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15 killer TikTok videos to better understand the mindset of Gen Z

Gen-Z users are tech-savvy and highly involved with their social media. Which is why they use TikTok to find entertainment, inspiration, and community. We can confidently say that TikTok is one of the most defining platforms that Gen Z identifies with. TikTok's aesthetic and unique video style makes the social site appealing. The platform is highly aligned with this generation's overall desire for more organic, personalized content. What started off as a Gen Z app now spans across Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and soon-to-be Gen Alpha (some Gen A are already on the app through their parents!) No other age group has popularized lingo, songs, or trends in pop culture like the youth of today. Here’s an easy guide explaining the slang behind some of TikTok’s most viral videos and trends.   First, let's start off with some lit visual trends. One thing the following trends have in common is that they capture the imagination. These trends do an awesome job at quite literally painting a picture! Starting strong we have the ‘Tell Me Without Telling Me’ trend. The #tellmewithouttellingme, trend lets creators fix almost anything in a fun way. Typically, the creator will say something like, “Tell me you're in college without telling me you're in college. I'll go first.” We love these videos because the trend is long-lasting and is relatable ‘af’ to every topic!   Here we’ll list out a few more similar trends. Are you into photography? The #WhatImeanwhenIsayI’mfrom, trend shows off your original (OG) roots through the simple use of pictures. This is an efficiency that Gen Z often prefers. We are also loving the #GoogleEarth, trend where we can zoom into beautiful landmarks. Who knows, you might learn a thing or two about geography as well! Ever feel like you’re the star of your own movie? Then the #MainCharacter, trend is for you. This trend on TikTok is a series of videos referencing cliche characters where you can show off their unique and hilarious personalities.   Everyone loves a fit check. Be sure to check out the #OutfitoftheDay, (OOTD) trend to show off your style. We are obsessed with the #Don’tbesurprisedifonedayIjust, trend as it shows off Gen Z’s crazy imagination about living out their dream lives. Who doesn’t want to quit their job and travel the world? There are too many trends to count! More include the #3Dphoto, trend the #AdultSwim, short art film trend and the #shapeshiftlookaliketoacelebrity, trend. These all have incredible potential for the “I’m dead” type of laughs!   Any iconic Tik Tok sound can perk up Gen Z’s ear. Next on the list is audio-based trends! The #Sheeeshhh, trend sound can be used for almost anything. Gen Z typically uses it to show off themselves or their partner; we love confident kings and queens! Do your prefer using DM’s over texting? Turning your #InstaDMs, into inspirational quotes and reading them pokes fun at some of the crazy messages on the internet. It does indeed ‘go down in the DM’s!’ We are living for the trend of #lip-syncing to Taylor Swift’s ‘All Too Well.’ Who doesn’t love a good TS bop? Next in line is the #Iwasbusythinkingbout, trend. Tik Tokers lipsync those words and follow it up with something random they’ve been thinking about. This can get pretty creative. The most recent #MaterialGirl, trend is a perfect example of how something so simple can create hilarious content. Creators just use this catchy, one-line sound and put a video where they feel like an absolute boss.   Tik Tok has more trends that fall into just visual or audio-based categories. There are endless types of videos users can create! For example, recreating chef Emily Mariko’s #salmonricebowl, has been all the buzz recently. We are absolutely living for it! Users also reenact her facial expressions as she takes a bite of her creations. Eating yummy food is a trend we can definitely get behind! Gen X’er Carla Rockmore also defies typical trends. At 54 years old Carla is killing the style game. She became popular because of her trend to bizarrely mix and match clothing pieces. Millennial Emily and Gen X’er Carla just goes to show how popular different generations can be on this app. While it’s clear that Gen Z owns Tik Tok trends, Gen X and Millenials have hopped on the bandwagon. The app is even more special because these generations are bringing their own style of humor, insight, and creativity. At Engage Youth Co. our job is to keep you posted with the latest trends and we hope we did just that. TikTok is the gateway to Gen Z’s mind. If you want a peek inside their humor, just open the app!   Sources: Written by: Naia Mader EYC Intern Edited by: Lisa Knight Source: The Bark Blog

7 Netflix Series That Every Smart Youth Market Brand Should Watch and Why

Teens and young adults aka Gen Z are able to spill the tea on just about every binge-worthy series. There are endless amounts of possibilities for young viewers to stream. Many recent shows have done a fantastic job capturing the Gen-Z experience, viewing diverse and emotionally compelling storylines. Shocking or not shocking, here are the top 7 Generation Z shows that have massive viewership! What’s important to them is that they can’t get enough of shows that feel authentic, have diversity, have relatable humor and plot lines, and something they can identify with. Let’s dive in! 7. Euphoria First up we have the mind-blowingly relatable series, Euphoria, which first premiered in the summer of 2019. We are so excited that the new season came out, starring big-name celebrity Zendaya! Check out the first few episodes on HBO Max. Euphoria is a series about a group of high school students who learn lessons through their experiences with drugs, sex, love, and relationships. It covers a range of pressing everyday issues that high school teenagers face, showing the raw ups and downs; and they aren’t afraid to sugarcoat it. Gen Z is obsessed! 6. Bridgerton Next up, we have Bridgerton, a period drama with a modern twist. Who would have thought we would bop to Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank You, Next,’ by a string quartet band? Bridgerton is precisely what many young viewers are looking for. The clothing is fantastical, the scenery is opulent, and the show carries us to a nostalgia of time that we can only dream of. If you are drama hungry, you’ll love this diverse and beautiful ensemble cast. Everyone loves a good secret, if you know, you know. If you don’t, check it out. Season 2 is coming this March! 5. Sex Education ‘Sex Education,’ the awkward and hilarious show, has been grabbing young viewers’ attention left and right. With its raunchy humor and honest insight into the reality of teenagers’ romantic lives, it’s been dominating Netflix’s Top 10. Never underestimate the power of the Gen Z effect. A coming-of-age comedy that got it’s viewership for its open and honest depictions of sexuality in young people. With 3 seasons under its belt, season 4 is being renewed this year! 4. You Who would’ve thought we would be binging a series about a serial stalker? The Netflix series ‘You’ shows some of Gen Z’s stalking fascinations taken to the next level. Joe Goldberg, played by Penn Badgley, the main character (and psycho might we add) makes cringeworthy decisions we can’t stop watching. It’s hard to root for him, but that’s why this suspense thriller is so addicting to young viewers. If this is your cup of tea, check out the crazy if you haven’t already! 3. Maid The new series on the block, Maid, has totally been flying under the radar until now. The storyline focuses on a woman named Alex, dealing with a string of unfortunate events in her life. Alex, played by Margaret Qualley, stars alongside her TV and real-time mom Andie MacDowell. The bonding mother-daughter storyline is relatable to Gen Z. Props to her for acting with her mom. We love a nepotism baby duo! If you want a heart-wrenching story and are in for a good cry or two, be sure to check it out on Netflix. 2. Riverdale Are you a comic book fan? The series Riverdale follows the original plotline of the drama-filled Archie Comics. If you crave mysterious adventures, love triangles, and unexpected surprises, you’ve come to the right place. We would best describe Riverdale as a quirky thriller. Right up Gen Z’s alley! It has an OMG factor! You can completely relate to the characters in this show. Anything can happen; we are still just as confused about the whole ‘Gargoyle King’ as well, trust us! 1.The Society Wouldn’t you agree that Gen Z’s dream is to live in a town where there are no adults or rules? ‘The Society’ is a mystery thriller show centered on a group of teenagers living in West Ham, Connecticut. They are trying to cope with their new lives as they run their community by themselves after the rest of their population has disappeared. The teenagers defy any adult expectations and do basically whatever they want, whenever they want. Did we forget to mention the part about how they can’t leave the city’s limits? They also have to learn how to run a participatory democracy all while being 18 years old! Big yikes! We hope we helped you find the 7 trendiest shows of Gen Z! Go find your Netflix N’ Chill buddy and binge-watch these killer series. Engage Youth Co always gives you the most up-to-date trends in social media. Stay tuned for what’s to come! Sources:

Gen Z Frequency Video Series 01: Influencer Relationship Building with Zachery Ryan

Engage Youth Co. CSO, Gregg L. Witt talks about influencer “relationship building” at the Gen Z Social Summit with YouTuber and TikToker Zachery Ryan Brands that develop authentic partnerships with these talented individuals are able to leverage the valuable, and often longstanding relationships that the creators have built over time. One of the most overlooked influencer relationship-building tips probably won’t surprise you, but if implemented right will help you build your network and gain a competitive advantage.

A True Story of Cultivating Gen Z Relevance: Nike SB

Nike is known for connecting with niche, athletic lifestyle groups within the youth market, and it’s why they resonate so well with Gen Z today. Yet, about 20 years ago, they found a group that posed some unique resistance.The story may not be what you would expect from such a titan of the sports and lifestyle market, but it’s part of why Nike is, well…Nike. The youth market is not particularly easy to get immersed in, especially if you are an adult with a job that has the ulterior motive of making money. Gen Z is a skeptical generation: they’ve been hyper-exposed to all the good, the bad, and the ugly that today’s society has to offer, delivered directly to their devices and platforms. If you want to win their hearts and wallet share, you will need to prove that your brand is aligned with their wants and needs, or risk being perceived as inauthentic. They are collectively a fast-moving target and reaching them is a challenging task. But cultural relevance with the youth market is not isolated to Gen Z, and this is what Nike struggled with 20 years ago, before they cracked the code and eventually became a dominant industry player in the global skateboarding subculture. Nike made a few attempts to enter the insular skateboarding world. Their first effort was in 1995-96, during and after the first X Games. They even sponsored the games, but skateboarders felt like Nike hadn’t earned their way into the culture,  they felt like they were trying to buy it. The Nike advertising campaigns at the time were very creative and arguably good for the public image of skateboarding, but the core audience still felt like Nike was an outsider, and trying too hard. Lesson One: Don’t assume to know the target audience based on traditional demographic targeting models or past successes alone. The core of any audience segment expects your brand to be an authentic contributor who walks the walk. On Nike’s second go at market entry, in 1998,  they took a deeper dive and launched their first dedicated skateboarding line. The shoes, while state of the art (which Nike is known for), lacked the features and style desired by most skaters. Even Nike-sponsored skaters had a hard time finding models that they could embrace. To the scene, Nike’s efforts to embrace skate culture felt more like infiltration than engagement;  the product line was canceled about one year later. Undeterred, Nike went back to the drawing board, determined to reach and resonate with this tenacious audience segment. Lesson Two: Above all, make sure you are producing a product or service that your audience actually needs and wants. When Nike finally broke through the ice and started to earn the respect of skateboarders, it was because of some very focused collaboration between Nike executives and a group of influential athletes revered by their culture. Nike humbly approached these skaters and asked, hey what do YOU want in a skate shoe and brand? After some serious consultation and co-creation, the Nike SB Dunk Lows were born in 2005. It was accompanied by a grassroots campaign that listened to and championed skate culture. and planted seeds that grew into a genuine acceptance of Nike by the community. The seeds planted during this time continued to grow, with each new generation of skaters growing up with Nike’s authentic presence. Today, the majority of Generation Z view Nike as a longtime champion of skateboarding, helping to support and grow the art and sport. Lesson Three: To truly engage with youth culture, you have to become involved in that culture, respect and listen to the members, and add value to what the audience is already doing. Nike’s journey to skateboarding and streetwear dominance illustrates how they masterfully engaged youth culture as a company, across many specializations. It teaches the observer three important rules of consumer engagement with Gen Z and youth culture at large. Forget your assumptions about consumer groups and start immersing yourself in the cultural lifestyles of your target audience. Identify your audience needs, and what authenticity means to them, before imposing your brand’s products and services on them. Consumer relationships are not seasonal: develop meaningful partnerships with youth segments, and commit to them.

How Retailers Can Better Engage and Sell to Gen Z Shoppers

Amidst the sea of struggling retailers, a few brands stand out as industry leaders when it comes to effectively engaging and selling to Gen Z shoppers. These retailers include Supreme NYC (streetwear), GameStop(video games and consumer electronics), and NTWRK (home shopping). They each have one key strategy in common that’s winning the hearts and wallets of today’s youth culture: they create a sense of belonging for shoppers. Each retailer brings Gen Z together in unique ways that are relevant to their targeted young audiences while staying true to its business model. For example, Supreme has done away with outmoded seasonal product releases, and “drops” (launches) new products or smaller, limited-quantity collections every Thursday. This approach drives demand that creates long lines outside of its store, where young people gather in hopes of getting the latest products before they’re sold out. However, the true genius behind this strategy is that the experience of waiting in line itself builds a strong community of passionate fans, who look forward to connecting with other like-minded peers. The brand’s appeal goes far beyond its physical store, however. The exclusivity of the products has fostered a new economy of Gen Z resellers, who sell or trade Supreme items online after they’re no longer available. It works because the strategy is as much about creating a deeper connection and elevating the status of shoppers as it is about the retailer making money. At GameStop, it’s an entirely different strategy to engage and sell to Gen Z shoppers. This national video game retailer builds a strong sense of community by employing incredibly knowledgeable staff known as “associates,” who are authentic experts in the field (many are rising eSports players themselves). The associates create a powerful comfort level among parent buyers, who are often disconnected from the latest gaming trends, products and technologies. It’s also worthy to mention that GameStop has remained nimble enough to pivot into collectibles and other must-have products, which are popular among Gen Z and many multigenerational fandoms. The latest retailer to step in and get it right when it comes to engaging Gen Z shoppers is a drops-driven QVC-like shopping network for the YouTube generation. The company is called NTWRK, and features daily content segments focused on e-commerce sales hosted by creators, musicians and other pop culture figures. NTWRK’s strategy is to create the next wave of video commerce: a mobile-first, home shopping experience that brings curated styles from big personalities directly to consumers. Young shoppers typically want the most exclusive products, content and experiences, yet gaining access can often be a serious challenge. NTWRK is dedicated to making exclusivity more accessible. The first content released was a shopping show hosted by youth culture icons DJ Khaled and Sean Andre. NTWRK is now partnering with top brands in fashion, tech, sneakers, toys and collectibles. Related story: A Marketing Guide for Generation Z 5 Engagement Considerations for Retailers Targeting Gen Z The world is a fast-growing global generation. Look to emerging geographic markets such as Nigeria, Southeast Asia, and Mexico for opportunities to reach some of the largest audiences of Gen Z shoppers. Practice good storytelling. In a world where the greatest prize is attention, content must capture young shoppers’ attention and inspire them to participate and take action. Don’t take Gen Z for granted; they expect authenticity and will quickly see through any lack of relevance. Create retail experiences that elevate a young shopper’s status. Create content and real-world experiences that positively showcase the coolest, most meaningful and original things you’re doing as a brand. This provides young shoppers a currency that can be leveraged to elevate their status. Be where they are; build a presence on emerging social platforms. YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are among the top social channels for engaging Gen Z. However, the algorithms work against everyone — including retailers trying to reach young shoppers. Consider opportunities to be a “big fish in a small pond” by establishing a presence on fast-growing social platforms like Twitch, Discord, TikTok, and YouNow. You’ll reach millions, and with less algorithm resistance. Future-proof your retail business and embrace the conversational economy. Start developing strategies that use chatbots to create two-way conversations with young shoppers. Focus your efforts on channels those customers are already comfortable using. Gregg L. Witt is a renowned youth marketing strategist and generational expert, author and public speaker. He has spent 17 years in consumer insights, media and youth marketing, and is currently chief strategy officer of Engage Youth Co. He co-authors the insightful new book, “The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune In and Build Credibility,” now available from Amazon and other retailers. Visit   Article originally published in

How Micro-Influencers Can Bring Macro-Sales

Influencers have become important brand advocates, whose videos, posts, and images initiate consumer word of mouth about a product, service, or brand.  They are particularly important for attracting millennials and Generation Z consumers.  An implicit assumption among marketing managers is that picking the influencer with the largest audience is best for the brand. But that assumption about audience size no longer is an absolute.  As more individuals build an influencer presence, marketing managers gain opportunities for nuanced personality-to-brand matches that can better increase awareness and sales. This has given rise to micro-influencers – people who have developed a small yet highly engaged social media community around a particular subject. One criterion of a quality among influencers has been the ability to attract a sizeable audience.  But savvier analytics over time have revealed that brands should seek influencers whose audiences are consistent, and whose content speaks to followers with a sense of voice, empowerment, and shared values.   Those qualities engender an authentic engaged audience, rather than one mixed with a large volume of bots and fake profiles. An engaged audience  engenders meaningful sales activity. Experts are weighing on how to best select influencers. Youth brand experts Gregg Witt and Derek Baird note in their book, The Gen Z Frequency How Brands Tune In and Build Credibility, that two kinds of influencers exist. There are influencers who establish a cohesive sphere of influence by attracting an audience.  Others create exceptional content. Influencers that master both audience development and content creation are rare and highly prized. Experts also debate about how to measure the ROI brands get from influencer campaigns, but social platform have found promising results by examining correlations between influencer activity and sales.  Twitter has touted since 2016 that “Nearly 40% of Twitter users say they’ve made a purchase as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer.” Micro-influencers sometimes speak on overlapping subjects. Some smart influencers address that overlap by banding together and co-ordinating.   A great example is SoulPhoodie, a Facebook and Twitter account that shares content on African American cuisine, dining, and cultural history.  SoulPhoodie was started by Toni Tipton Martin, Adrian Miller, Dr. Fred Opie, Nicole Taylor, and Michael Twitty, professional chefs or foodies that wanted to share their culinary experiences, as well as a love for researched food history as it relates to African American culture. Micro-influencers can also be a way to connect to consumers with a strong cultural identity. In my article How To Use Data to Reach Hispanic Consumers, I mentioned how social media usage among the African American and Hispanic population has risen substantially.  This trend means brands can partner with micro-influencers like LeJuan James, Asiyami Gold, and Olalla “Caeli” Lopez who speak to digital community sub-segments (albeit in Lopez’s case a very large one). But as influencers proliferate on social media platforms, the FTC has repeatedly sought to ensure transparency about paid posts.  Back in 2015, eMarketer reported that awareness of FTC sponsored content guidelines among marketing managers was low.   But in the wake of fake content concerns and mishaps like the Fyre Festival, marketers are working to ensure that influencers associated with their brands are reputable and compliant. Moreover, brands can struggle with how consumers respond to hints of inauthenticity.  Posed or staged images can prompt negative reactions. A UK Instagram influencer, Scarlett Dixon, receiving viral criticism over a sponsored Listerine Instagram post because of the staged nature of the post image. Many of the tweets asked what the image had anything to do with mouthwash. Despite the potential for pitfalls, marketing managers can take several steps to select the right micro-influencers. Marketers must first clarify the brand message and the types of images consistently conjured when that message is delivered. This clarification helps to frame decisions on which influencers can best complement the brand image and its message Marketers should also consider their social media policy – how should a brand respond to influencer-prompted social comments that may reflect negatively on the brand? Volatile responses on social media are more common than ever – for more on this subject, check out my articles on protecting brand integrity and on how brands should express themselves on social media When it comes to how the products and services are mentioned, marketers must find ways to trust micro-influencers’ modes of online expression. Influencers at all levels have access to devices with better capabilities than that a few years ago. Combined with having established a consistent specific audience, micro-influencers can be savvy engagement in ways that brands have not imagined. David Pring-Mill notes a few examples in his article on  IGTV (Instagram TV) To understand how well an influencer alliance is working, marketers should use metrics like the share of brand voice on a social platform, and changes which are seen when social ad campaigns are used concurrently with influencer initiatives. In general, influencers can enhance the frequency of a brand or product mention on a given platform.  As for social ad spending, marketing experts expect budgets to grow to complement influencer campaigns. Micro-influencers wield a great deal of power when it comes to boosting brand awareness and driving consumer action.  It’s up to brands to approach micro-influencers who demonstrate domain knowledge and cultural awareness in order to provoke the most genuine engagement with their products and services. Article originally published in

The 7 markers of Gen Z that businesses need to know

Gregg L. Witt, youth brand strategist and Chief Strategy Officer of Engage Youth Co. has conducted hundreds of interviews with Gen Z kids, tweens, teens and young adults and has distilled his findings into a list of youth culture attributes. These generational markers are the identifying traits of what will be the most significant global demographic shift in history. Gen Z Generational Markers: Independent: Gen Z is willing to work hard for success vs the ‘be discovered’ mentality prevalent among their older Millennial siblings. Diverse: As a global cohort, Gen Z is open to all ethnicities, races, genders and orientations. They expect to see those values reflected in their brands, classrooms and media. Engaged: Gen Z is very politically aware and actively involved in supporting environmental, social impact and civil rights causes. They are focused on making the world a better place and want to align with organizations dedicated to making a difference. Activists like Malala Yousafzai are their role models. Knowledge managers: Often misrepresented as having a ‘short attention span,’ Gen Z has developed an ability to quickly filter the mass quantities of information that appear on their screens and decide what is worthwhile and what should be filtered and discarded. Pragmatic: Raised by Gen X parents who experienced a similar childhood shaped by the recession, Gen Z are choosing more pragmatic careers (for example, selecting a legal profession instead of trying to be a YouTuber influencer), are financially conservative and are avoiding the social media privacy pitfalls of Millennials. Personal brands: Unlike Millennials who tended to overshare on social media, young people are managing their presence like a brand; privacy matters and contributes to the popularity of ephemeral social media apps such as Snapchat and Instagram. Collaborative: Whether it is in the classroom using Skype with students in another country, playing Club Penguin or team sports in their backyard, Gen Z has learned early in life the importance of collaboration in both local and distributed (or virtual) environments. Article originally published in

Bullies Are No Match For The Principles Of Empowerment

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

Cultural Alignment Key for Brands Aiming at Gen Z

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

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

The Gen Z Frequency: Content Strategies and Marketing Tips

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 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   Article originally published in

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

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

Sponsored skateboarder Gregg Witt wants you to have “Informed Confidence”

We all know what it’s like to not fit in, maybe in our family, at school, at the office, or when trying to start a new business. How do we reconcile being true to ourselves, and being a part of larger group? Trying to fit in with a group that doesn’t share your core values or mesh with your personality is a losing battle that will end in self-compromise. Yet, we all find ourselves there at some point. Fitting in has never been my forte. Growing up as a competitive skateboarder in small-town Minnesota was not a recipe for acceptance. Neither are many of the things that accompany the lifestyle of a sponsored rider. As for school, that was just an obstacle to skating. When it was time to start thinking about what path to take out of high school, I knew that it wouldn’t be college, or working for my father’s company. Fortunately for me, rather than pressuring me to be what I was not, my Dad encouraged me to pursue what I loved, and what I excelled at: skateboarding. At 16, I started a skateboard company, and somehow, leveraging the relationships I built over my years of traveling, and making every rookie mistake I could, I built the business into a global brand within the first year of operations. From there I was recruited to build a footwear company for a manufacturing business in Hong Kong, consulted with national brands and organizations, founded and sold two youth marketing agencies, and am now a published business book author. So how does being an outsider in Minnesota flip to being a sought-after marketer, author, and speaker? Not easy, but simple: I knew who I was, and who I wasn’t, found people who lived similar lifestyles, and kept an open mind. Things were a bit different in Minnesota. What does fitting in mean to this story and to running a business? In the plots of movies and TV, fitting in is always this nail-biting experience of hoping for acceptance by the intimidating and dismissively cool group. And most of the time, the person who finally is accepted realizes they don’t even like the people they once thought were cool. We’ve seen Mean Girls. In the youth marketing sector, I encounter a lot of professionals who look at their customers/audiences markets with a similar unfocused distance. They see them as an abstraction of the complexities that truly describe the stages a kid goes through on the way to young adult. Businesses don’t always have a strong enough sense of who they are, or what their company can offer these groups. They struggle to be accepted by a market that they don’t necessarily connect with, and they don’t know how to maintain the relationship authentically. As a young entrepreneur, it was fun for me to market to skaters. We had everything in common; it was an easy relationship. Now as an adult, relating to young people isn’t always so effortless, but the same formula still applies: know yourself and what you have to offer; identify the common ground between you and your audience; build on that in a way that helps everyone grow and prosper. At Engage Youth Co. (EYC), I help young professionals and brands to get to know and develop themselves, their mission, and their offerings, and use that to identify what audiences they would connect with best, or would like most to work with, and why. We encourage the building of relationships that benefit both parties, so that brands aren’t chasing illusions, but rather, nurturing a long-term partnership. We have distilled this process down into five guiding principles that apply just as easily to a friendship as to a business relationship. Identity. Trust. Relevance. Possibility. Experience. Following these takes the angsty uncertainty out of earning acceptance, and replaces it with informed confidence. Identity. Know your who you are, or be very focused on figuring it out. Confidence and acceptance of yourself and what you do is a big part of bridging the gap between you and your audience. As is knowing yourself well enough that you can evolve and still stay true to what is at your core. If you are authentic, consistent, and transparent, it will be much easier to find like-minded audiences. Part 2 of identity is being able to identify those who will appreciate and connect with you. We must take the time to look beyond demographics, and see what makes groups come alive, what excites, moves and motivates them. Trust. Are you trustworthy? Once you have identified an audience that you think would match well with your brand, how will you get them to stop and invest their time and attention, much less their money with you? What can your brand do to prove that it is trustworthy, and will deliver on the promise of its marketing or product? A breach of authenticity or any shadiness does not go over well with today’s youth market, or any market. Relevance. What do you share with your audience, and can you connect on this common ground? Are you offering products and services, and a brand story that means something? Are these offerings conveniently available when and why these groups need it? Is it consistent with what is most important in their lives at that time? With a million and one possibilities out there, your brand must stand out as one that is tuned in to the needs and desires, as well as the culture and lifestyle of your audience. Possibility. How do you inspire or generate enthusiasm? What do you offer your audience that they can’t do on their own? How do you help them to imagine their world differently, or solve their problems? Experience. What is your relationship like? What does your audience feel like when they interact with you? Do you elevate them or allow them to experience the world in new or better ways? To be successful and confident in anything, we must create an environment where we, as individuals…

Gregg L. Witt: Youth marketing strategist/Generational expert, Author & Public speaker

My NativeAdVert: Gregg L. Witt is a renowned youth marketing strategist and generational expert, author and public speaker. He has spent 17 years in consumer insights, media and youth marketing and is currently Chief Strategy Officer of Engage Youth Co.  Previously, he held the role of Executive Vice President of Youth Marketing at Motivate Inc. Witt provides authentic insights-driven strategies, creative leadership, and oversees social media activation for leading companies such as: Advocates for Youth, Autodesk Education, Awesomeness TV, Bravo Sports, The College Board, FunnyOrDie, Glaceau Vitamin Water, HBO, Nitro Circus, Nissan, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, Qualcomm and Walt Disney World. He was named a “Top 5 Youth Marketer to Follow” by Inc. in 2016 and has also been featured in Forbes and Fortune. Witt is also a Vans World Champion Amateur Skateboarder who defied critics while growing up in the Midwest and at age 16 launched the Goodtimes Intelligence Agency, a skateboarding and apparel company that became a globally recognized brand. Today, he delivers advice for clients with the creative flare and eye for authenticity that one can only achieve while wearing a new pair of bright red Vans. He resides in California with his four children and enjoys hiking and travel. Connect with Gregg L. Witt on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and at My goal of the day: To be happy, productive and improve my capabilities to do better. My Thought of the day: Move fast, not stupid. My action of the day: Finding work/life balance while promoting my new book, The Gen Z Frequency, and growing our marketing agency, Engage Youth Co. My deed of the day: Helping a friend develop a new presentation deck and sharing advice on a business decision. My tip of the day: Get tuned into your target audience and invest as much on building credibility as you do on media reach. My Pic of the Day: A Day in My Life: What do you love about your city: San Diego is excellent because of the close proximity of mountains, desert, and ocean. All the places I love to explore. The weather also hard to beat. Favorite breakfast meal and restaurant: Dinner, Love Boat Sushi in Oceanside — that’s my go-to. What are you doing at: 6:00 am ●     Getting a quick 30-minute morning session in at the local skatepark. 10:00 am ●     On Monday’s that’s our weekly status meeting at Engage Youth Co., otherwise working through priority tasks and touching base with teams. 12:00 noon / lunch ●     Typically a working lunch or I’m outside attempting epic Parkour Fails. 7:00 pm ●     Dinner time with the family at home or out on a mission. 11:00 pm ●     Winding down, reflecting on the day and mentally preparing for the next. Some nights are set aside for deep work. What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many) A vente flatte blonde white coffee at Starbucks, typically one, sometimes two. Most used app/favorite Instagram account? The most used app is definitely LinkedIn and favorite Instagram account right now is @mollyburkeofficial. Molly is blind and is providing a true life inspiration for her community. What should everyone try at least once? Skydiving, public speaking, driving through independence pass in Colorado, and karaoke in Tokyo. Where do you enjoy getting lost? In Yosemite National Park. As long as I have food and water and I’m not lost for too long! Article originally published in

(Review) The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune in & Build Credibility

Kids aren’t media consumers, they are “knowledge managers,” constantly evaluating content and data, and discarding what doesn’t help them build their personal brand. How can brands adjust to the new reality? That‘s the challenge posed by youth marketing experts Gregg Witt and Derek Baird in The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune In & Build Credibility. “Identity, trust, relevance, possibility and experience” are the five foundational truths of youth marketing, note the authors. Brands need to engage via activities, interests, brand and content affinities, opinions and situational context. Social media is the best avenue for all this: it’s where kids go to communicate and express themselves. But don’t focus on Facebook. The new breed of multichannel “fandoms,” for instance, use assorted media (websites, video, podcasts, newsletters, IM) to lets kids follow a passion such as a musician, movie or trend. A lot of a brand’s success is its ability to form partnerships with influencer organizations and individuals. “A brand’s likelihood of building a commercially viable audience with today’s young consumers is in direct relation to a brand’s ability to identify and connect with the right spectrum of groups within youth culture,” say the authors. Which brands do it best? The authors give kudos to Mountain Dew, which is working to promote the work of street artists; Levis, which is working with urban youth; and Nike, which sponsors various efforts by skateboarders. This book contains some interesting insights into Gen Z (7-22 year-olds). You’ll learn some valuable things about working with video and emojis, etc. But the authors don’t make an especially strong case that Gen Z is differentiated from Millennials (22-37 year olds). They’re all phone-based and social-media oriented, OK? The book’s real strength is in several excellent playbook chapters that are organized to help brand marketers assess and segment their target audiences, and build programs geared towards today’s top social media platforms.   Article originally published in localonliner

The Key to Gen Z Marketing

Marketers once targeted young people through television, but that doesn’t cut it for Gen Z, whose screen of choice is a smartphone, and who seek to identify with brands they not only trust but feel connected with. Developing that sense of belonging is the real key to success with this market. Gregg L. Witt, co-author of The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune In and Build Credibilit,  has been named a “Top 5 Youth Marketer to Follow” by, and has worked with over 100 brands on developing strategies that resonate with youth culture. He  spoke with me about how marketing in the digital age to a young demographics requires a more integrated and connected approach. Witt identifies  five foundational truths of youth marketing: Identity Trust Relevance Possibility Experience “For research in the book  everything that worked with young people involved these, and everything that they hated about brands deviated from these,” he said.  The starting point for these principles is authenticity, something many brands are striving to project. “This is fundamentally important,” Witt said. Brands that fail to communicate and act in accordance with an authentic identity will not succeed in connecting with Gen Z. That’s the premise for achieving trust, which Witt said is “the highest barrier for every brand.” Indeed, new data from Survey Monkey reveals that trust is an issue for the overwhelming majority of all shoppers, and the online presence of a brand is a major factor in that trust, even more so among younger demographics. By capitalizing on that online communication, brands have opportunities to win trust, and even snatch a kind of victory from the jaws of failure. Witt referred to Samsung’s openness in addressing a problem with the Pebble Blue Galaxy S3. “Samsung just hit the nail on the head. It was almost heroic in handling that,” Witt said. That was appreciated by its target market, and so it earned their trust. “Once you earn that trust, you get to the magic sweet spot of relevance & leverage all the fun, cool things that make brands special and have the special spark,” he said.  This is what draws people in with a sense of belonging through possibility and experience.. Brands  that effectively tap into that also add what Witt calls an “aspirational component.” They include Nike with its “Do it”campaign and Lululemon that reaches out to its market with community pages that say, “Meet the people and explore the places that inspire us.” Witt observes, “There’s a reason why these incredibly successful companies are incredibly successful; they’re working on this stuff.” Among other brands that have proven very successful in reaching Gen Z is Carhartt Work In Progress. “They applied these principles so deeply that in some ways they defied traditional marketing principles,” Witt said, “with any copy or any ad in the beginning.”. The fact that they referred to themselves as “work in progress” with no other messaging made people outside their target market fail to understand what they were about. But for those in the know, it made sense.  The brand  tapped into the cultural subgroups of its audience by focusing on emerging artists and athletes. “They didn’t go for the biggest names,” he said. Instead they opted for lesser known people whose talents would resonate with their audience, creating opportunities to draw them in. Another brand that “completely gets youth culture” is Supreme. Witt identities its “secret sauce” as its demand buildup; the result of introducing a new product new each Thursday without letting people know how many will be produced. As a result the items not only maintain their value but can go up to as much as 100 times the original price in a resell. “There’s an entire ecosystem of reselling among Gen Z.” “But the  secret, secret sauce is the global sense of belonging,” Witt said. It is the relevance that really gets people excited. Witt says television is not the way to win over Gen Z precisely because they’re operating in a different kind of ecosystem. Even when they have a TV on, it often is just serving as background noise. What they watch is more likely something on YouTube, or Netflix, or Hulu. So to get them to engage with a brand, you need to reach them through a number of channels. Brand ambassadors are one of the ways many new brands are reaching out to Gen Z, often with no traditional ads at all. My own teen serves as an ambassador for BANGS Shoes. It’s still early days for the brand, which has 127k followers on Instagram. Its ambassadors are major contributors to the featured photos. That provides them with images that are from real people in real places rather than slick ad photos, which is just what their target market desires. With so many brands competing for the attention of Gen Z, it’s important to reach beyond just digital channels to rise above the noise and really connect with them. That entails using a variety of tools to deliver your message effectively. “You need a mix of social, digital, and, to be honest, live experiences,” Witt said. ”If you don’t create a deep cultural connection with young people, you’re  just asking Amazon to take that customer away from you.” Article originally published in

The Gen Z Frequency: win your copy

It’s reader competition time! Now is your chance to win a copy of a The Gen Z Frequency: How brands Tune In and Build Credibility.  It’s co authored by Gregg L Witt and Derek E Baird and is a comprehensive guide for any brand or organization trying to reach this demographic. It covers fundamental truths, content creation, engagement strategies and tactics such as social media, experiential, emerging technologies, and much more. It is woven with case studies and real-world stories, plus key insights from leading youth brands and Gen Z themselves.  Author Greg L Witt  has been named a “Top 5 Youth Marketer to Follow” by Inc. and has worked with over 100 brands including Glaceau Vitamin Water, HBO, Nissan, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and Disney World. Here’s what people on Amazon are saying: “Finally, a book that not only understands the complexity and vivaciousness of my generation, but also gives practical insights into how brands connect, market and build community with us. It provides an insider’s view into our mindset and teaches brands how to build trust with a generation notorious for scepticism.” (Natalie Riso, Content Marketing Strategist, Studio71, and two-time LinkedIn Top Voice) “Youth culture is always moving, changing and evolving. This book delivers well-researched, actionable strategies and tactics that focus on alignment and value creation with that culture. Many books talk about Gen Z, but this is a definitive playbook for modern marketers and business people to authentically engage an emerging generation.” (Stefan Heinrich, Head of Global Marketing, ByteDance) “An essential read for business leaders due to the fact that Gen Z sets the benchmark for every other generation now in regard to trending consumer behaviour. Witt and Baird not only do a great job laying out every area that brands need to focus on when it comes to Gen Z: transparency, culture, media, marketing, community and influence, but the layout of the book itself makes it Gen Z by design with its TL;DR chapter summaries. Ignore at your own peril.” (Geoffrey Colon, Senior Marketing Communications Designer, Microsoft, and author of Disruptive Marketing). How to enter Just leave a comment or share a link to this story on or before November 30, 2018.  for your change to win.  I will draw one lucky winner’s name and will send the book directly. Article originally published in

Generation Z Is Coming To Work And Their Stress Is Already High

The newest generation of professionals is entering the professional world, and their stress levels are already higher than their parents. According to research from the American Psychological Association, Generation Z—those born anywhere from 1994-1997 depending on which expert you reference—are more likely than any previous generation to report their mental health as fair or poor. Over 90% have reported experiencing at least one symptom of stress, including lack of motivation and depression. There are many issues at play that are stressing Gen Z out, including the political climate, fears regarding their safety, reports of sexual harassment and assault and ever-present issues surrounding money. But of the Gen Z adults completing the survey, 77% of them reported that work was a cause of their stress, compared to 64% of adults overall. So, why does this matter? Though they are still young and just starting to enter the working world, Gen Z makes up 26% of the overall population. That means they will make up a significant portion of professionals in the not-too-distant future. What’s stressing them out at work Work can be a place that provides an engaging, fulfilling way for people to follow their passions. Or, it can be a soul-sucking experience that leaves employees significantly more stressed out at the end of the day than when they arrived at the office. And of course, it can run the gamut of the spectrum in between. Generational expert Gregg L. Witt of MotivateInc track trends impacting Gen Z annually from a pool of over 6,000 participants. He notes the major causes of stress at work include the perception of an extremely competitive environment, long hours and tight deadlines imposed by employers, substantial time spent in front of a computer screen, and after-hours side hustles allowing for little downtime. The reality of the working world may also set in quite harshly, according to Ettore Fantin of “When Gen Z enters the workforce, they often realize it is not their true passion, see the dead end for the first time, and immediately begin to reevaluate their career path. It’s not about the salary. Things just aren’t as great when they look under the hood of their employer or industry.” The disconnect between what they expect when they get to work and the reality they find is only heightened by the profound awareness this group has of maintaining their social image. Jess Watts of ad agency RPA conducted a year-long qualitative exploration of Gen Z, finding that perception is top-of-mind. “They feel this very public awareness of their success. It’s not a personal professional journey to them – the stakes are much higher and accelerated. You have to be the best, as soon as possible, and you need others to see it and know it.” Watts also notes that the focus is on individual achievement rather than social acceptance. “In one exercise, our ethnography respondents overwhelming chose the ideal of ‘power’ over ‘belonging.’ They’re desperately seeking control and expecting success at a much younger age, which ends up being a major stressor.” What employers can do to help Is it a business’s responsibility to solve an individual’s problem with stress, particularly when it’s partially created by things that happen outside of work? Perhaps not. However, it is undeniable that stress has a profound impact on a person’s ability to contribute at their highest level, leading to lower engagement at work, less creativity and decreased productivity. So, if you want a workforce made up of mediocre employees, feel free to ignore the stress problem. But if the goal is to create a high-performing team, then creating an environment that supports everyone doing their best work simply must be a priority. The good news is that there are relatively easy ways that organizations can begin to solve the stress problem, without implementing a full-blown wellness program that less than half of employees would likely participate in. Here are some ideas: Empowerment with purpose. Gen Z wants to own things from day one. Managers can find ways to empower them in small, safe ways by empowering them with tasks to own now, as well as tasks to aspire to as part of a personal development plan that is reviewed regularly. That will allow them to see their path of growth in the organization in a highly tangible way. Understand and cultivate their passions. This is a generation that wants to change the world and has definitive ideas about how to do it. Instead of quashing this youthful enthusiasm, find a way to embrace it by showing them the impact of their daily efforts and look for ways to foster their passions, even if it’s outside of their job description. A little mentorship and cross-training can go a long way. Give them a creative outlet. Research has shown that doing a simple creative task can substantially reduce stress levels. This can be as simple as having adult coloring books in the break room. Provide mindfulness tools and training. Mindfulness at work doesn’t always mean creating a meditation program. Sometimes, it’s just about giving your team the training and tools to understand how to control their own thoughts and perspectives when things get stressful. Apps like Levelhead can also provide an easy approach to encouraging mindfulness as part of a daily routine at an enterprise level. Embrace the power of positive recognition. It can be easy to look at Gen Z’s addiction to social media with a bit of cynicism, but it’s more productive to use their desire for recognition to your advantage. If they want a good pat on the back or to be recognized in front of the group for their hard work, find ways to give it to them! And do it even if the recognition is for smaller tasks. The point is not specifically what they are working on – the point is to help them feel great about the work they’re doing, even when they are at the entry level. The reality is that most employees (of all generations) do not get enough positive recognition at work. Cultivating an environment that supports it is one…

How Brands Marketing to Gen Z Win With Gamification

  Excerpt from The Gen Z Frequency featured in Brand Strategy Insider A powerful social engagement strategy to boost engagement is to integrate elements of gamification into your marketing, social media, community and other digital brand experiences. Gamification is the term used to describe the use of game-design principles (points, levels, leader boards, social sharing, rewards) to drive community engagement and organic growth and to enhance your social reach, achieve marketing goals and build brand awareness. As a marketing strategy, gamification works because it introduces active elements of fun and competition, taking your marketing from a dull and passive experience and turning it into an inclusive activity that allows any brand enthusiast to participate. Gamification will also enable you to create opportunities for interaction that can help you build trust and create opportunities for authentic and emotional connections with your community. Gamification is now widely used across all sectors, from entertainment to banking and healthcare. For example, Penny is a personal finance app to help track spending habits, and Fitbit uses gamification to help its community reach their health goals through social validation, achievement-based objectives and other gaming mechanics. Trivia HQ, created by the founders of Vine (acquired by Twitter), utilizes many aspects of gamification to engage its community and build its brand simultaneously. What makes HQ different from other mobile games is that it re-creates the shared experience of watching a TV game show, where people shout out the answers and win actual cold hard cash, right on their mobile device. Here’s how Trivia HQ works: Every day the game goes live (3 pm and 9 pm ET), with the host asking a series of 12 trivia questions that players answer in real time. The game mechanics are simple (social validation, leaderboards and rewards). If you get the answer right, you move on to the next question. If you answer incorrectly, you’re out. At the end of the game, the winners split the cash. If nobody wins, the money rolls over to the next game until there’s a winner. The reason HQ is succeeding is that it paired gamification with a screen that’s always within reach – the smartphone – to be a conduit for a shared experience, sponsored content, and revenue. Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by Gregg Witt and Derek Baird, excerpted from our new book The Gen Z Frequency ©2018 with permission from Kogan Page Ltd.   Article originally published in BrandingStrategy Insider

How Tillys AR Experience Drove Retail Engagement

A powerful social engagement strategy to boost interaction with youthful audiences at retail is to integrate elements of gamification into merchandising, content, social media and event-driven brand experiences. Here’s what Tilly’s is doing right on their ROCK-PAPER-SCISSORS promotion: They’ve aligned with a vendor brand, JanSport and two pop culture influencers, @shonduras and Echosmith’s @sydneysierota, who are actually into both brands (and it shows). Created a simple AR game for customers to interact in two distinct areas in-store (female and male sections) Layered in a traditional (yet effective) sweeps contest with a 20% discount for participation Driving engagement and retail traffic w/ a steady stream of relevant Instagram stories Increasing app downloads and growing their customer database. Best part? It doesn’t feel forced, it’s fun, it creates a sense of belonging and everyone wins!

Unboxing Our New Book | The Gen Z Frequency

Beyond Stoked! This week I was finally able to unbox my first book, The Gen Z Frequency, published by Kogan Page and co-written with friend and colleague Derek E. Baird — it’s been a goal of mine for years and surreal to see the physical product come to life! The purpose of the book is to help brands tune in and build credibility with youth culture, it’s a principle-based guide full of actionable approaches to engage tweens, teens and young adults, but can be applied to any forward-thinking organization. The Gen Z Frequency 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, experiential, emerging technologies, and much more. It is woven with fascinating case studies and real-world stories from the trenches, plus key insights from leading youth brands and Gen Z themselves. Whether you are new to marketing or a seasoned expert, The Gen Z Frequency is your ultimate resource for tuning in to Generation Z.   Thank you to everyone who participated in this collaboration, you know who you are! Available in paperback and e-book: Amazon: Barnes & Noble: iBooks: More about the Gen Z Frequency: Generation Z, ranging from tweens to young adults, has enormous spending power; yet it is one of the most challenging generational cohorts for brands to reach. It is projected to be the largest consumer demographic in history, driving a forecast from the HRC Retail Advisory of 40% of all US consumer spending, and another 40% of all consumers in the US, Europe , and BRIC by 2020 (Brazil, Russia, India, China), according to other sources. Embodying an unrelenting relationship with information and mobile technology from a young age, Generation 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.    

Youth Culture Q&A of the Day: Future-Proofing Retail

QUESTION: How can retailers future-proof their brands and build credibility with Gen Z consumers? ANSWER: Well, for starters if you want to build credibility and create winning retail solutions/experiences that future-proof your brand, you have to establish trust and cultivate relevance with your targeted youth segments (assuming you have them). Brands need to realize young people are not just a developing consumer: they are the present and the future. Your best chance of “future-proofing” (if that’s really a thing) is to stay ahead of trends before they undercut your plan. I’ve found that deeper insights are best revealed through a fluid, “always-on” dialogue and interactive activities, not one-off studies. Here are some “action steps” to avoid this becoming too much of a rant. Start by asking your team these questions: Do we really have targeted youth audience segments? How are we aligned with their culture? What are we doing to make life more convenient for them” How are we creating a sense of belonging? What are we doing to demonstrate our commitment to them over the long haul vs. the “season”? How are we staying in tune quarterly, monthly, weekly?   If you’ve got these dialed you’re ahead of most!

7 Marketing Tips to Reach Gen Z

Embrace the Conflicts with Youth Culture   Companies all over the world face similar challenges when targeting youth culture, but what makes understanding today’s young consumers so difficult or elusive? While we were all young at some point, unless we are under the age of 21 in 2018 we are not a part of Gen Z. We can only gather second-hand intelligence, no matter how immersed we get. Gen Z is growing up in the world that we created, but they, of course, see it from a very different perspective. Some researchers have described youth culture as embodying values that are ‘in conflict with those of the adult world’ (Patil, 2014). How can adults connect authentically with a culture that is in conflict with them? There is undoubtedly a conflict of interests and priorities that need to be overcome, but there are also many unexpected similarities and shared values. Look past your assumptions about youth culture and listen to this cohort when they tell you how they experience the world. See it from their perspective; embrace the conflicts or face the consequences.   7 Marketing Tips to Reach Gen Z   FORGET WHAT YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW: Spend more time listening and co-creating with your targeted youth audiences. BE TRANSPARENT: Make your youth marketing agenda clear and easy to follow. Respect is a two-way street and it’s no different with tweens, teens and young adults. STEP OUTSIDE OF YOUR CUBICLE: Challenge your team to approach data collection and ideation in original ways that generate authentic Gen Z insights and create opportunities for innovation. RESIST THE TEMPTATION: Gen Z is not a monolithic cohort. You’re not targeting “teen boys”, “tweens” or “college students”. The old shotgun marketing approach doesn’t work anymore, align with the cultural groups that best match your brand and products, or you are already bound for disruption. BE COPPA COMPLIANT: Keep your interactions compliant when engaging young people under 13, especially for gaming, technology and app-based brands who might unintentionally request information or track interactions that render your brand out of compliance. BE WHERE THEY ARE: Don’t forget the popular youth-focused social channels beyond mainstream platforms  YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. Consider channels where you can be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. For example; Twitch, Discord, HouseParty, YouNow, TikTok and others. MASTER CONTENT FORMATS THAT COUNT: Get great at vertical video, live streaming, and creative use of chatbots.   For further reading on this topic check out Chapter 01 of The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune In & Build Credibility

A Crash Course in Gen Z Marketing Strategy: Earn Trust

Establishing trust is absolutely critical when building consumer relationships. The process, while it might not always be easy, doesn’t need to be complicated. Trust in youth culture comes down to a simple equation: Transparency + Authenticity + Action = Credibility. By avoiding pretense or deceit and being true to core beliefs, young people will be more likely to trust in your promise, reliability, and the strength of your company. Trust: prove it. Create content that helps give young people reasons to believe that your brand will deliver what it claims. That it’s reliable, has ethical business practices and that an association will be beneficial to Gen Z by exposing ‘how it’s made’, ‘demonstrations of…’ – it’s about showing, not telling. Why should consumers within the youth culture trust your brand? How do you reinforce your relationship with people who engage in your brand? Are you transparent about your business practices? Does Gen Z view you as an ally or an authority? Do you even know?

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