Building Experiences

Being digital native impacts everything teens do, from meeting and communicating with friends to learning in and out of school or browsing, shopping and traveling. 

By being involved in the learning process, they can better internalize it. Their involvement needs to be first hand and they expect their contributions to actually matter and even change the outcome. Classic “kinesthetic” techniques like asking and answering questions, drawing pictures and even carrying out physical activities — rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations — provide teens with a sense of ownership of each experience. This is a generation that expects to jump in, not just lean in. For them,

This is a generation that expects to jump in, not just lean in. For them, experience is an essential step on the path to understanding and participation is part and parcel of their lives, both online and off. Educators who embrace a more interactive approach find it a key to engagement. So, too should marketers looking to reach this digital native population.



When it comes to a traditional school environment, research shows a strong correlation between students' levels of involvement in the learning process and the attention they give the process. Educators advocate using “active learning” approaches, which can take the form of classroom question-and-answer sessions, impromptu writing assignments or even starting classes with a puzzle or a mystery to solve. As students get more involved, they become more motivated and the learning experience is more meaningful. 

For marketers who want to reach Gen Z, direct and authentic engagement is critical. 

Typically, we talk about engagement in terms of the degree to which a user has a meaningful experience with a product, brand, content, etc. Where once we focused on message recall, now we are seeking two-way, cooperative interactions. Given their early introductions to the never-ending opportunities of online life, so are teens. 

The ability to participate in a dialogue, whether it’s with another individual, a brand or a piece of content, is now an important selection criterion. They've grown up with the entirety of human knowledge at their fingertips. They carry the assumption that their questions will be answered instantly and that their opinion should always be valued. If they're not able to insert themselves in a way they find meaningful, they'll quickly move on. On the other hand, once you've grabbed the attention of Gen Z, they're much more likely to share, comment, post or otherwise take action in a way that helps achieve your goals. 

Author and analyst Mari Smith, who described two-dimensional communication and engagement as where "both giver and receiver are listening to each other, interacting, learning and growing from the process,” suggests adding another dimension to deepen these experiences whether it’s video in terms of Snapchat or audio in terms of Podcasts, additional platforms or layers enrich and deepen each communication and make it that much more appealing to the teen audience. 

Multiple dimensions change the interaction for giver and receiver from more than a simple conversation into a transformative experience. That’s the beauty of the Internet and the world in which teens live.

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