At the beginning of March, MD Anthony Tattum attended the annual Voxburner event, a youth marketing strategy conference in London. This event gave him insight into the best methods of marketing to the 4-16 age group, which is at the forefront of our minds when working with Big Cat’s fantastic clients. Take a read of how this has inspired his thoughts on the marketing strategies used to target Gen Z in the healthcare sector.

Generation Z: Kids and young people aged 4-16 is a hot topic right now. Also known as the We Want It Now generation, they have never known a world without the internet and mobile phones. They have grown up with touch screens, smart phones, social media, fast broadband, video on demand and 1-touch services.

Gen Z has very distinct attributes from earlier generations as attitudes on social issues have shifted; they are interested in global social changes and aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in. They want to make and personalise things for themselves. As the first tribe of digital natives, they are snappy – 42 percent of teens say they visit Instagram more than once a day, resulting in more than 7 billion selfies.  More than eight out of 10 are hooked on social networks and more than half of them think that this is where their real social life takes place, as my daughter illustrated just the other day…


Lola's emoji conversation


Last week I found my five-year-old daughter sending a reply text message to her four-year-old buddy via my wife’s mobile phone. What struck me was that she can’t really read or write so was using emoji’s – those pictorial graphics my mum and I use to punctuate our text messages – to communicate. Looking more deeply into the symbols, I realised that the images represented things they both liked: horses, dancing ladies, stars, cake, hearts. I asked my daughter Lola what she was saying to her friend Poppy, her reply was: “I’m arranging a party and sleepover at my house.” My immediate thought was “Wow!”

Communicating this way seems to be second nature to Gen Z, however, they are hard to reach through traditional marketing. They are constantly being bombarded with advertising messages: posters, banner ads, pop ups, TV ads, those annoying video ads that have to play before you can watch the YouTube video you want. This torrent of interruptions has generated a filter bubble around young people, they communicate differently on and offline to avoid interruption and in turn create a tunnel. Based on algorithms and search history which is hard to break into and as Marketing Week observes, ‘Ultimately this is leading us into a new era: the era of non-textual, written communication.’


The Age of Impatience

To make things slightly more complex, this On Demand generation don’t want to queue or wait. They think ‘perfect’ is boring, where is the best place to catch their attention? Phenomenally successful campaigns like Sport England’s This Girl Can or Nike’s Better For It, demonstrate how brands are unlocking the power and passion of young people.

These campaigns don’t see young people as one homogeneous group, instead, recognising that young people have different personalities, motivations, hopes and fears. Their campaigns seek to humanise their brands and tap into the unique make-up of the diverse segments that make up Generation Z. They want you to take part; use strong images and simple messaging that’s easily relatable and shareable –  Generation Z can then take this on and make it their own.



Since launching in January 2015, the This Girl Can video content has been watched over 37 million times on Facebook and YouTube, with 540,000 coming together in its dedicated community. A staggering 2.8 million 14-40 year old women across England say they have done some or more activity as a result of the campaign. Due to its success, there have been 660,000 tweets using #ThisGirlCan in total.

Sharon Jiggins, MD at FCB Inferno, the agency that created the campaign, told the Huffington Post, “Tackling gender inequality requires game-changing work. This Girl Can breaks the rules. The campaign has changed the written and visual language around exercise, painting a uniquely realistic picture of active women, each with a highly aspirational ‘don’t give a damn’ attitude. This has struck a chord with women the world over, inspiring them with the confidence to be more active.”

Similarly, Nike’s Better For It campaign has been a huge success with the brand encouraging people to share their own exercise accomplishments on social media with #betterforit. The campaign has resulted in 242,925 posts on Instagram since the launch in April 2015.


Nike's Better For It campaign


Gen Y versus Gen Z

At Big Cat we’ve been crafting youth marketing campaigns for 16 years in sectors as diverse as local government, health, leisure and entertainment, travel & tourism, charity and education. When we started, Millennials (born in the early 80s up to the early 2000s) also known as Generation Y, were the youth market. They are ambitious but lazy, hyper connected but self-obsessed and non-conformist but materialistic.

In stark contrast, Gen Z sees through the thin veneer of superficial brands, they turn off their devices and have “dark”, “me-time”; when they are connected they are hard to reach but always in buying mode, and reward authentic brands with good purpose.

Traditional values are embraced by the next generation. In an age of seven second vine videos being knowledgeable is important; “boring subjects” are more shareable. They discuss current affairs and back social issues, wanting to co-create and make things for themselves.

Generation Z understand the illusion of riches and understand reality. The pursuit of happiness is the definition of success. They want to succeed and achieve, with 76 percent aiming to make their hobby their job.


Next Generation Health

Despite being branded the lost generation and with some of the world’s highest levels of obesity, Gen Z isn’t obsessed with being thin. Rather than the internet creating couch potato youths, robots and weak enfeebled youngsters, technology is showing truth behind the myth. In fact health is king. They smoke, drink and take drugs less than previous generations with 68 percent of under 16s see the link between poor health and fast food. However, depression is increasing but this is because mental health is less stigmatised and today’s youth face their problems head on.

Although Gen Z have little money and can’t afford to buy, they share. As a result of this, their influence (and influences) can be huge, and way beyond their family circle.

Intervention through early years learning will be crucial to reduce ill health and keep pressure on the NHS. Despite continuing reductions in public sector health budget – health organisations need to work smarter to engage the next generation.

What should marketers and health organisations do?

  • Think about context – Understand what your audience likes and what they are doing then reach out to them in ways that relate to it.
  • Understand your audience – how they talk, what matters to them, what attracts them, activates them, makes them feel vulnerable.
  • Stop doing things for young people – do things with young people. Don’t just tell them the answers, provide resources.
  • Be authentic – If you have a good purpose, work out how you can make that true for your brand.
  • Be brave – learn to adapt and adjust your outreach strategy if necessary.

Create your own emojis – these are the vernacular of the next generation, well for Lola and Poppy anyway. ❤

Posted by: Greta Baker on