School marketers and business managers are sleeping on Gen Z.

As the eldest members of Gen Z are now entering their late twenties, schools have a unique opportunity to tailor their marketing strategies to resonate with this dynamic group. Let’s delve into why Gen Z school marketing is crucial and explore effective strategies to connect with these parents.

Embracing the Gen Z Wave: Why Schools Must Act Now

1 in 4 women who give birth in Australia are between the ages of 25-29.

If you have a Prep/Pre-K program, your initial enquiries are probably coming through at least a year before commencement, when the women in the cohort above are now 28-32.

Right now the oldest Gen Z’s are 28.

That means that schools, for the first time, have a significant number of Gen Z parents to consider in their marketing and communication plans.

Schools who understand this and adopt Gen Z-targeted strategies will have massive advantage in the coming years. Now’s the time to start planning!

Here are three ways you can better engage Gen Z parents in your school enrolment journey.

1. Transition from Deficiency to Aspirational Marketing

It’s well documented that Gen Z are driven by their underlying values even more than previous generations.

Yet, since the 1950’s, marketing has focused on a ‘deficiency model’: showing people what they didn’t have and how they were missing out if they didn’t use a product or service (2).

In other words – not values-based, and not particularly irresistible for Gen Z.

According to marketing genius Dr. J.J. Peterson, we’re moving away from deficiency marketing and into an age of ‘aspirational’ marketing.

Aspirational marketing paints a picture of the transformation that happens when people are a part of your school community, and then invites families to participate in it.

This is crucial for connecting with Gen Z parents, because aspirational marketing forces schools to articulate a deeper vision for their educational offering, especially the values that underpin it, and what those values look like in action.

If your school marketing leans on the deficiency model, your website and marketing collateral probably talks a lot about the tangible offering of your school. For example:
– Small class sizes (your child is lost)
– A safe environment (your child isn’t safe)
– Nurturing the whole child (your child is experiencing a one-dimensional education)

Of course, it’s important to empathise with these very real needs of parents for their child, but if you want to connect with Gen Z parents, you need to go deeper:

What does a student who has been part of a small class and nurtured in a safe and holistic education actually look like?

Paint the picture! What is their character? How are they influencing their community? How is their life, their family, their community and the world better because they were educated in your school?

Need some inspiration? Here are some schools doing this well:

Barker College –
Annesley Junior School –
Cedars Christian College –

2. Build Trust in an Era of Skepticism

Trust in institutions is the lowest it has been for some time.

According to the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer, only 30% of Australian’s believe that their family will be better off in 5 years time.

Between 2022 and 2023, Gen Z’s trust in Government fell by 10%, Media by 5%, NGO’s by 5% and Business by 3%.

This is on top of a sharp decline in recent years.

Smart schools realise that they exist within this context and that broad distrust presents an opportunity for disruption. How does school marketing and communications build trust?

According to a survey conducted among Gen Z consumers 2022, 45 percent of respondents said they were motivated to engage with a new brand on social media when the brand appeared trustworthy and transparent.

Trust and transparency. These should be core to your communication strategy.

School’s can do this by:

  • 1. Putting values first
    Explicitly communicate what your values are. Plumb the depths of these values from different angles. What do they look like in every section of your school? In families? In teachers? What do they look like in your alumni and in the community?

    By the way – this means having values that have been well thought through at every layer of your school from Board through to Principal and Executive through to staff.
  • 2. Story-telling
    Stories are the outcomes of values in action.

    According to research by McCrindle, the number one element which builds trust in the NFP sector for Gen Z donors is delivering strong outcomes. They go on to explain that ‘Gen Z is highly focused on an organisations ability to achieve and communicate impacts.’

    There are beautiful, inspiring, encouraging stories happening every single day in your classrooms. Find them. Tell them. Use mediums like video, photography, podcasts.
  • 3. Radical transparency
    Understand the answers and information that families need and deliver them intuitively, consistently and in easy to understand language. As a starting point, how easy is it to find information on your school website about:

    – Fees
    – Uniform
    – Transport options
    – Upcoming events/school calendar?
    – Your enrolment process and policies

3. Craft a Frictionless Digital Experience

Even some of the most traditional, safe, conservative business sectors in Australia have transitioned to more engaging digital experiences. Virtually every bank has comprehensive online calculators, apps, etc. The mining/resources sector invest into digital campaigns. Insurance companies have online quoting available immediately on their home pages.

When these sectors move, it’s a good indicator that it’s not just the ultra-progressive, bleeding edge of companies taking a risk on a new way of doing things – it’s now expected.

Even more-so for Gen Z, who grew up with access to the internet, mobile phones, Google, and social media.

An engaging digital experience for schools is no longer a luxury reserved for the biggest and best. It’s a critical component of every school’s communication & marketing.

When I talk about digital, I mean any touchpoint a prospective parent has with your school through a device.

  • Website
  • Social media
  • Enquiry/application forms (Digistorm do these very well)
  • Calculators (like Feesable)
  • Emails and SMS (especially automation software)
  • School newsletters and other content (like OurNewsletter)
  • Parent apps and Student Management Systems

Schools who do digital well understand how each of these channels/mediums/platforms interact and integrate together to provide a cohesive digital experience from the very first touch point, through to enrolment and beyond.

As schools navigate the complexities of modern marketing, understanding and engaging Gen Z parents is paramount. By embracing aspirational marketing, fostering trust through transparency, and prioritising digital engagement, you will position your school as a compelling choice for Gen Z families.

Common questions about marketing to Gen Z parents

  • How can schools identify the values that resonate with Gen Z parents?
    Schools can conduct surveys, focus groups, and interviews to understand the values that matter most to Gen Z parents within their community.
  • What role does storytelling play in building trust with Gen Z parents?
    Storytelling humanises the school experience, showcasing real-life examples of success and impact that resonate with Gen Z parents on an emotional level.
  • How can schools ensure a seamless digital experience for Gen Z parents?
    Schools should prioritise user experience testing, invest in responsive web design, and integrate digital platforms to create a cohesive and frictionless online journey.
  • How can schools measure the effectiveness of their Gen Z marketing strategies?
    Schools can track metrics such as website traffic, social media engagement, enrolment enquiries, and parent feedback to gauge the impact of their marketing efforts on Gen Z parents.
  • How can schools leverage social media to engage Gen Z parents?
    Schools should curate authentic content, leverage interactive features like polls and Q&A sessions, and actively engage with parents through comments and messages to foster community and dialogue.
  • What are some innovative examples of Gen Z-targeted marketing in the education sector? Innovative approaches include virtual campus tours, personalised video messages from teachers, and interactive storytelling campaigns that resonate with the values and aspirations of Gen Z parents.