Marketers have traditionally prioritized capturing young consumers because they are often easier to convert to paying customers than are older consumers whose buying habits and preferences are more strongly entrenched.

Targeting young consumers can also make good business sense in the long term. Once you capture a young buyer, you may well hold on to them for decades to come.

However, reaching today’s young adults often requires a different approach than those used to attract previous generations.

Members of Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2015, are often considered the first generation of true digital natives. They came of age in the aftermath of the digital revolution. They likely learned to read and write by using digital devices. Their first exposure to marketing media may well have been on a smartphone or tablet screen.

It’s little wonder, then, that digital marketing plays such a profound role in reaching this tech-savvy demographic. But is it the only way to reach them? Can Gen Z be reached through traditional marketing channels, or does the advent of the digital native spell the end of print, radio, and television advertising?

Why Gen Z Matters

When it comes to marketing to Gen Z, you don’t necessarily have to abandon the tried and true methods of the past. Instead, you need to adapt the old standards to new contexts.

We begin this by gaining an understanding of who the rising generation is, what they do, what they expect, and what they value.

Though the task may seem daunting, the potential rewards are immense. For example, the potential buying power of Gen Z is enormous. These young adults are estimated to control more than 40% of the consumer market and more than $600 billion a year in buying power. This is only a foreshadowing of all that is to come as these young adults complete their education, launch their careers, and reach their prime earning years in the next two decades.

Second Verse, (Almost) Same as the First

When it comes to reaching this powerful demographic, you first must understand the unique ways that Gen Z consumes media. Traditional radio ads or television commercials aren’t going to cut it with this market.

For example, out-of-home (OOH) advertising, particularly billboards, are especially popular with Gen Z. While more than 80% of Gen Z’ers report using ad blockers on their digital devices, an even greater percentage reports that they enjoy reading billboards when they’re using public transportation or are out and about in their towns and cities.

However, billboards aren’t the only old-school form of advertising with an advantage over digital ads among this generation. Though the majority of young adults prefer to consume their news and do their reading either online or with e-readers, when it comes to marketing, print media is by no means dead.

Advertisements in print magazines are more likely to capture and retain the attention of young adults than are the same ads viewed online. Likewise, Gen Z is far more likely to engage with or respond to promotions sent by direct mail than to promotions received digitally.

Going Where the Action Is

Every marketer knows that you can’t reach your target market if you don’t know who or where the audience is. This means that if traditional radio and television spots fail to reach Gen Z, it’s likely not due to the form but rather the medium of the ad.

For example, Gen Z audiences are far more likely to use streaming services rather than traditional broadcast and cable television and AM/FM radio. Thus, placing your radio and “television” ads on platforms Gen Z actually uses, such as Spotify, Apple, YouTube, and Netflix, is an effective way to adapt an old marketing strategy to a new day and context.

Traditional Channels, New Message

As has been seen, just because you’re marketing to a new generation doesn’t mean you have to renounce the old ways. However, using traditional channels shouldn’t mean you’re rehashing the same tired message.

In fact, Gen Z has a pretty clear set of expectations when it comes to brand messaging, expectations that are strongly oriented around the values, habits, wants, and concerns of young adults. Specifically, Generation Z is inherently distrustful of big business.

That means that if you want to win their business, you need to craft marketing narratives that young adults connect with. In addition to maintaining a sense of empathy in your ads, you will also need to underscore social responsibility and ethical business practices if you want your campaigns to bear fruit with this audience.

After all, Gen Z are notoriously frugal consumers: They tend to carefully deliberate over every purchase and fear incurring debt. That makes them particularly reluctant to spend their hard-earned money on businesses whose values they do not feel align with their own.

The Takeaway

Generation Z may well be the most tech-driven consumer demographic today, but that does not mean that they can’t be reached through traditional channels. The key is to understand young adults’ unique habits of media consumption and to modify the old marketing strategies for a new, more self-aware generation.