Intled digital marketing should be “authentic, not authorative”

Digital marketing aimed at Gen Z students should be “authentic” and not “authoritative”, said Richard Bradford, founder of digital marketing consultancy Disquiet Dog.

“Gen Z don’t want to be told what to do. They want to be drawn into your content and want to belong to it,” added Bradford, while speaking at at ICEF Berlin’s 2022 Digital Day.

However, institutions don’t have long to do so, since the attention span of Gen Z when consuming marketing is thought to be only eight seconds.

According to Kirill Mirgorod, business development manager at ICEF, “The market will only be growing and we need to adjust to the new realities and build proper digital marketing strategies that appeal to the new generation.

“Old ways won’t do the trick and if you want to stand out and exceed the competition, you need to change along with the market and the new generation,” Mirgorod added.

The Gen Z journey to higher education report by UniBuddy describes the current generation of students as one “whose decision-making is guided by emotional connection”.

Institutions and providers are now faced with the challenge of providing highly personalised, genuine and deliverable digital marketing campaigns at scale. As a solution, more universities are utilising current students and alumni to act as digital ambassadors.

London Metropolitan University applied a similar methodology when creating its recent #TheRealLondon campaign which showcases the diverse make up of the institution’s community. The campaign, which was was created by a graduate of the university who is now an employee, features videos, photographs and testimonials of real London Met students.

According to Kate Stanbury, head of marketing at London Met, students are seeking to understand the morals and values of a brand before getting behind it, as well as ensuring its message is authentic.

“What really makes a difference is when that brand or that institution really walks the walk as well as talks the talk. The fact that we have this social mission, that we’re advancing equality, we’re really fighting for social justice, I think that really makes a difference,” she added in a recent webinar hosted by The PIE.

With almost half of Gen Z using TikTok and Instagram as search engines in place of Google, it is increasingly important for institutions to present on these platforms.

Mihir Haria-Shah, head of media at Anything Is Possible, empathised with institutions and noted that these new spaces can be “incredibly daunting”.

“In this day and age of social media, you will get called out for it straight away,” said Haria-Shah, referring to inauthenticity.

According to Paul Loftus, founder and chief, eduKUDU, an institution’s true brand “will come to the surface eventually”.

“The conversation is going on and none of us here, no recruiters, no universities have any control over that. You have control of your content, what you do, that’s it. You do not have control of how it’s perceived and who reads what. So it comes down to honesty,” he added.

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