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How can I make my brand more appealing to Gen Z?
Does your brand appeal to Gen Z? If not, what can you do to change it? What impact can a marketing campaign targeting ‘Zoomers’ have on your business?
These are the kind of questions that East-London based start-up Imagen Insights is trying to answer. The company connects brands with young people who are paid to provide their insights on marketing campaigns and new products.
One of six children raised by migrant parents, Imagen Insights Co-founder and CEO Jay Richards went from school rebel to Forbes 30under30 entrepreneur. We caught up with Jay to find out the secrets behind his success and what brands need to do to boost their appeal to Gen Z.
Can you explain how Imagen Insights came about? What was your objective? And to what extent have you achieved it?
While I was running a start-up incubator in secondary schools and universities, I was asked to come to Facebook to do a talk about the investments I was making (which were often for underestimated young people). While I was there, the head of retail for the NFL was there and after my talk she came over to me was like, “Hey, is there any chance your young people could help us to get a marketing campaign?”
I listened to what she was saying, and it turned out that she just had no way of actually gaining insight from Gen Z, in a way that was easily applicable to what she was trying to achieve. So I went home that evening, put together a plan of how I could engage my current community and went back to her. That was one of my first clients.
So that was September 2019, and since then the whole process has been crazy. It wasn't even like I was in the shower and had this sick idea or anything. A client came to me with a pain point and we solved it. And then it turns out it's not just the NFL that have that pain point. There are all the clients we have now – including Gymshark, eBay, PepsiCo - which is really cool.
That is very cool! What's the biggest mistake you see companies make when they try and target a Gen Z Audience?
A lot of the time, I find a lot of brands will think they know what Gen Z want without actually asking them what they want. So they start building whatever they're building – brand, product, marketing, whatever it may be - without actually engaging with the end consumer they are trying to target.
If you're going to be building anything for anybody, regardless of whether it's Gen Z or not, you should actually have a conversation with them and find out what they want. And not just from a macro perspective! A lot of brands will do macro reports of Gen Z, saying Gen Z give a sh*t about this, they give a sh*t about this. But they don't actually go “okay, what do they think of our brand? What do they think your brand should be doing in the space?”
So the common mistake most brands make is they just don't ask consumers what they want. And then they end up spending years going around in circles, when they could have just asked and saved themselves a whole bunch of time.
When it came to building your business, what are some of the challenges you faced along the way?
Our team works from 10am to 4pm because I like people to have lives and not to be at their desk all the time. But for me, I just struggle with that. Right before the World Cup final was about to start, my cofounder and I were working on the client brief, because we just couldn't put it down!
It's not even like a stress and anxiety thing, I actually just want to work on it. It's great because you love your job and I love the opportunities we get to work on, but I just struggle to switch off sometimes. That’s the biggest challenge.
Outside of that, it’s just scaling myself and my co-founder. I'm very good at sales and my co-founder is very good at Ops, and the problem is that we end up then jumping in and getting involved with everything. So, it’s letting go of things and saying to my team I need you to deal with this and then just leaving them to deal with it. And if they make a mistake, that's cool, we'll figure it out.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I took a small round of investment when we first started, and it definitely was needed, but I didn't read the contract properly. In hindsight, I would have just taken my time with that, which is what I'm doing now and it’s the reason I'm being insanely particular with contracts. I've got like three different lawyers working on it.
You’ve learned from your mistakes, which is a good thing. What kind of attributes do you think a good businessperson needs?
I feel like everybody's different. When my mum landed in the country, she worked for a couple of years and then at 19 set up her own business. My mum and I are completely different people but she's a phenomenal businesswoman. So for me, I don't think there's a hard and fast selection of things that make a good businessperson.
There's a couple of underlying ones like resilience. You need to be able to say come hell or high water I'm pushing through. And if you can do that, that's like 90% of the job.
The last thing is being able to realise that unless you're doing surgery, it's not that deep. I say to my team that around 30% of the calls are wrong but this is not life or death – if everything goes wrong, you'll all just go and get another job. I'm not going to message you after work hours unless a client needs something drastic.
What motivates you to keep going when things get difficult?
Sounds hella cheesy, but legacy. The thing that keeps me going is the way it's attracting work. Everybody gets paid per insight they provide so the longer they are in the community, the more they get paid. Once we scale, we could be paying hundreds of 1,000s of people.
There's no reason why this thing couldn’t scale to the moon. The exciting thing for me is building that rocket ship where it's not just me, but my internal team. Anybody who joins us gets equity in the company (vested over an extended period).
It's not just something for myself and my co-founder, but also for our team and also for the community. You can earn a whole bunch of money, get a whole bunch of skills and just add value. That's the thing that keeps me going: the ability to grow something for the community.
Where does your success come from?
I'm a Christian and I know there's a plan for me so I'm calm. Anytime I start a day, I'm just so easy. I can't control the outcome. I just say alright, I'm going to sow a seed I didn't create, that somebody else gave me, and the soil has been provided. None of those things are on me and I can control the outcome.
If it's going to be good it's going to be and if it isn't, then you just go “cool, it wasn't mine.” That’s one of the biggest lessons in my entire career. I’m in my 30s now and I'm learning if it's not mine, is not meant to be for me - So why am I going to stress that I didn’t get it?
If something goes really well, you stay balanced. If something goes really badly you stay balanced. Either way, I'm like, this is calm, I'm still alive so we're cracking on. Also, my mum's a grafter. I come from a woman who landed in this country from the Caribbean and just grafted her ass off to provide for six children.
What do you enjoy most about running a business?
Freedom! The ability to say: This is my thing. We're able to build it the way we want to build it. Also, I love being able to hire the best people and create my community. Every time we put a payment through I get gassed because that's like 50, 60, 100 people making money from something that came out of my head.
If you could go for dinner with one other entrepreneur who would it be and why?
Jay-Z ,100%. The way the guy sees the world is just different. He invested in successful companies that people said were a stupid idea at the time, but he just played the long game. He also came from a similar background to mine.
Finally, If you were a superhero what power would you have?
Languages, 100%. Forget flying forget and all of that. I just want to be fluent in every single one.
I've been learning Spanish for like two years. When you speak more languages, that expands your mind. Being able to just go to any country in the world and just speak fluently to them - imagine the business I could do, especially as a black man if I spoke fluent Mandarin. They’d be like ‘yo, what’s going on!?’.
If you need to know more about how to best reach your target audience, Nutcracker are here to help. Call us on 020 3941 0305