April 24, 2019

Gen Z Expert Connor Blakley Shares Key Marketing Insights

Insider, content marketing, marketing, Advertising, video content, gen z, social media, strategy

- 5 min read -

Blog_Header_Connor Blakley

(photo from AdWeek)      

Gen Z Expert Connor Blakley Shares Key Marketing Strategies

Understanding and relating to Gen Z is one of the most important aspects of higher education marketing and recruitment. As part of Glacier’s ongoing dedication to gathering important insights about prospective students and helping higher education institutions formulate powerful marketing campaigns, we recently sat down with Gen Z expert Connor Blakley.

Dedicated to helping spread awareness about Gen Z and providing companies around the world with a better understanding of how to engage with and market to today’s youth, Connor Blakley is regarded as the world’s top Gen Z expert and speaker.

Connor was named #1 in Forbes Top Gen Z Experts You Should Be Following. His knowledge and outlook on Gen Z provide an important angle on how to improve marketing strategies geared toward the generation. Read on to find out what we learned from Connor.

Gen Z's Connection to Sports and How That Applies to Marketing

We first spoke with Connor about Gen Z’s relationship with major sports organizations. The successes and failures of the sports industry can shape the viewpoint in higher education marketing, teaching valuable lessons to apply to advertisement and recruitment strategies.

Q: What do you think Gen Z's perception of professional sports are?

A: We care more about the experience and the culture of fandom than the actual game. Even when it comes to the game, we care more about the highlights or unique, exciting plays. Gen Z will see updates on Twitter from the game and call themselves an avid fan. The idea of being a true "fan" to us is completely different than our older counterparts.

Blog_Connor Blakley_Quote1(original photo from Cleveland Magazine)        

Q: Do you think the popularity of eSports are affecting the other sports?

A: Absolutely. ESports has a huge appeal. It is going to put the pressure on regular sports organizations and teams to increase the level of connectivity between fans and commutes. ESports has an entire subculture that engages fans and evolves at a high level.

Q: Are there certain sports/teams/leagues that you think are connecting with Gen Z really well?

A: The NBA maintains a very successful relationship with Gen Z, but it didn't happen strategically. It happened on accident because of its natural connections to urban culture and hip-hop music. There’s a lesson to be learned there for other sports organizations.

The NHL has the biggest opportunity right now to take over the entire market due to the in-game experience, as well as the opportunity for players to develop personal brands and integrate with culture.


Connor’s insights regarding the sports industry show that Gen Z values experience and interaction. Institutions could learn from the NBA’s successes by embracing culture and popular music that are important to Gen Zs. Engagement is key to reaching Gen Z.

Gen Z Marketing Successes and Failures

Q: What misperceptions do you think other generations have about Gen Z?

A: That the generational differences have a significant impact on how we should look at marketing/branding strategy. There are only two generational differences with Gen Z that have impact on an approach to marketing, other than that what really matters is culture.

Q: What are some of the brands that know/speak to Gen Z really well?

A: Different companies succeed in different mediums.

From a social perspective, Patagonia sets a high standard. Their commitment to non-profits and improving the world makes them stand out.

Patagonia's The Footprint Chronicles

On social media, Wendy's does a great job. They are constantly engaging via Twitter and use quick-witted responses to appeal to humor.

Wendy's Twitter example

For experiential marketing, Lyft kills it.

Lyft Experiential Marketing example

Q: Have you seen some Gen Z-focused campaigns that completely missed the mark?

A: Pretty much all of them.  Most recently Youtube's yearly rewind for 2018 is a great example of a company thinking they understand culture, and totally missing the mark leveraging the wrong influencers. They chose to overlook some of the most popular Youtube stars in favour of big celebrity faces, and Gen Zs took notice. Within a week it became the most disliked video in the history of Youtube.



Q: Has there ever been a college/university that has stood out to you ever in terms of their marketing?

A: No. Marketers seem to universally struggle to appeal to Gen Z.

Q: Is there anything that you would say to a Marketing Director of a college/university in North America when it comes to what they should continue to do or stop doing when advertising to Gen Z?

A: I would say stop talking about things that we don't care about. If you want to relate to Gen Z, engage in our interests, and when you start to talk about the things we care about, don't pretend you actually know it all. We can tell if you are cutting corners or you aren’t sincere.

Quote: "If you want to relate to Gen Z, engage in our interests, and when you start to talk about the things we care about, don't pretend you actually know it all." Connoer Blakley, CMO, The Campus Agency


When it comes to marketing to Gen Z, there’s no need to completely reinvent the wheel. Traditional marketing and branding strategies still apply for the most part. But if you really want to resonate with this generation, it’s all about culture. Finding what is important to Gen Zs and engaging with them about what they want and what their interests are can strengthen your marketing strategy.


In the world of higher education marketing, Gen Z engagement remains the most important obstacle to overcome. As marketers, we must take the time to understand and appreciate the culture of Gen Z, and target advertising towards what they truly care about.

Glacier is dedicated to helping you find the Gen Z insights and put together comprehensive marketing strategies that will expand your brand. Set up a consultation with us today to hear more about Gen Z, higher ed marketing, and how we can help.

P.S. Follow us on LinkedIn for tips, tricks, and industry updates.

We collected insights from 1,700 high school students on their media preferences for higher ed advertising. Access Report.

Tagged: Insider, content marketing, marketing, Advertising, video content, gen z, social media, strategy