guide brands as they build their name and develop communications. “In order for marketers to ensure they are authentic and relatable to Gen Z, they must be deeply involved with their culture,” adds Witt. “These consumers will only align with the brands that they feel truly understand them. That means staying on top of the entire social media landscape, embracing things like augmented reality and establishing a presence on new platforms before they gain momentum. The brands that do this are the ones that will be relevant now and in the future.” Article originally published in socialnomics.net

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