Spark (Brand) Love At First Sight: Show Your Human Side

Generation Z may be populated by digital natives, but their attachment to devices isn’t about the coolest tech. It’s about online experiences and constant connection — not only with friends and family but with anyone in the wider world, including brands. Gen Z understands with more clarity than prior generations that brands are populated by real people.

Thus, they demand the same 24/7 dialogue, engagement, commitment and honesty of brands that they do of humans in their lives, with zero patience for tactics like pop-up messages demanding response. How do you know if your brand is human enough to prove it’s not a faceless corporation to engage today’s savvy consumers? Here are four keys to staying on track:

Being holistic gives you a firm foundation on which to stand tall… . Why should Gen Z notice you in the first place? What qualities of yours appeal to their hearts and minds? Your product, your content, and the experiences you create with every interaction — from the first peek or soundbite — must reflect those qualities in a focused and consistent manner. Every bit of content, every channel, every moment doesn’t just support a brand, it must be an undeniable element in the whole of your brand.



… and to make evolution organic. If you lead with hype or your own FOMO, you will be sniffed out as an imposter. One brand might have success with a gaming app, yet 44% of college students say they aren’t gamers and 33% play for about one to five hours per week. Your digital approach should engage by speaking from your core, e.g., using video to show your quirky side or a call to action on behalf of a charity you — and your customers — support.

Respect the “When, what, how and where” of conversation, starting with who you are to them, which is NOT their peer, however much they like you!

  • When to reach them is as important on-screen as in real life. It’s rude to interrupt a first date or distract with a wrong message during an intense competition. Instead, introduce yourself and be a part of the crew’s conversation in real life and in strategic digital moments. Even 30% of college students don’t bother to post on social media every day!
  • What type of interaction is appropriate to your brand? This is where many brands misstep. Don’t rush to maximize a trend, or to see how the latest innovation might work, for the sake of the trend or the novelty. The Pokémon Go craze was handled well by some and was a disaster for others who didn’t understand the audience.
  • Then choose where and how. What are your real world options? Eighty-eight percent of college students seek out live events each year and are open to interactions on campus. And if you are reaching out online, choose your channel wisely. Snapchat is for peers. Facebook is for family, community, and to track news and events. Instagram is their public branding. Twitter is about trends. 

Finally, turn connection into engagement by knowing honesty is the best policy. In the Internet Age, truth wins … in the end. The values your company lives, no matter what you say, is how Gen Z will judge you. Gen Z increasingly vets headlines and content amid growing distrust of institutions and having fallen into the trap of “fake news” more than once. Make sure the values and statements you put out there are genuine, internally as well as externally. If your actions don’t mirror your words, your statements and your business are ripe for pushback, online and in real life – at the point of purchase, where it matters most.

To make a genuine and positive connection with real human beings who have been trained to analyze data at lightning speed, it’s important to understand that Gen Z consumers make snap decisions about you every time your brand pops up in their lives (and on their screens). In every one of those moments, whether you like it or not, or even know it or not, you are showing them your human side. Never forget that, and you’ll never regret it.

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