By Nina Eadie.
It’s not hard to reach a young audience through marketing today, as Generations Y and Z consume content at a baffling rate. However, creating content that actually resonates with a young audience is the challenge. Forget the clichéd ‘sex sells’ – health and fitness, the environment and a sense of ethical responsibility are taking centre stage for Gen Y and Z, and affecting their purchasing decisions too. The ‘woke’ generations want to be well-informed and appear intelligent through the brands they consume, which are often shared across their personal social media channels.
This article dissects the use of educational content, in place of more typical marketing, and looks at how this is particularly important in building a brand among Gen Y and Gen Z consumers. Here’s why…
Capturing attention and trust
Trust in a brand is a huge part of the psychology of a purchasing consumer. If we see a brand as the byword in its relevant industry or product, feeling well-informed by its marketing, we have more confidence to shop. Research conducted by Conductor.com’s Spotlight platform found that educational content renders consumers 131% more likely to buy – a staggering statistic.  It’s not a new marketing technique but is seeing a resurgence as the more innovative and forward-thinking brands increasingly understand the importance of strong, engaging content when it comes to appealing to younger generations.
Gen Z, and Gen Y mostly, grew up with the internet at their fingertips, knowing how to research what they want, when they want, never having to leave a question unanswered or a subject undiscovered. They are self-educating and have the desire and the facility to research the products they want – and the brands that they buy. Exposed to marketing from an early age through internet use, these generations are immune to blatant sales pitches, seeing through brands’ unjustifiably conceited claims about their product. They want facts to back it up, and informative, quietly commercial content feels far more engaging anyway.
Inspiring a purchase
Educational marketing can help to make a purchase feel necessary. British active-wear retailer Sweaty Betty presents an almost scaremongering sports bra guide online, which provides a detailed explanation and diagrams to explain what will happen to the ligaments when not protected during exercise. Purchasing one suddenly seems very necessary, particularly for an image-conscious, Instagram-obsessed member of Gen Y or Z. The brand places itself as the leading industry voice in all things boobs and bras. The consumer will be aware that there are many other sports bras on the market, but the learning they have gained on why they need one, encourages you to shop direct from the source of this wisdom.
Creating a confident consumer
With consumers choosing to shop online more than ever before, retailers have less opportunity for their sales staff to offer their expertise and knowledge to customers in-store. Imparting wisdom is a tried, tested and traditional sales technique, and this now needs to be pushed further into the realms of a brand’s digital channels to continue to inspire trust and loyalty in customers. Take diamonds – a technical subject which can quite often terrify the first-time buyer. Fine jewellery retailers are working hard to be the primary fount of knowledge on the subject. As e-commerce platforms such as Net-a-Porter continue to expand their fine jewellery range, shoppers gain confidence spending large amounts online. The Net-a-Porter website offers gemstone and diamond expertise in editorial format on its website, as do some of the more established jewellers such as De Beers. Hoping to target millennials is jeweller Vashi, whose website offers a step-by-step guide and the chance to design your own ring online. Clear descriptions and guidance dissolve the diamond jargon and give the buyer the power and knowledge to create exactly what they are looking for.
On top of trends
A very different instance of educator marketing can be found in the campaigns of outdoor clothing designer Patagonia. The company’s mission statement patently outlines the importance they place on the environment, in equal importance to the product. Promoting their brand ethos appears to be a key goal, connecting to an interested audience and using the brand platform as a global force for good, encouraging environmental consciousness. Patagonia has recognised that its essential market ‘lovers of the outdoors’ care about protecting their environment, or at least should, and that it has the facility to educate them. The website states, “We’re in business to save our home planet.” – refreshing in a world full of highly commercial brands, mainly talking all about themselves.
Patagonia’s motives cannot be questioned – their campaigns have wholeheartedly good intentions for environmental causes – but it can be argued that they are onto a trend here. People want to be educated on what can be described (fortunately and unfortunately!) as ‘fashionable issues’. Start-ups like powdered food retailer, Huel, have thrived via the trend for ‘wellness’, and current concern for sustainability. Aside from promoting its simple product, Huel’s website includes pages full of nutritional guides, quotes from dieticians, and information on how unsustainable our current food production methods are, as well as stats on food waste in the UK. The website leaves you feeling well-informed and just a little inspired to change your own habits. Every aspect of Huel’s marketing and content speaks clearly to millennials.
Becoming the authority voice
Despite clearly thriving, start-up mattress retailers such as Casper, Simba and Eve have not done anything particularly revolutionary in terms of product development. However, these companies have made a point of educating their audience on the importance of sleep, setting themselves as the byword in good sleep (as well as running like Silicon Valley tech firms). Their websites and social channels include swathes of content on the science of sleep; Simba and Casper incorporating a tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted angle, whereas Eve assumes a more premium feel, emphasising that a good sleep is a luxury, alongside promoting their work with homeless charities.
Even well-known and established banks are using an educational theme to interest their young customers, in an attempt to keep up with the financial tech start-ups. The whole precis of challenger brands, such as Monzo, Revolut and Starling, is education and constructive information. In answer, Santander have devised an online hub, Prosper and Thrive, aimed at getting to the heart of millennials and their finances. The site includes educational editorial content on subjects that matter to Gen Y, such as “5 ways to budget being a wedding guest”. Again, they’re not marketing their products or services but aligning themselves as the experts in managing money.
Marketeers are recognising that education impacts on a consumer’s trust in a brand, and that disguising a sales pitch under information can help to create more engaging and accessible content. Brands empower consumers to make an informed purchase, through advice and education, aiming to be a fount of knowledge and the authority voice on their subject. The more innovative and astute brands are finding ways to overcome the lack of face-to-face time with customers in stores by creating interactive and informative digital platforms. Brands are pursuing cultural trends beyond their products in their marketing, in a bid to understand and speak to a younger audience of consumers, whose spending power is becoming increasingly relevant.