Lorde doesn't care about your app

And nor do the rest of Gen Z.

You think your diamond watch is pretty cool? Lorde doesn’t care; she’s not caught up in your love affair. And that’s the tricky thing about marketing in 2015: we’ve finally figured out to talk to Gen Y, and now we’re having to shift our thinking yet again. The next generation of consumers is ready to start spending, and they really, really don’t think we’re cool.

Lorde doesn't think you're cool

Research gives us plenty of insight into Gen Z’s psyche: they’re conscious consumers, concerned with value and respectful of the environment. Their tribe is global but not massive; they’re hyper-connected to their peers but really not interested in sharing everything they do for everyone to see. They are fiercely protective of their privacy, marketing-savvy, they care more about products than brands and prefer visual content. And being the first generation of true digital natives, they’re glued to their devices (usually mobile and usually more than one at once).

Some of which is good news for progressive marketers. After all we’ve been moving to more visual messaging for a while now, and surely it’s easier to collect real-time data and send personalized content to someone who’s always got a phone in hand. Except that Gen Z is likely to have their geolocation disabled while they carry on 5 simultaneous conversations in 5 apps that aren’t Facebook, because they know all about the NSA man.

Not that they’re going to ignore your mobile promotions out of hand (assuming the messages get through). But for Gen Z there’s no wow factor involved in personalized push messaging or gamified loyalty – apps exist to be interacted with, and naturally they’re going to show you information when and where you can use it. It's not cool or otherwise noteworthy; it’s just how the universe works.

They want digital? Give them digital

You can’t be half-in; you need to deliver a seamless digital brand experience that goes beyond a mobile site. Gen Z is wired into a global network that is bigger than computers - it’s about interconnected people and places, things and experiences. So make sure your offline and online efforts are seamless; that you collect data from every interaction, and that you use it to deliver a personalized experience without trying too hard to be cool. Pro tip: it won’t work.

So how do you cut through the noise?

It’s hard enough for most of us to stay on top of email and text messages. If you add Instagram, Snapchat, Viber, Skype, Whisper, Secret, Whatsapp, Vine (and for us older folk, Facebook and Twitter) into the mix, the number of alerts and amount of information you receive on any given day is incredible. And most of that’s from people you actually want to hear from, so how is a marketing promotion going to have a chance?

There’s no magic bullet, but given the speed with which Gen Z processes information and the amount they need to sift through, keep it simple – preferably visual, ideally interactive. At the very least see how much of your content you can translate into bite-sized media, photos, videos, infographics, infogifics – snack media that’s going to get snapped up quickly and get people coming back for more.

And don’t just tell them about stuff, give them a chance to do stuff. Location-aware apps with social media capability are right up this generation’s alley, giving them the opportunity to claim promotions, participate in competitions and games, receive rewards and share with friends. Which is a big deal, because the single best way to get Gen Z to buy what you’re selling is to get their friends to recommend it (although whether they let you see that recommendation is another matter entirely...)