You may know them as iGen, Zoomers and digital natives. I once heard someone refer to them disturbingly as “Generation Zombie,” referring to the way teenagers are mind-numbingly consumed by the smartphones that may as well be an extension of their arms. 

But Gen Z gets a bad rap. There’s no denying their obsession with the digital landscape, but we may be overlooking these zombies’ hunger for authenticity. A survey from CNBC found that 67 percent of Gen Z agreed that “being true to their values and beliefs makes a person cool.” 

On top of that, Gen Z doesn’t live up to their stereotype of mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds. In fact, the 2020 State of the YAYA Report from the University of Missouri discovered that 35 percent of YAYAs – youth and young adults ages 18-24 – believe that everything is fake news. Everything. With no memory of a time before Wi-Fi, Gen Z has a keen B.S. radar, deciding to follow or ignore your brand in a matter of seconds. As a generation poised to hold nearly $44 billion in spending power, it’s crucial for your company to pass Gen Z’s authenticity standards. 

Gen Z is resurrecting print marketing 

The term “disruption” has been the buzzword of the decade when it comes to marketing strategies, but many of these tactics – from push notifications to pop-up ads – feel more like an interruption to Gen Z. One surprising insight from the Washington Post revealed a majority of Gen Z actually prefers reading in print because it’s distraction-free, and another study from MNI Targeted Media Inc. found that 50% of Gen Z would like more time away from their devices. 

What does this mean for your marketing efforts? Print is leading the charge when it comes to uninterrupted, authentic media. With a good strategy in place – from curating the right mailing list to messaging – you’ll be able to reach this new audience. Here are four strategies to effectively engage Gen Z with print marketing:

1. Individualize 

Because print is a much more intimate experience due to its tactile nature, individualization is key to engaging Gen Z. Unlike a tweet you can scroll past and forget, print materials like postcards and magazines hang around until they’re recycled. This longevity affords your brand a unique opportunity to capture attention. 

Consider using branded packaging or personalized labels to create a branded experience from purchase through opening. With a subscription-obsessed Gen Z, brands like Hello Fresh, Dollar Shave Club and Curology are finding ways to show off their brand’s personality through charming packaging that speaks directly to their consumers. 

Another way to help Gen Z showcase their identities? Stickers. Donning the backs of tablets, smartphones and laptops everywhere are stickers Gen Z uses to flaunt their “personal brand” and make a statement. 

2. Follow the same principles as digital

When crafting your brand’s messaging, the rules governing high-quality social media content apply to print, too. Shorter is sweeter with copy that’s straight-forward and to the point, making the most of Gen Z’s eight-second attention span. 

Well-performing social posts are a great way to judge what kind of content will also do well in print. Visually led materials and minimalistic designs are eye-catching, making it more likely Gen Z will engage with your brand’s print marketing. A bonus? If your materials are aesthetically pleasing, you’ll gain secondary exposure on social media through user-generated content.

3. Incorporate technology

Gen Z sees no distinction between their digital and physical lives, so blending the lines between print and digital is a key strategy to engaging them with your brand. Incorporating QR codes or personalized URLs (PURLs) can extend the conversation between them and your brand by taking it online, driving traffic back to your website or social pages. 

Adding hashtags and social media handles to print are a great way to gain followers and track user-generated posts about your brand. Consider tapping into emerging technology like augmented reality to create a lasting, immersive impression with Gen Z. IKEA’s interactive catalog is a great example of successfully integrating print and digital to create a memorable brand experience.

4. Take an omnichannel approach 

Gen Z is an expert at sifting through the online clutter of advertisements and fake news. In a matter of seconds, they decide whether your brand deserves their trust—and they have no qualms with “cancelling” brands that don’t meet their standards. An omnichannel marketing strategy, one that incorporates print messaging as well as digital, helps build your brand’s credibility. One article from Reuters states:

“The good news for printed magazines is that their credibility has a halo effect on the magazines’ websites, which gives them a competitive advantage over their digital-only competitors.” 

The power of print lies in its authenticity, a key value to Gen Z consumers. 

The revival of print

If those strategies surprise you, it’s because Gen Z is more conscious than they’re given credit for. These “zombies” aren’t as brain-dead as they seem, and print marketing has a longer shelf-life than expected. 

As Gen Z overtakes the market – both in Kansas City and around the country – as the largest group of consumers this year, now’s the time to revive print as an un-dead marketing strategy. Work with a local Kansas City printer to reanimate your brand and meet Gen Z’s desire for credible, authentic companies who speak their language.

Dan Woehrman is owner of Callender Printing, offering full-service printing capabilities – including letterpress, offset and digital – with union craftsmen quality. Share your thoughts on Facebook or on Twitter @CallenderPrint.