Finding what makes any group, or subset, of people tick is always a key piece of knowledge for any marketer, and with their emerging spending power and digital literacy, the members of Generation Z are now under the microscope.
There is, naturally enough, some disagreement about the age bracket of the generation that follows the millennials and members of Generation X before them. Generally, they were born between the second half of the 1990s and the mid-2000s, and are unique in that they have never really known a time before the advent of the internet.
In Vietnam, the members of Generation Z number more than 14 million or about one seventh of the country’s population. They are entering the workforce for the first time and exist in a world where the line between the physical and the digital is blurry at best.
A report from Ho Chi Minh City-based market research firm Decision Lab found, not surprisingly, that the online activities such a using social media, streaming movies and music, and chatting to friends using instant messaging apps were their favourite activities.
What was more unexpected was some of the flow on effects of the deep immersion in the digital world. For instance, only 30% of those surveyed said they felt more comfortable interacting with friends face-to-face, with half preferring to communicate via text message or chat apps. Another is the development of a visual-based language, with 47% saying they preferred to express their feeling or emotions using stickers or emojis.
There is a kind of online feedback loop that helps create a sense of identity and validates their lives. Gen Z in Vietnam use an average of 2.77 social media networks each week, and around half agreed that the number of likes a post received demonstrated their popularity and made them feel noticed.
Some of the assumptions about Gen Z, though, were upended by the results of the survey, with Decision Lab Founder Aske Ostergard admitting he was not expecting some of the results. “I was really surprised by how sceptical this generation is,” he said.
For while they derive the vast majority of their information from the internet, it seems Generation Z don’t have a lot of faith in what they are seeing and hearing there. In terms of sources that were trusted, parents and the advice of experts topped the list (72 %), while at the other end of the scale, online reviews were trusted by just 13%.
“One of the reasons [online reviews] seem not to work is it is easy to believe online reviews have been created by the brands,” Ostergard said. “The question is, how do you work out how to make those things trustworthy.”
Trying to bridge this disconnect presents quite a challenge for marketers. According to creative agency Dinosaur Vietnam CEO Sumesh Peringeth, who has work on numerous campaigns targeting Gen Z consumers, abandoning traditional approaches and working to gain a deep understanding of who brands are speaking to is the way forward.
“The idea here is about understanding subcultures. Instead of brands saying I am this and you come to me, it’s time for brands to understand the subcultures and specific groups they want to associate with and find ways to become part of it in a relevant way,” he said. “The influencer movements help a lot in this space at the moment, it’s a good way to begin the spread of an idea.”
Peringeth also said compelling content would always have an appeal, regardless of what platform it was viewed on, and that taking a collaborative approach resulted in more effective and relevant content.
“It begins with a data-lead approach that provides a solid insight for strategic creative direction, and then sharing it with content creators or influencers who can talk to specific subcultures and create appropriate content to distribute among their followers. This is one of the better ways for brands to engage with Gen Z,” he said.