Student Housing Business

MAR-APR 2018

Student Housing Business is the voice of the student housing industry.

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LEASING AND MARKETING March/April 2018 70 Making Connections and Conversions with Gen Z It takes a curious combination of humor, gravitas and wit to reach a generation raised on sophisticated technology and nerve-racking headlines. By Lynn Peisner S Snap judgments surface whenever the baton is passed from one generation to the next. The Greatest Generation scoffed at Boomers' Viet- nam War protests as being unpatriotic. Gen X collectively rolled its eyes every time a Millen- nial got a trophy just for showing up. These are stereotypes from all sides, of course. Not everyone conforms to the stock boilerplates or perpetuates superiority com- plexes. But common biases do have their ways of sneaking into how we market to a new group of young people. That's why it's important to get to know Generation Z. Now that Millennials are out of college, working and starting families, the stu- dent housing industry, like every other busi- ness, is working hard to figure out new and exciting ways to market to their successors. It's strange to think about, but a freshman starting college this fall was born circa 2000. It's true that Gen Z was bottle-fed technol- ogy and uses many devices. It's also true that they have very short attention spans. Fast Company reports that the average attention span of a Gen Z-er is eight seconds, compared to the seemingly erudite 12-second span of a Millennial. So do we draw the conclusion that kids looking for student housing today are unable to focus? Do marketing plans need to deliver an eight-second hard sell? These are some of the questions (the answers to both of the above, by the way, are no) that researchers are evaluating, and student hous- ing marketing experts are contemplating as they assess fresh, new approaches to efficient- ly lease properties. "This generation was literally born with a smartphone in hand, whereas their genera- tional predecessors had the iPod Touch," says Jamie Matusek, president of Catalyst. "This opens up an entirely new realm for us as marketers to consider. We have an opportu- nity to target them with messages on the same devices that we have to rip out of their hands as parents." She adds, "My 12-year-old son fits within this generation, and he is a goldmine for a marketer such as myself. I watch in amaze- ment as he reacts to ads served to him during the use of games and other apps. This gen- eration isn't going to waste time reading long marketing messages. It has to be delivered as bold imagery and short snippets, and it has to connect them in some way — either through a cause or through humor." Pushing the Envelope According to John Wilkinson, chief strategy officer with Threshold/Carve, Gen Z doesn't want to feel they're being sold to. "This gen- eration really likes to discover things on their own," he says. "That aligns with their scroll- ing habits and their news feeds. They're con- " Gen Z-ers want to find content that will interest them and answer questions, gain insight or spark a conversation. — Melissa Cornine, research and media manager, Catalyst CA Student Living mixed things up at Rise on 9th in Columbia, Missouri, with a "partyvator." The event afforded the leasing staff an opportunity to connect with residents about renewals in a fun, unexpected way.

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