Millennials might have been a big wake-up call to marketers in the early 2000s, but their hip counterparts in Gen Z—and up-and-coming Gen Alpha—promise to upend marketing as we know it. That isn’t the end of the world, but it is an invitation for brands to rethink their promotional product campaigns and stay ahead of the curve.
So, what can you expect from the next generation of consumers? In this guide, we’ll break down who Gen Z and Gen Alpha are and how they want to interact with brands. We’ll also share tips for future-proofing your promotional product campaigns to put your organization well ahead of the curve.
Who Are Gen Z?
Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z is currently 11 to 26 years old. Marketers are working with both young adults and tweens here, which is a tricky range. Gen Z is incredibly diverse and open-minded, especially about social issues like gender, race, and sexual orientation. They’re one of the most educated generations to date and are digital natives who can navigate a smartphone like nobody’s business.
In terms of marketing, Gen Z has seen it all, so you really need to wow them. They crave authenticity and brands that align with their values. Influencer marketing and mobile-first digital messaging—complete with personalized or interactive content—are must-haves.
What About Gen Alpha?
Born from 2013 onwards, Gen Alpha includes anyone ten years old or younger. Similar to Gen Z, these kids are growing up in a tech-first world, although the introduction of AI so early in their lives could have a big impact. While it’s a little early to tell, experts predict Gen Alpha will likely be more globally connected and environmentally conscious than any other generation.
Right now, marketing to Gen Alpha means marketing to the kiddos’ parents, but it won’t be that way in ten years. Going forward, it’s good to plan for immersive digital experiences, interactive content, and ethical or sustainable values. That’s likely what will move the needle for Gen Alpha as they grow up.
5 Tips for Next-Generation Promotional Product Initiatives
Both Gen Z and Gen Alpha are growing up in a technology-rich environment. They’re more diverse, inclusive, educated, and globally aware than previous generations. These youngsters demand a lot from the brands they support, so marketers definitely have their work cut out.
Don’t let changing consumer interests catch you by surprise. Follow these five tips to create crave-worthy, future-proof brand experiences Gen Z and Gen Alpha will love.
1. Choose Eco-Friendly Products
Eco-friendly products have been popular for some time but will only become more popular once Gen Z and Gen Alpha have more buying power. However, it’s not enough to make notebooks from recycled paper. The younger generations expect to see a real, genuine impact from green products to establish trust with your brand - greenwashing won’t cut it. For this audience, lean into social responsibility and ethical sourcing. That might mean sourcing Fair Trade recycled notebooks, for example.
2. Combine Influencers and Boxed Experiences
Influencers are all the rage with Gen Z and Gen Alpha, but with a twist. These generations are experiencing influencer fatigue, especially with large-scale, big-name celebrities. Instead, Gen Z and Gen Alpha prefer to consume content from more trustworthy micro-influencers.
The key is combining the authentic micro-influencer experience with promotional products. Fortunately, brand box campaigns make this a cinch. Send each influencer a box to open and share with their followers. Include fun, craveable swag that will turn heads on social media, like the viral Oscar Mayer bologna face mask (yes, this is a real product). The influencers can post an unboxing video, supply followers with a custom discount code, or host a giveaway contest for your promo products. The sky’s the limit!
3. Practicality Still Wins
Lightsaber pens and clever mugs are fun, but make sure you buy promotional items your audience will use daily. Gen Z and Gen Alpha are more discerning about physical clutter, so choose products that they will use on a near-daily basis. For extra staying power, make it hard for them to toss their free gifts. Add their name, personalized color palette, or custom design to the promo to increase its lifespan.
4. Blend Physical Products With Digital Experiences
Practical items are a must, but it’s even better if you can blend these physical items with Gen Z and Alpha’s online-first world. Mobile, interactive, and personalized experiences are key. They tap into this audience’s preference for digital interaction and give your brand access to more in-depth engagement metrics that will tell you a lot about this still-developing consumer segment.
For example, suppose you pass out custom Vans shoes to conference attendees. In that case, you can continue the conversation with a scannable QR code that takes them to a digital scavenger hunt, poll, quiz, or game—complete with a public leaderboard. The more you gamify the experience, the better.
5. Tap Into FOMO
Young consumers still have a fear of missing out (FOMO), which marketers can tap into to boost promotional product engagement. For example, Gen Z loves limited edition and collectible items. Remember the craze around Squishmallows?
Bonus points if you use cool designs or cute characters to really make a splash. You can even give your audience a big prize, like free AirPods, if they manage to complete the collection.
Prepare for the Consumers of Tomorrow Today
Gen Z and Gen Alpha are future consumers. While they share some similarities with Millennials, they’re unlike anything marketers have seen before. While these youngsters are still finding their way in the world, Gen Z and Gen Alpha spending won’t peak for a while. Use this time to recalibrate your promo campaigns to meet the next generation where they are.
The tips in this guide will get you far, but implementing these changes is often easier said than done. That’s where we come in! Brands trust Boundless Brand Consultants to engineer audience-first promo campaigns that create real Brand Love moments. See how our creative experts craft an all-star custom campaign for your business.