The Educated Marketer


Why Colleges Must Understand Generation Z

by Mark Neal | Dec 20, 2016

 |  college recruitment, Gen Z




Like the generations before it, Gen Z has special characteristics that make
it unique. Understanding these characteristics is essential to higher ed marketers trying to effectively reach this upcoming generation with the right marketing messages and content. If you are banging out messages that aren't resonating with your prospects, you may be missing opportunities to convert those prospects into students.


Marketing Preferences

Generation Z-ers include anyone born after 1996. This means students currently in college and those going to college in the coming years. The first true digital natives, they are in constant communication with one another via mobile devices. This high level of digital interactivity has led to a short, 8 second attention span. Despite this, Gen Z natives do prefer to get together face to face. If they must be marketed to, they prefer personalized experiences. Higher ed marketers should think about how they can personalize their content to meet the needs of this group.

This brings up another point. Gen Z-ers are very wary of being marketed to with inauthentic messages and advertising. They want to hear authentic stories with values they can get behind. And they can smell inauthenticity a mile away. The takeaway for marketers is to understand how to be transparent and real in communications. How can you tell meaningful stories that will move this group to take action?

Views on College

What do Gen Z-ers want out of a college education? They are under a lot of pressure to succeed, and while they want to attend college, they also would prefer to design their own course of study. Many of them possess an entrepreneurial spirit and the desire to start their own business. This means colleges need to provide classes, mentorships, training programs and real world experiences that will help translate learning to real time activities and the desire to find meaning in a job after college. Bottom line? Help them become competent to perform in the workplace.

Gen Z worries about debt, especially college debt. They are worried about the uncertainty of the economy and their employability after college. They also question the long term value of a degree, so colleges have a great opportunity to tell an authentic story of why a prospect should study at their institution.

Changing the World

Like the millennial generation, Gen Z feels anxious about international conflicts, distrusts big business, cares about renewable and sustainable energy and cares very deeply about doing good for the world. How can your college invite them to be part of something bigger? How you tell your story matters a great deal to this generation. Be sure you're getting it right.

This article is only a quick overview of some primary Generation Z characteristics pertinent to colleges. Want to learn more?  Get our free guide to Generation Z, your college students of tomorrow. 

Download Gen Z Guide


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