3 Things to Know about Gen Z in the Military

(U.S Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Juan A. Soto-Delgado)

Generation Z has entered the military ranks. As the newest generation to graduate high school and college and join the military, they make up 44% of the active duty population, according to the latest Demographics Report from the Department of Defense. Their spouses also qualify as Gen Z — 20% of them are under 25 years old. For marketers targeting this demographic in the military, the trick will be to combine the high expectations of this tech-savvy group with the needs related to being in the military.

Tailored marketing techniques

Gen Z service members and spouses want companies to take the time to understand their desires, and then meet those desires. Everything in their life has been available at the touch of a button, and they expect that from businesses as well.

Lindsey Germono, owner of Germono Advertising, is a military spouse keenly aware of the pressure on organizations to utilize social media to target their desired demographic. She stresses that organizations, like MTV, have the ability to change and impact the younger generation. “The impact they can have on this generation is unprecedented,” Germono says. Gen Z members are influenced by social media, she says, and are very aware of the intentions behind posts. Marketers “should really be focusing on uplifting posts, particularly with the amount of racial tension and bullying in today’s world.”

Germono offers some key areas to look at when tailoring Instagram posts, which is one of the most popular platforms for Gen Z. Color, sound, content, length and culture are the top things to tailor to each audience. Consider using music that evokes a patriotic feel, for example, when marketing directly to military families, with videos or photo collages to get the attention of the Gen Z population.

Germono also suggests focusing on one target audience.

“When comparing two Forever21 and Ann Taylor on Instagram, you can quickly see two very different target audiences. It’s easy to see how Forever21 is targeting Gen Z,” she says. With younger models, more colors, and popular music accompanying posts, Gen Z’s attention is caught immediately, and more important, it’s kept long enough for them to follow on Instagram. Germono also notes that some companies, like Adidas, have several Instagram pages, so they can target each to that particular audience. The have one for women, one for basketball, one for running, and several others.

But it’s not just about the colors and photos.

“You’re going to have to catch their attention in five seconds or less, which is why applications like Boomerang are so popular,” she says of Gen Z. Boomerang is an application used on Instagram that makes little videos that loop back and forth, similar to watching a video and then watching it in reverse. “This generation is not going to be tricked by traditional gimmicks or sales ads. Influencers are key when it comes to Instagram and this demographic.”

Free shipping

As Gen Z members scroll through SnapChat and Instagram and see things they like, they are more inclined to purchase from their smartphone or tablet. Gen Z buyers are so used to having things immediately that they simply won’t purchase something if it isn’t instantly gratifying. Quick, affordable shipping is very important for Gen Z military members. As is a military discount. Combining the two would make military families start with your company when searching for products.

“Free, quick shipping is a huge perk for us,” says Zoie Hoffman, 24, an Air Force wife living in North Carolina. The K-6 grade tutor says she and her husband use Amazon Prime also exclusively, due to their free two-day shipping. She likes the ease of ordering online, instead of going from store to store in a new area. W

When moving, military families have to rediscover what each town has to offer, and there isn’t always time for such exploration. Ordering online makes it much more efficient, which is a large attraction to Gen Z military members. But many companies won’t ship to Army or Fleet Post Offices (APO/FPO), even though mailing regulations are clearly outlined on the USPS website. Military families get frustrated when they find a product they like, only to have their order cancelled because the company is not clear about these shipping policies. A small move like making it clear your company understands the APO/FPO rules and will ship to such addresses could engage the younger military market.

Social Media

Unlike Millennials, those in Gen Z prefer Instagram and SnapChat for their social media platforms. Brianna Beninati, a military spouse who runs Based in Design, an interior design and decorating business, utilizes Instagram frequently. “The Gen Z age associates branding with a personal brand as an identity. If it doesn’t align with the brand, don’t post it, as imagery they crave needs to be curated to fit in seamlessly,” Beninati says.

They also respond to ads on online streaming services. Following in the footsteps of Millennials, over 30% of Gen Z subscribed to a video streaming service in 2016, according to Business Insider, while only 15% of Baby Boomers do.

Chelseae Waterson, a younger military spouse, lives in Florida, and relies on the opinions of friends and family that she sees on social media when making purchasing decisions. When it comes to advertising, most of what she sees beyond standard online advertising comes via streaming services like Hulu.

For the best way to connect with a Gen Z military audience, check out the current trends in military spouse, consider following some of these blogger’s Instagram and Facebook Pages.

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