UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — By some definitions, Generation Z — people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s — now makes up a greater percentage of the United States population than Millennials or Baby Boomers.
Colleen McBride thinks it is high time some marketers realize and account for that.
“I want to help brands realize the differences,” the Penn State senior advertising and public relations major said. “While there is a lot of overlap, it would be foolish to think that they’re the same and that the messaging should be the same.”
Inspired by a presentation she gave on “Gen Z” this summer as a strategy intern at Allen & Gerritsen, McBride — one of three Schreyer Honors Scholars on the Penn State Homecoming student court — is planning to use her honors thesis to help the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications examine how it can specifically communicate to that demographic.
McBride, of Bensalem, has long been captivated by how various brands use social media to reach different audiences.
“A lot of times, we put out the same messages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,” she said, citing the example of how her 29-year-old brother uses Snapchat and Instagram very differently than she does. “I’m super-passionate that each platform is its own entity and should have separate messages.”
She has been working with a group of fellow Penn State students and alumni – including founder and chief executive officer Andrew Strauss — to launch FindItU, a one-stop-shop online startup designed to help Penn State students find apartments, jobs, restaurants, campus events and more.
“We just genuinely want to help students,” McBride said. “We have been students, and we are students right now.”
McBride, the chief branding officer for FindItU, has also taken leadership roles in organizations including the Penn State Dance Marathon, Empower Orphans, and the Schreyer Honors College, and has held five internships since arriving at Penn State, taking different lessons from each. She believes part of her responsibility, as both a member of the Homecoming court and a Penn State upperclassman, is to pass on what she has learned.
“We have this idea of a vertical ladder of leadership, where you’re constantly moving up with titles,” she said. “I want to let younger students know that you don’t have to have the highest title or status to make an impact at Penn State.”
About the Schreyer Honors College
The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars total more than 2,000 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth Campuses. They represent the top 2 percent of students at Penn State who excel academically and lead on campus.