Well, that didn’t take long.

The never-ending stream of contradictions on how to reach and market to Millennials over the past decade seems to have come to an end. And to that, I say: thank God. It’s about time we saw a decrease in articles and blog posts about how to tap into Gen Y. Because, newsflash: if this hasn’t been figured out yet, that ship has sailed.

So now attention is being focused (as it rightly should be) on the next generation in line that will be consuming financial products. Gen Z, or iGen. But as I’ve been perusing more and more articles about Gen Z in the past few months, I’ve come to realize that it hasn’t taken us long to misunderstand Gen Z and completely confuse how to market to them.

The lessons of the Millennial generation should be so fresh in marketer’s minds that this should not even be an issue. What’s more, while Gen Z is NOT the Millennial generation, they are a continued audience of wanting – nay, needing – customized marketing communications.

Gen Z has not lived in a time when the Internet did not exist. This means that the simple act of consuming media and messaging is first nature to them. They don’t even know whether they’re doing it or not. Members of the Gen Z generation have lived in a world of constant messaging. This means their brains literally been trained to see, acknowledge, and dismiss messages in milliseconds.

What does this mean? And how do we, as marketers, keep from repeating the marketing mistakes made with Millennials?

  • Remember that generations are just a name tag. As Jason Dorsey, the president and CEO at The Center for Generational Kinetics has said: “generations are not a box.” Defining generations and their similar characteristics were never meant to be a one-size-fits-all way of learning to communicate with people. This was a huge mistake made with the Millennial generation – marketers kept trying to figure out “silver bullets” to talk to the masses of Millennials. Step away from this mindset. Approach Gen Z as you would any other customer – individually, with unique needs.
  • Focus on life stages. Millennials threw a wrench into the linear marketing strategy by being the first generation group to delay or change the order of life events en masse. For some reason, this caused many marketers to lose their cookies. Suddenly, Millennials were a mystery wrapped in an enigma under a shroud of darkness. Marketers forgot to simply focus on life stages – particularly, which life stage an individual was experiencing – to focus their marketing. Gen Z will be no different than the Millennial generation. Many, shaped by the Great Recession, will choose to delay or reorder major life events.
  • Customize messaging and media for the user. With Gen Z having been wired to process media almost instantaneously, it should come as no surprise that messaging needs to be customized based on individual behaviors, habits, and experiences. Otherwise, your marketing will fall on deaf ears as irrelevant. It’s not that Gen Z won’t pay attention to your banner ad or marketing email. It’s just that they will measure its relevancy to them within a second and then take action or dismiss.

Don’t get caught up in the hype! Gen Z doesn’t have to be foreign or confusing to market to. By shaping marketing strategy to focus on clear, customized messaging, marketers will already be light years ahead of where we started with the Millennial generation.