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Capturing and Keeping Gen-Z's Attention


Ian Baer, Founder and Chief Soothsayer, Sooth, discusses how pharmaceutical companies and healthcare advertising agencies can adapt their strategies to attract Gen-Z.

What were some of your key findings from your research?

Well, one thing that's important to understand is, they have grown up in a very different world. If you think about where Gen Z was, as the pandemic was happening, you have a lot of people who completed very significant parts of their education, the end of high school, first couple of years of college very often isolated, you know, starting or you can go into a full year or two of college from a dorm room or their bedroom and home, they drew up really with social media as a native language. And so, it was very easy for them to just continue to use this ability to communicate through devices. But they didn't necessarily adapt all the skills that those of us have older generations, were forced to adapt in terms of one-on-one interpersonal relationships, networking, developed a close mentoring, you know, mentor mentee relationships with, with people in the professional world, they're just a bit more isolated, and in some cases, less sure of themselves individually. So, they use social media not as a way to isolate themselves, it's what they know. They're the first generation of social natives.

A parent might have sat you down with a club penguin account when you were three years old, and that was your introduction to social media. Right there, you were kind of hooked, this is the way you got things done. And as you grew, and as the world around, you evolved, and as you had access to more things, this way of relating became very natural that you got into Instagram by the time we were in high school and so now here they are in the professional world, in the income earning world. You know, about one in five members of Gen Z is earning a six-figure income now. Their rate of home ownership far exceeds the rate of homeownership, we saw for millennials or Gen X, at the same age, they are saving money at a higher rate than any generation we've seen in 40 years. They're smart investors. They're a very serious, very important generation. But it's important to understand that they do see the world differently. And it's not something to poke fun at. It's something to learn from and adapt to.

How can pharmaceutical companies and healthcare advertising agencies adapt their strategies to get Gen Z's attention and keep it?

Well, there have been some people out there who say that brand loyalty are really brands period are sort of an outdated concept with gems. And that's not true. But loyalty comes from a different place. loyalty comes from feeling understood. Loyalty comes from having their emotional needs met. And that's really a trend we're seeing in consumerism overall, especially in the US. 90% of all the decisions people make with regard to brands are emotion. Pharma and medical advertising, in general is a category that has really had a tendency to lean on a lot of clinical claims, clinical evidence, data, disclaimers, of you know, and so much detail, that it has a tendency to genericize the message. Some of that, of course, is the result of very smart FDA regulations that make sure that that pharma marketers can't make claims that the clinical data doesn't back up or you know, lead people down a certain path without letting them know in fair balance, what could happen as a result of these medications. But in the end, we've got to be careful that we don't lose that ability to connect emotionally and the need to story tell they are not a traditional branding and advertising shouted from the mountaintop. You know, my brand claim is better than your brand claim type of audience.

Again, they want to be understood, they don't want to be instructed, it's a very important thing to understand about Gen Z is once you start telling them how the world works, and telling them how they should choose, they're going to recoil. They want to be invited in on their own terms. They want a brand to show some sense of shared values and empathy and recognizing what they think is important. They want to be invited in. And when they're invited in on their own terms, with things that they find meaningful and relevant, when they're brought into a story when they can project themselves into a story and feel like they can jump into someone else's journey or relate to someone else's experience. The same way. They may be, you know, perusing tick tock videos for a certain summer look, they're also going to be looking at tick tock videos of somebody who is suffering with a health condition with a mental health issue with various very serious struggles. And when they feel they can identify emotionally, they're going to pay a lot more attention to the brand that is claiming 34% more this or that.

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