Today’s increasingly influential Generation Z not only demands consistency from brands, they also expect marketers to know who they are, their passion points, interests and values – then reflect these accurately, Wunderman’s global CMO claims.
Speaking to CMO during the recent Marketo Marketing Nation Summit, the agency’s marketing leader, Jamie Gutfreund, said the biggest shift in marketing today is the accessibility of data. But it’s consumer expectations of how brands use data to make their experience more efficient and interesting that’s the important thing for marketers to realise, she said. And with Gen Z, it’s the key to any sort of engagement.
“Younger consumers have an expectation of perfection and efficiency that other generations don’t have,” Gutfreund said of the emerging Generation Z, most commonly defined as those born in the mid-1990s and following Millennials.
“As a Gen X, I don’t expect anything to work – I expect to buy something and have the price cheaper somewhere else because that’s how it was when we grew up.
“Younger consumers are growing up in an era of almost perfect information. Yes they’re digital natives, but the insight is they’re growing up with the world at their fingertips, and they control how and when they are going to engage with brands. They also control the content they consume, the ads they see but also the ones they block. That’s a huge new twist in marketing because they’re in control.”
Younger consumers see very little advertising unless they choose to, Gutfreund said, a power first exercised by millennials as teenagers, but something that’s instinctive to Gen Z. This is seeing the nature of campaigns shift from passive interactions to participatory ones.
“The nature of campaigns has always been about mass reach, mass frequency. Then on the other side you had direct marketing, and that was about sending a piece of paper to your zipcode,” Gutfreund continued. “Both assumed you could buy attention. They also assumed the information you had about the person you’re trying to reach was enough to capture their attention, and if you had a good jingle and good creative, that was plenty.
“Today the bar is much higher. You still need reach and frequency – I don’t buy TV is dead – but you need to balance it, accentuate it, have a laser focus in some places, and you need to adapt your creative. Your channels are so different and they’ll become even more different.”
Talking about my generation
Gutfreund was appointed CMO at Wunderman last September, and previously with the Deep Focus agency. For many years she also ran the Intelligence Group, which put together the Cassandra Report, a leading research study initially on Generation X that moved to millennials, and is now focused on Gen Z.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the connection between how people are impacted and influenced by digital, and how that translates to how marketers can talk to them in different ways,” she said of her work and area of expertise. “If you understand why people behave the way they do, it’s like a secret weapon, you just have to use your powers for good not for equal.”
One huge shift with consumers today is the significant impact of word of mouth – both in terms of what it means today, and its power on brand perceptions. Gutfreund labelled these types of connections ‘elationships’.
Tied to this is the need for a consumer’s passions to take centre stage when developing content and brand messaging as consumers seek brands to better understand who they are, not just what they represent.
“I might be passionate about food, so I’m going to find all sorts of content around food and develop relationships with people I don’t know, but I feel I do because we share this passion,” Gutfreund explained. “When those people tell me about a food or restaurant I should try, that recommendation is going to be very powerful. That’s a campaign and where influencers come in for marketers, as well as understanding the medium.”
During her presentation, Gutfreund outlined fresh research conducted by Wunderman in partnership with Berggruen Institute and conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, which showed 84 per cent of Gen Z respondents are pessimistic about the way the world is going. They’re also more self-sufficient and realistic. The study reported Gen Z now represents 25 per cent of the US population.
“They have no confidence in government, politicians or brands,” Gutfreund said. “They have confirmation bias and that’s having a lot of impact – they’re relying on themselves more, they’re more practical. When it comes to brand, they expect consistency and realism, not authenticity.”
Purpose vs hyper-realism
While Gutfreund agreed brands gaining more corporate social responsibility and purpose is an important trend, what she believed younger consumers expect to see from brands is their world reflected the ad world. This could include a variety of body types, ethnicities, people who come from different economic groups and gender persuasions.
“Gen Z want truth and realism, they don’t want perfection,” she said. “They expect marketing to reflect the world they’re living in, as opposed to a model getting out of a car, putting on lipstick with her hair blowing in a cornfield.
“For younger consumers, that is how it has to be because that is what they see. I don’t think it’s because – at least from a younger’s perspective – they want brands to be crusaders. They do believe brands have a better chance of making the world better than politicians or government, but it’s more about consistency. Why would you make it look one way when the world is like this? That’s the filter for brands to apply. This is a generation that wants hyper realism. They’re so attuned to being lied to, or sold to.”
The trick is that there’s a fine line between relevant and creepy, Gutfreund said, adding that younger generations are very sensitive to their data.
“They view themselves as investors, not as consumers. I’m not just buying a product, I’m investing in your brand, so if you don’t know I bought something from you, it’s disrespectful. That’s a key thing,” she said.
“What’s interesting is that they’re aware of the fact they have huge data footprints, and a lot of it is not their fault. You need to know more than what they are, and more than the fact that someone is 15 years old, a white male, or living in Las Vegas. You need to know who I am, what’s important to me, my values and passions, then you need to communicate with me in a way that makes me feel like you get the whole package.”
As a result, part of the skillset for marketers over the next couple of years is to become “part lion tamer, part magician”, Gutfreund said.
“Give me all the data that you have, but you also have to make it so it’s relevant, do it in real time. It’s really challenging,” she said, noting organisational silos as the biggest enemy of marketers wanting to execute successful campaigns today. “At the moment, so many organisations have data in silos – your analytics here, social listening over there, customer data in another place and none of these are talking to each other.
“What will start to happen is a new skillset among employees and talent that is part analytics and story. They can get an insight and then tell a story from it.”
As an example of Wunderman’s work on the data insights front, Gutfreund described a project around the US March Madness basketball series, using the agency’s Zipline DMP offering. The initiative saw Wunderman undertake social listening and discover 2 million March Madness fans.
“We put them into the DMP and looked at their behaviour and we had a real insight,” Gutfreund said. “You’d think March madness is mainly about men, so from an advertising point of view, you’d position beer, trucks, insurance. But actually this group of men’s biggest purchases were of Barbies, Disney, Huggies – they’re big family spenders. That was a fascinating insight. A similar brand could get a real advantage in advertising because there are none of those brands marketing to that audience.”
But Gutfreund is quick to point out building such insights from data is still in its infancy for most brands.
At the same time, marketers must understand the business rationale for their organisation’s products and services in customer terms, and make ensure consumer experiences are consistent internally and externally.
“Younger consumers can sense that and they want it to all be consistent. If it’s not, that company isn’t going to feel like a company they’re going to support,” Gutfreund said. “It’s not what they said in the financial report, it’s more about the experience.”
Through all of this, brands and agencies are going to have to work in a much more collaborative partnership, Gutfreund said. One common request from clients now is that Wunderman staff become embedded in their offices.
“You used to have a scope, and it used to be very black and white. Now it has to be more discovery and partner,” she said. “Opportunities pop up or needs you didn’t anticipate and it requires a lot of conversation. We have to be really smart about our clients’ businesses, we need to understand what the revenue goals are plus communication goals, and how to get things done.”
Gutfreund’s top attributes for the CMO:
Curiosity: “This is the best job for people who are curious,” she commented. “You don’t know where your next idea is going to come from, who you’ll learn from. I talk to everybody in as many industries I can and read as much as I can that’s not obvious.”
Bravery: CMOs also have to be brave. “If you’re trying to do something different, you have to try and find ways you haven’t done things before,” Gutfreund said. “You have to be OK with things not always being successful.”
Sense of humour: And don’t forget to have humility and laugh at yourself, Gutfreund said. “Especially as the worlds of data and creative collide, there are these vend diagrams of information that nobody knows.”