Generation Z: know your market

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Generation Z is starting to grow up and apply for Higher Education. This tech-savvy generation has already forced us to change our undergraduate marketing methods and we will need to adapt further over the next decade.

All good student recruitment campaigns are market-orientated, so it is time to look more closely at Generation Z and ways to engage this crucial market.

What is Generation Z?

  • Generation Z are people born between 1995 and 2009, which means their typical university entry years are between 2013 and 2027.
  • They have a variety of monickers, such as Post-Millennials, Tweens, Screenagers and many more.
  • Gen Z are smart. Thanks to their ease with a Smartphone, they have the answer to every question at their fingertips.
  • Their self-esteem and decision-making is heavily influenced by their friends.
  • They are entertainment addicts with extremely short attention spans.

Top five tips for marketing to Generation Z

1. Get to the point

Generation Z reportedly have an attention span of 7 seconds – one second less than a goldfish. Therefore, your headlines should communicate key messages in the opening handful of words but be captivating enough to encourage Gen Z to read further.

This means course information pages should be reduced to bullet-points, applicant emails should contain exciting subject lines and weighty prospectus tomes should be replaced with stream-lined mini-guides.

Approach everything with the brevity of a tweet, although even 140 characters might be considered too chatty for this generation.

2. A picture says a thousand words

The world is experiencing an image boom, with Instagram pulling ahead of Twitter, which means Generation Z naturally respond better to the visualisation of information.

Many universities are already active on Instagram, whilst Vines and infographics can help Gen Z absorb content quickly.

3. Your audience has an audience

90% of people trust peer recommendations, which is why the review sections of Amazon, Trip Advisor and Air BnB are perused so fervently. Therefore, your messages will become all the more effective if you can encourage Generation Z to be ambassadors for your brand.

Key to this is producing shareable content. There are no set rules for what can gain traction on social media – and some truly bizarre content has gone viral in the past – but content is more likely to be shared if it is:

  • high-quality
  • provokes an emotional response
  • has a positive message
  • is a source of information or entertainment.

For a good example, revisit the John Lewis Christmas advert.

4. Real time responses

Generation Z expect immediate responses, so it is vital that your social media channels are monitored. Questions could land at any time through Twitter, Facebook or the comments section of an Instagram post. Constant vigilance is required.

It also helps to offer real-time engagement. There are few things better than an Open Day for this sort of interaction but online chats can be more convenient, especially for international audiences. The University of Birmingham Virtual Open Day platform has a Live Q&A function, which does not even require registration or a login, thereby maximising accessibility.

Virtual tour platform for University of Birmingham

Periscope is another great tool for real-time interaction.

5. Check Your Facts

Generation Z are very resourceful, which is unsurprising considering the devices in their pockets. This means universities have to check their facts, back up statistics, be consistent with their messages and be careful not to over-promise.

With the Competition and Markets Authority turning their attention towards Higher Education, universities need to be more careful than ever about miss-selling to prospective students.

Further Reading/Watching

Simon Fairbanks

Simon Fairbanks

Simon Fairbanks is the Undergraduate Marketing Manager for the College of Arts and Law at the University of Birmingham. He has been working in Higher Education since 2011. Simon is a self-published author and has written several books. You can read more about his writing projects at

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