Welcome to the world of Generation Z. Don’t get confused, this generation are the children of Generation X (population usually between mid-1960s and early 1980s, some may refer them as the Friends generation) but who also may have Millennials parents aka Generation Y.
Self-proclaimed ‘digital natives’, Gen Z is the first generation to be born into the internet technology and the world of smartphones. The new consumer generation is made up of pre-teens and teens who seem to take in information just as instantaneously as they lose interest in them. Famously referred to as ‘millennials on steroids’ by worldwide director at J. Walter Thompson, Lucie Greene, this generation is shaping up to be a mysterious puzzle that market researchers want to discover more about ASAP.
Trend forecasters are studying heaps of data on this new consumer generation, their hesitation and choices that make up their digital lives. The following pointers dab into areas of their dilemmas and the digital direction they’re headed to.
Why share my life with everyone I know?
Being a millennial myself, I remember when Facebook came into our lives. I was still in school and hesitantly signed up to this odd website that was prompting me to send friend invites to my friends IRL. We excitedly jumped right into the deep side of the pool of networking platforms and admittedly so, may have even overshared our personal lives online. Gen Z is not only wise enough to pick on this, they are cautious and take their privacy seriously. No, they’re not abandoning social media, they’ve just decided to lead distinct digital lives. This means they’re not interested in using Facebook and Twitter, they’re more interested in applications like Instagram and SnapChat where they can share media with a close group of friends and maintain a rather strong personal brand.
Why read when I can watch?
Gen Z is not interested in reading an article, as a matter of fact, they may even skip listicles. Living amidst screens their whole lives, it’s no secret that this generation has a small attention span and feeds off video content. To add to this, they even prefer expressing themselves visually, for instance via emojis, snapchatting pictures and short-lived videos.
Gen Z > Gen Y?
Teens today have more opportunities than us millennials. There are websites and mobile apps that are helping them monetize their skills and find them freelance work. There is a surge in the production of fresh content (podcasts, videos, articles) by Gen Z and promoting it online. A prominent example is how a wave of teen beauty bloggers on YouTube have turned their content into businesses and are being approached by big brands for endorsement. Some even say Gen Z is the most entrepreneurial generation yet.
Innovation is closely integrated with our lives today. Technology used to take upto a decade to upgrade and Gen X, Y and Z have to adapt to new technologies every 1-2 years. This significant change is reflected in human attitudes and is a contributing factor making generations shorter. Regardless, we will always need to find a way to push through digital dilemmas and make sure we come out wiser.
One of the globe’s largest corporations, Nike is known for their athletic shoes and apparel. In fact, “in 2014 the brand alone was valued at $19 billion, making it the most valuable brand among sports businesses. Today, Nike is one of the largest public companies in the world.” (Forbes, 2016). This year, the multinational corporation has jumped to 91 from 106 on the Fortune 500 list. (Fortune 500, 2016).
But the company was not always growing at this pace.
Despite being one of the top athletic companies of their time, Nike was not the first to introduce sporty products exclusively for women. “In 1981, Reebok, one of Nike’s competitors in the athletic shoe industry, chose to make women its primary target market” (Lucas, 2000). Reebok went on to earn profit that year while Nike experience a significant dip in sales. It was not until the 1990’s that Nike started marketing products for women. Nike used icons, symbols and indexical signs to create and develop a concept of community for an audience that was once uncatered, that is, the athletic female. Nike introduced women to the idea of being strong, athletic, in an approach that did not threaten their femininity. It was an accustomed option, a new identity that women could embrace without feeling as if they were stepping into an unknown territory. This way, Nike positioned itself as a brand that united women to the idea of stepping into a category, previously only dominated by men. (Grow, M. Jean. 2006).
Distinct from their first commercial aired in 1982 (Nike’s first television commercial – 1982, 1982), today Nike strategically creates advertisements specifically for female audiences, involving their intricate life experiences and hurdles and blending them in a way that appeals to all those women who strive to either enter sports or those who have already achieved credibility as a sportsperson. With numerous online and offline marketing campaigns to add to their brand value, their tagline ‘Just Do It’ has been named as one of the top five slogans of the 20th century. (Advertising Age, 1999). Nike allocates a huge part of their marketing for just women sports products. “Nike is bullish about what’s ahead, projecting $50 billion in sales by 2020 due to a global shift toward fitness and significant growth from the women’s business, Jordan brand, and e-commerce sales.” (Fortune 500, 2016). “The women’s business has proved lucrative for Nike, growing 20% in the fiscal year ended May 31. That’s twice the rate of its men’s business…” (Malcolm, 2015).
With a history in representing women who play sports, Nike has decades of background in advertising and marketing to this specific target segment. Making sure it stays current with the on-going cultural conversations, Nike has come up with an advertisement this year that vouches for their stand on embracing women of all shapes and sizes.
This Nike advertisement was first published on December 10th, 2014 on Bani J’s YouTube channel.
Although Bani J herself is paradigmatic to the idea of women bodybuilders, the complete video is a syntagmatic representation of how this independent woman lives her daily life and fearlessly follows her passion. The surface level reading of the advertisement is that of an independent woman choosing a healthy lifestyle, but a deeper reading reveals the acceptance of all kinds of body types and a sense of approval which is required by all humans and is regarded as a primitive need.
After a run, she posts her achievements on social media and makes yoga dates with her friends. She is one of the 83% of the millennials for whom “wellness is a daily, active pursuit.” (Goldman Sachs, n.d.). When compared to their predecessors, millennials are smarter eaters, regard smoking as more of a taboo and exercise more. This is the generation that uses applications on their phones, tablets or laptops to search for information to make informed diet-related decisions as well as to track their training data or diet history. This is also an area that they are willing to spend money in to get the best quality services. Understanding what millennials want, large corporation like Nike have “build their (marketing) strategy around digital-physical fusion.” (Rigby, 2014). In addition to this healthy side of her life as seen in the video, Bani J does not forget to have fun with her girlfriends every once in a while.
The video continues to show glimpses of her life while the background music is consistently peppy and upbeat with lyrics mostly repeating “don’t stop”. This makes the underlying theme of the video motivational as it showcases the life of Bani J. Words like “train”, “run”, “live” and “style” flash the screen representing the ‘signifier’, that is, the words that symbolize positivity, health, exercise and staying in fashion. Bani J’s lifestyle choices, body type, eating habits, work out regime, her choice of clothes and tattoos, all act as the signified while Nike’s campaign acts as the signifier that puts her muscular body type in high regard. Here, Nike positions itself as a brand of the current generation that embraces all women body types.
Despite what the message of the video is trying to send across to the masses, Bani J has faced significant backlash for her ‘muscular body’ from the viewers. People on social media have been quite vocal about their disapproval for a woman to have a ‘muscular body’, saying things like –
‘Lifting weights will make you look manly’, ‘You’re not a girly girl if you lift weights’, ‘I don’t lift weights because I just want to ‘tone up’, ‘Girls should only do cardio, lifting is for guys’, ‘So what steroids are you on’, ‘That’s way too much muscle.. For a woman’.
-(FirstPost, 2016; Hatch, 2016; The Hindustan Times, 2016; Baruah, 2016).
The irony of this Nike advertisement is that although it conveys freedom of choice to a woman to live her life the way she wants, even if she wants to be a bodybuilder (as in this case), the protagonist of the video received backlash for the very same reason.
Another Nike advertisement (as seen in figure 2) called ‘Da da ding’ presents itself as a perfect example of a video that is created to help develop a sense of acceptance for all body types in women. (Natividad, 2016).
The advertisement is able to speak to women who may be short, tall, muscular, slim, bulky or curvy and convince them that they are capable of achieving anything regardless of their body type. With the idea of showcasing a woman choosing to keep healthy by going to the gym, maintaining a fit body and proud of her muscles, the Nike advertisement was able to build on its brand with the reputation that it understands the issues of women just as it does the other sex. The advertisement speaks to women of all shapes and sizes, women who are self-conscious, women who would rather not choose a certain career in life because their body type did not conform to society’s idea of ‘normal’. With a majority of women facing body image issues, the audience the commercial caters to is a staggering number. I conclude this article with an epiphany that if huge corporations like Nike focus on developing marketing campaigns directing at creating positive body image and diminishing body image issues in women, the self-acceptance and happiness quotient in women will rise, giving way to a happier consumer population.
This was first put together as a semiotics textual analysis paper as a part of my coursework for master of marketing communications at the University of Melbourne.
LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and even SnapChat are social media giants being used by individuals to connect with others, network and create their own image, ultimately, develop their own brand. Going back to how I got familiar with Personal Branding, when I was working in a startup’s Public Relations department, it was up to to me how we got out there – what we said, how we said it and what the company image looked like. This was my first dive into Corporate Branding.
Within a short period of time, it was quite evident that creating a brand out of a healthcare organization was going to be relatively tougher than it is with others since the making of a health related brand requires the utmost level of human trust. This comes from ticking a bunch of checkboxes one of which being personal connection with the customer.
Paarul Chand, Editor, PRmoment India mentions the emerging significance of Personal Branding, “Among communication consultants, I am seeing a rising trend of professionals maintaining their own brands online. No longer are they content to be just behind the scenes coordinators. I often find such platforms useful sources of information about the world of PR. In a world where emotional connect matters as much as the sales connect, it is inevitable that the personality of the person doing the selling will come into play.”
Do you have what it takes?
A Brand is nothing without a story. You are your own Brand. What is your story? How does it support your growth? #PersonalBranding
Saurabh Uboweja, Founder, CEO and Chief Brand Strategist, Brands of Desire recently launched a first-of-its-kind online learning platform called Branding Institute to educate entrepreneurs, leaders and managers who want to build dominant organizations using the power of branding. He said, “There are many areas where a person might excel but the struggle remains to take the call and choose one. This is because being a jack-of-all-trades is the biggest downside for someone building a personal brand. When a person does set his mind to develop his brand around a specific domain, it should be something that comes natural to him – there’s absolutely no beating around the bush.”
Why Personal Branding?
People trust brands because they are brands.
But foremost,people trust people.
According to a survey conducted by a New York City based social media agency called Brandfog, CEOs who are active on social media are perceived as better leaders who can build better connections which employees, customers and investors.
Personal branding is synonymous with reputation and that’s what makes it so powerful.
The idea is to customize the product or service according to the company brand. Taking a brand like Facebook, where Sheryl Sandberg oversees human resources, public policy, and communications among other departments, her personal branding revolves around women empowerment – further making use of her position to raise the issue of equal pay at workplace. This is a clear case where personal branding can be seen influencing the existing face of company to a more gender-friendly brand.
Paarul further adds, “With the entry of the start-up culture in India has come the concept of personal branding that helps sell a product, a service, an organisation. It’s hard to separate the personalities of co-founders of organisations such as FlipKart, SnapDeal from the organisations themselves. Internationally, too, you can see this in the impact storied entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk have on their brands like Telsa. It’s not surprising then that this is percolating into the non-start up world as well. When it goes well you have brands such as No Nasties (where the personal commitment of the founders towards helping cotton farmers is tied strongly with the brand’s value proposition), Ratan Tata (whose personal integrity has a strong impact on the trust with which Tata companies are perceived) and Raghuram Rajan (whose personal credibility lent so much to RBIs policies). When it goes wrong you have a Rahul Yadav (Housing.com), a Donald Trump (who is doing incalculable damage to the idea of American democracy).”
Personal branding is subtle yet the results are extraordinary.
A brand is created over time. There’s a lot of ground work that goes on to bring the focus on the brand:
Developing and working around a real-time calendar on industry news and trends;
Creating content around researched keywords relevant to anything from personal experiences, country and global concerns;
Persistent efforts and long-term commitment to these tasks with the help of social media platforms increase readership among the target audience, which facilitates customer loyalty and indirectly impact company website SEO and ultimately revenue.
Eventually personal and corporate branding is absolutely vital in this competitive world. #Personalbranding is,in fact,what we underestimate
When compared to corporate branding, personal branding is rather unpredictable.
Does it matter how many times a founder publishes an article on LinkedIn in a week? The answer is no. Prior planning is not instrumental, in fact impromptu ideas are more than welcome. In conclusion, personal branding is unpredictable especially since it’s based on how a person interacts with another.
No medium is the right medium.
Some medium might work well for one, while another medium may work well for someone else. A brand that comes to mind – Shradha Sharma. After the launch of YourStory, she came out as the real storyteller. Through self-written articles she shares on LinkedIn, she is honest, inspiring and down-to-earth. She is active on all social media giants, especially Twitter where she has over 52K loyal followers. She is the perfect example of how Personal Branding aids Company Branding. Not that YourStory needs it (116K followers) but the fact that the founder is so vocal and focused on what she aims to achieve with her company is what makes it so appealing.
More and more influencers from all over the globe are focusing on developing themselves as a brand. While corporate branding is indispensable, Personal Branding is key in helping a person stand out in a sea of people and emerge as an expert in his domain. But does the increasing importance of personal branding mean that one day it might overtake the significance of corporate branding? Only time will tell.
There has been a lot of buzz earlier this year about how Twitter is probably going to die soon. Several things about Twitter make us almost want to believe that the time has come for this social media giant, but has it really?
At The White House Correspondents’ Dinner just a couple of days ago, US President Obama mentioned Kendall Jenner, the Kardashian sister with over 17 million Twitter followers, admitting “I’m not sure what she does but I’m told my Twitter mentions are about to go through the roof.” When the most powerful man on the planet cares about his Twitter status, it’s reason enough to think twice before shunning your own Twitter presence.
Twitter isn’t just a battleground for political parties and public figures, people like me, or millennials, mostly start using Twitter to keep a track on what their favourite brand, celebrity or influencer are saying – all in real-time.
Initially, I personally treated Twitter as a public diary of sorts, where I shared all articles (even videos) I read up on-line. This way my followers could see what I was interested in and have the option of initiating a conversation with me too. Over the years, I’ve realized that Twitter can be your morning newspaper, your copy of Cosmopolitan and so much more beyond that.
What does Twitter have that others don’t?
Apart from real-time updates, Twitter is more about organic reach than any of the social media giants out there (thanks for the next-to-zero-organic-impressions, Facebook). It is also one of the few platforms that gives the audience direct access to decision-makers and even intrude conversations taking place between strangers.
In fact, people can utilize this platform to connect with people who have similar interests and goals. For instance, early April I participated in a #PRGuru Twitter chat on gender balance in Public Relations. This was a great opportunity to engage with people in the industry I look up to and better yet, share my views with them – directly. Connecting with role models and people who are making a name for themselves in the same industry as yours, gives you the chance to network and make new links – quicker and smoother than ever before.
This brings me to the main question of this article – Are brands wasting their time on Twitter advertisements or is it worth it?
On Twitter, brands have the chance to:
Create a one-on-one connection with the customer
Understand the audience demographics and online personality
Build a long-term relationship with its audience by welcoming feedback at any given point of time, personalized customer-care services, engagement through media campaigns and interest generation via social media contests, new product launches and more
Is trending everything?
Every brand, big or small, wants to be seen. One approach is to trend on Twitter. But how useful is a trending hashtag? There are several digital marketing companies that generate engagement through conversation between a group of people or ‘influencers’ on Twitter. They use the required hashtag in their tweets to increase hashtag visibility.
No doubt, there are some ridiculous hashtags out there. In fact, I encourage you to share some of the most absurd ones you’ve come across in the comment section below for entertainment purposes, of course. Having said that, trending does serve a purpose, if done right. There have been several noteworthy viral hashtags like Housing.com’s #LookUp campaign, Prime Minister Modi’s #SelfieWithDaughter campaign, and the much-celebrated #ShareTheLoad campaign by Ariel – which was even shared on her social media by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg.
While trending might be the big prize in the end, it is important for brands to focus on the quality of content which prove to be the essence of media campaigns. As a brand, be sure to understand the audience contributing in creating your trending hashtag and the nature of the trending conversation.