April 13, 2018

How Should Cities Market Themselves To Gen Z?

The oldest of the Gen Z cohort is starting to graduate from college. Will they follow millennials to the coasts? If they do, what happens to cities in the Rust Belt and the Sunbelt over time? How do they attract and keep talent? What makes a 22-year-old move to Albuquerque or Cleveland?
How should cities market themselves to Gen Z? If Spark No. 9 were helping a city compete for young talent, we would test a range of value propositions with college-age audiences. One might be “relatively affordable housing.” Another might be about managing risk—e.g., “enough large companies to support a career long-term.” But another might emphasize creative culture: the music scene, laptop-friendly coffee shops, and cool office space design.
We would test these positions with target audiences from different types of colleges to see what position registered the most interest with which audiences. And then? We would go to town (pun intended) on a public-private marketing partnership to start building appeal through ad campaigns, events, content marketing, and so on.
Know a city that needs help? Send them our way.

The Sorting of America

Why should cities care about youth? Because there is a massive socioeconomic “sorting” taking place across urban areas. It’s a game of musical chairs, and you don’t want to be the city left chairless when the music stops. This CityLab piece by urbanist Richard Florida looks at the inflows and outflows of population based on income and age. His take? Big coastal metros lure talent—especially young talent—with attractive job prospects, amenities, and youth culture. If you are interested in some of the drivers of polarization—with pics—this is a useful read.

How It's Done

What makes a city “grad-friendly”? It’s not just “good” jobs, apparently—it’s good jobs relative to housing cost. Trulia and Indeed have partnered on some analysis to rank cities by these metrics, and MONEY added their own twist to refine the list, which may surprise you. (Hello, Texas!)

Homewood You Pass The Kombucha?

So what do you do if you are the 80-year-old mayor of a town with structural characteristics that are attractive to young adults? How do you get the word out? If graphic novels are not your first thought, consider the case of Homewood, IL, a Chicago suburb with a hipster vibe that’s using storytelling commuter trains to attract young families. Get ready for Taco Night, neighbor!

More Artists, Please

As smaller cities get into the game of marketing themselves, they are finding that the metric of income-to-housing cost is an advantage, but it’s not always enough to seal the deal. Other key factors include commuting ease and “quality of place” (see other factors here). Who helps create the “it” factor for these smaller communities? Artists, designers, restaurateurs, and other creatives.

Veil Trail

Of course, attracting hordes of marauding youth can have downsides. Witness the metamorphosis of Nashville, TN into the bachelorette party capital of the world. While an Instagram-open-tap-friendly vibe is great for tourism, it can be rough for established residents… Stand clear! The Party Barge is rolling through… 

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