The Winning Recipe for Gen Z

Gen Z’s immersion across the digital world is unlike any other generation, and as a result, many of their lifestyle habits – how they spend money, make decisions, even the length of their attention span– are divergent from predictive models and past patterns. So how do brands grab and maintain their interest?

To answer this question, MilkPEP partnered with GALE, a business agency working with iconic brands like Chipotle, Hard Rock, and Bomb Pop, to explore innovative ways to connect with their evolving audiences, including Gen Z. To immerse themselves in this process, they plugged into the world of augmented reality, tapped into TikTok and buffed up on gaming credentials to authentically connect with teens and tweens (who now possess $4.4 trillion in spending power).

Speaking at a Brand Innovators session at CES, GALE CEO and President Brad Simms noted, “Although we all love Millennials because they spend the most, and they're really core to the Milk industry and the consumption that we're trying to drive, the reality is very few trends start there. We have a working philosophy at GALE that 14 to 19-year-old females start trends.”  

Simms continued, “Gen Zers are the most complicated consumers, but the interesting thing is there's a super high bar to be relevant to them. They’ve grown up in a completely different way with diversity, sustainability and mental health topics that are core to their identity. It matters to them.”

Both Woon Rani and Simms expounded on Gen Z’s high expectations and the importance of engaging with them on their terms — meaning, brands’ marketing efforts must be innovative, differentiated and native to platforms.

“I wake up every day trying to put myself in the shoes of that four-year-old, that five-year-old, that 12-year-old, asking, ‘Is what I put out in the world worthy of their attention?’ Is it likely to change their perception? Because Milk is in a big battle for relevance, frankly, in terms of earning its place as a nutritional solution for today and for tomorrow,” Woon Rani stated.

Simms added, “If you want to connect with the generation that's moving culture, that's stoking reconsideration, you really need to think about how you can be an authentic marketer. Because it's not about chanting out 30-second ads, sending an unbelievable direct mail piece, or other traditional marketing practices.”

MilkPEP has significantly invested in their Gen Z strategy in recent years including moving into gaming, and significant activations on channels like Snapchat and TikTok.

With the realization that 80% of Gen Z games frequently, MilkPEP entered into the gaming arena sponsoring this year’s TwitchCon. In partnership with GALE, MilkPEP launched a successful experiential activation that saw gamers go head-to-head in a test of speed and agility, engaging primarily Gen Z event-goers and becoming one of the most popular booths at the event. The resulting buzz and competition helped further drive reconsideration of Milk as a performance beverage.

In an effort to highlight Milk’s ability to power athletic performance, MilkPEP and GALE partnered with Snap to leverage their lens technology during the Olympics to better connect with the native Gen Z audience, resulting in an average of two and a half minutes using the lens and more than 250,000 shares.

And on TikTok, MilkPEP helped Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky launch her personal channel with a post of her swimming with a glass of Chocolate Milk across the pool, all designed by Ledecky. Launching the “Hold My Milk” challenge, this partnership generated a huge amount of user generated content and kicked off MilkPEP’s foray on the platform.

Simms and Woon Rani’s advice for marketers looking to appeal to Gen Z was twofold: 1) Trust Gen Z to take control of your brand (as Simms explained, “sometimes, we have to get out of our own way”) and 2) Build creator teams to think about the content in native formats, and at a different speed than the creative team.  

Gen Z is a force to be reckoned with and brands must stay nimble in order to keep up. They need to think beyond traditional advertising, be authentic, and use the right platforms, experiences, timing and location in order to make meaningful connections that resonate with this savvy generation.

In Woon Rani’s view, “We have an obligation and a commercial need to try to keep up, to be honest. When you have a choice between trying something new and not trying something new, just be aware that the end Gen Z consumer is five steps ahead of you – and so you need to build a machine and a culture where their needs and their velocity is what you are striving for, versus the speed of a company.”