Commentary

Brands Turn To Tweens To Reach Gen Z

It’s not just your imagination: social media influencers keep getting younger. Over the last decade, the models, performers and fashionistas who hold the trendy profession of “YouTube/Instagram personality” have aged down from their twenties to their teens. And now some of the most influential personalities have a single digit to their age.

The Wall Street Journal reports that brands looking to reach Gen-Z consumers are increasingly sponsoring online influencers who aren’t yet teenagers.

The numbers are staggering: Gen Z represents about 67 million consumers born roughly between the years of 1997 and 2014, with about $44 billion in purchasing power. They’re a generation of digital natives who have never known a world without the Internet or social media. Many are cord-cutters, -nevers or -shavers, who can’t be reached through traditional media. So the best way to target them is through YouTube, Instagram and Snap, and often with the help of somebody who looks like them.

“Looking like them” is critical, since this is also the most racially diverse generation in American history: nearly half are an ethnic minority. They also embrace equality and fluidity of gender and sexuality more than any other generation. The Abercrombie & Fitch, Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger models from a generation ago are laughably outdated; today’s style, beauty and taste trend-setters are people like Jaden Smith, Amandla Stenberg and Emma Gonzalez.

Influencers like Dear Giana are shaping the culture at an even younger age. Nine-year-old Giana has over 23K Instagram followers and collaborated with Nike on three T-shirts being released today to mark International Day of the Girl.  She has also partnered with Vogue.com to cover New York Fashion Week, and her talent agent is negotiating more brand collaborations to be rolled out over the next few years.  A leading trend forecaster calls her “the girl of the moment” and “the next leading mini-creative,” and streetwear blogs document her fashion choices.

How can brands thoughtfully incorporate tween influencers into their marketing campaigns?

Think of categories beyond fashion and beauty. These are the most natural fits, but Giana and her peers still need to eat breakfast cereal, shop for school supplies, and use mobile devices to post new content. All these categories are logical for tween influencer campaigns. If it’s a category where kids, tweens and teens have purchasing power, it’s a category that can be represented by a tween tastemaker.

Think of generations beyond Gen Z. Young influencers are also a great way to reach millennial and Gen Z parents, who are on social media in large numbers, and ultimately fund most of the purchases for their kids. Imagine how it would cut through the clutter to feature a young influencer taking a trip in her family’s SUV, or going on a vacation to a theme park or family-friendly resort. Anything that families do together is fair game for this type of marketing.

New-media personalities can promote traditional media. Consider giving some of these influencers a sneak preview of an upcoming family-friendly movie, or a new kids’ TV show. Their promotions, reviews and endorsements can drive a lot of eyeballs to check it out.

The same goes for breaking new musical acts and their singles. Social media doesn’t have to continue siphoning off all of old media’s Gen-Z consumers. These potential viewers, readers and listeners will probably tune out traditional promos, print and banner ads, but they will stand up and take notice if their favorite social media personality endorses a movie or TV show.

Sometimes it takes a nine year-old to teach veteran marketers a few new tricks.  Learn from groundbreaking personalities like Giana how to speak to Gen Z with a voice they’ll listen to.

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