Marketing and communications in 2023, especially involving Generation Z (Gen Z) audiences, will be all about keeping it real – even when your tools aren’t.
Hint: a lot of this entails working around the needs and demands of Gen Z and similarly minded generations.
Using AI to produce content
You can’t write about marketing and communications trends in 2023 and not mention artificial intelligence (AI). It’s becoming more accessible, and leading the way is OpenAI’s ChatGPT, an AI chatbot launched in November 2022.
Some people believe ChatGPT and AI, in general, will make marketers and PR specialists obsolete because it’ll do our work for us. The reality is that AI, especially publicly available AI, is still some way from doing that. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t a handy tool with lots of potential, as long as you are aware of some of the issues it faces.
ChatGPT can be useful in helping you develop ideas on how to promote your business. It can also do copywriting for social media, newsletters, websites and more. However, the AI output can lack nuance, so while it can make an excellent platform on which to build, it cannot replace the real thing.
Furthermore, Google is clamping down on AI content, which ranks significantly lower on the search engine. Therefore, if search engine optimisation is your primary objective in content output, you should steer away from AI-produced content, as your website will not rank as highly as original content.
Produce lo-fi content
Julia Hoffman, director of Google’s Creative Lab for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, says, “In 2023, do not try to bring Gen Z audiences into your world, but meet them in theirs.”
Gen Z is the first generation to grow up on the internet, so they’re online focused, with fast-changing demands and interests. Therefore, it is important to adapt to them, meet them in their world and be aware of what is important to them.
A big part of this is the desire for “lo-fi”, unfiltered content. Gen Z is beginning to grow tired of typically highly filtered social media content lacking authenticity.
One doesn’t have to look further than the rise of Finstas (a portmanteau of fake and Instagram) and the app BeReal, which took the world by storm last year. Once a day, BeReal randomly sends users a push notification and gives them two minutes to take photos of what they’re doing at that moment, using their smartphones’ front and back cameras.
In July 2021, BeReal had fewer than a million users; by January 2023, it had more than 10-million daily users (not counting those who had downloaded it before but stopped using it). BeReal is simple, contains no filters, encourages authenticity and has been highly popular.
BeReal and Finstas encourage authenticity and allow people to get a glimpse into the minutiae of their friends’ lives. While these images might seem inane and unappealing to older generations, they’re highly appealing to Gen Z. It is vital to bear this in mind when producing marketing content to appeal to younger consumers.
Partnering with influencers
Influencers will continue to be crucial in the marketing and communications space in 2023. However, there are some essential things to be aware of when using influencers to promote your business. These include:
Influencers’ values must match those of the users you’re targeting (you don’t want your influencer[s] to be cancelled)
People want genuine reviews from influencers – they desire quality over quantity
Gen Z wants lo-fi content from influencers
On the last two points, people don’t want to feel like products are shoved down their throats every moment they’re online.
There are two ways around this. The first is working with influencers who will try out your product and recommend it in a way their followers feel is genuine.
The other way is to subtly advertise rather than make it seem like your product or company is actually being promoted. This is becoming a popular way of working with TikTok stars who produce short skits. Rather than getting them to tell their followers about your product in a boring, “lecturing” way, they build the product into their videos.
This might involve them wearing clothing with the brand name visible, or recommending your product/service in their videos, making it seem like it’s not an ad but just another one of their videos. In doing so, the advertising becomes a secondary, more natural part of the video.
Here’s an example of this more subtle form of advertising by TikTok star Jack Joseph, promoting Odeon Cinemas: www.tiktok.com/@jackjos3ph/video/7178914674493132037?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1&lang=en
Shorter is often better
TikTok and YouTube Shorts are incredibly popular and a great way to meet Gen Z where they are. Therefore, there is a lot of potential in collaborating with TikTok “stars”, especially if it is done in a considered way where their followers don’t feel like the advertising is being forced upon them.
But beyond the potential of these platforms, they also highlight an emerging trend. People (particularly younger generations) want bite-sized content. Therefore, when producing videos, audio material or even written copy, it is vital to bear this in mind. Deliver sharp, to-the-point content that will engage people.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for longer-form content, but rather that it shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of your marketing output. There is great value in engaging with potential customers on platforms such as TikTok, which are growing in popularity because people want shorter content that allows them to consume a variety of content in a short time.
People crave convenience (the continued rise of podcasts)
People’s lives are busy, so meet them in a way that works for them. One way of doing this is through podcasts. Podcasts can be listened to while people do other things, such as commuting to and from work, cooking, working out, washing the dishes, cleaning their home, etc.
Brands can use podcasts in two primary ways. The first can be through advertising on already popular podcasts in the form of audio commercials. These will be played at some point in the ad and will usually be read by the podcast host, so it comes across as more meaningful.
The second is for brands to produce their own podcasts. This is a much less direct approach, as the immediate goal is not to sell actual services or goods but to promote the brand and build trust in it. To do so, it needs to add value to peoples’ lives and they must feel enriched by the podcast in some way.
Podcasts have been a popular form of mass communication in the past decade or two and will only continue to grow. Therefore, they still represent a viable market for marketers and have the added benefit of connecting you with people who genuinely are interested in your product/service.
Brands need to have genuine, appealing values
Alex Schmider, the director of transgender representation at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (known as GLAAD), sums up Gen Z’s approach to dealing with brands. Schmider says, “This cohort unilaterally demands that companies and products reflect their values and communities in internal practice and external advertising.”
This means brands must be aware of the messaging they use, the images of their executives, the companies they work with and the influencers they use. Gen Z is highly aware and critical, and will only continue to be so, of how brands position themselves, especially regarding societal issues such as racism, sexism, LGBTQIA+ rights and climate change.
It is becoming more critical to implement actual changes and be a positive voice, rather than just appearing to do so. While this can’t be classified as a trend, it’s vital to bear in mind as it will affect how brands approach their marketing and advertising in 2023.