Most universities are now looking towards Clearing in the summer and competing fiercely for the best fee-paying students. These students, now finishing their A-levels, are part of a group known to marketers as Generation Z. In this increasingly competitive and changing market, engaging effectively with Generation Z is what will define the victors from the has-beens. Universities have to wholeheartedly embrace the challenges and opportunities that Generation Z represent and not just opt for what has worked before. The distinctive attitudes and behaviours of this demographic pose a completely new set of challenges.
Generation Z have grown up in a world where, in many ways, science fiction is quickly becoming science fact. From voice activated intelligent personal assistants in your living room, to augmented reality and driver-less cars. The technological advancements are happening at such a rapid pace that it is difficult to keep up.
Members of Generation Z were born into a world where it was normal for you to not only have multiple electronic devices but also to have readily available internet access. As such, they’re incredibly adept at embracing new technology. Having said that, mobile is the device of choice. Not just for Generation Z: we’re increasingly living in a mobile-first world. This touches all aspects of marketing (digital and traditional) so adopting a mobile-first approach is paramount.
Research has shown that members of Generation Z have an eight-second attention span – a decrease from 11 seconds for the previous generation. This isn’t to say they can barely focus for a long period. They actually compute information and relevancy extremely quickly.
Is this interesting to me?
Whether it’s video or web content, catching a Generation Z’s attention is paramount.
Influenced by the fact that high-speed mobile connections have opened the door to data-heavy content, Generation Z favours images, videos, emojis and so on. Instagram and YouTube, perhaps the most popular visual channels, are hugely popular with Generation Z. Much has been made about their move away from traditional TV and to YouTube instead. Adopting a more visual communication strategy could be a great way to engage potential students.
Authenticity is a huge influence for Generation Z. There’s a growing scepticism around advertising and marketing. Many members of Generation Z believe that a stranger’s review of something is more trustworthy than an advertisement from a company or brand. As a result, universities should place a greater emphasis on student feedback and student experience rankings – these could become just as important as the traditional university rankings.
To engage with Generation Z, universities can’t just adopt a straightforward marketing approach. As Sabrina Francis, Social Media Officer at City, University of London said this week; “Fundamentally, students and the people that engage with City will be talking about us online whether we choose to actively listen and engage or not; so, it’s far better for us to be in the social space so we can learn as much as possible and offer the level of customer service that digital natives have come to expect.”
Today’s technological developments and channels of choice offer new and creative engagement marketing opportunities. Whether it’s developing a bespoke Snapchat filter open day attendees or a Facebook campaign that ties into an offline print campaign, marketing to Generation Z is full of hugely exciting opportunities.
Colin Cheng has worked for a number of years with HE institutions in the UK and brings his experience and knowledge to the report, which you can download here.