Want to Market to Gen Z? Here's What You Should Know

By StoryStudio Jun 10, 2021

Generation Z, born between the mid-'90s to the early 2010s, is growing up. Responsible for over 32% of the global population and 20% of the U.S. population, they are one of the largest generations and the most ethnically diverse to date. And with the oldest members of Gen Z now 25+ years old and fully entered into the workforce, they also have formidable spending power, estimated to reach upwards of $143 billion. It's time for brands and businesses to pay attention to Gen Z. 

Even though Gen Z and Millennials are just a few years apart, the two generations are very different. So what separates Gen Z from their predecessors ideologically? Unlike Millennials, Gen Z was the first generation of true digital natives. They don’t remember a time before the internet and they grew up with an iPhone not too far out of their hands' reach. This means they have a deeper understanding of all things digital– including social networking and advertising-related– and have no time for BS or obvious sales tactics.  

First impressions matter — but for this Gen Z, they matter even more. Millennials tend to have, on average, a 12-second attention span. A typical Gen Zer, however, has an attention span of just eight seconds. Marketers have to capture their attention within that brief sliver of time, or they'll be out of luck when it comes to earning their dollars. Because of their shorter attention span, messaging catering to the Gen Z cohort needs to be short, sweet, and straight to the point. 

Gen Z prefers fast-paced and interactive social platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram (mainly using Stories and Reels on the latter), where they can rapidly consume quick tidbits of content. This could also explain why traditional static platforms like Facebook are falling out of favor with younger audiences. Brands that want to reach Gen Z should go where they go and invest in digital campaigns focused on their preferred channels. It would serve marketers well to keep an eye on gaming platforms, as well. Gaming communities are growing, as the allure of community and anonymity Gen Z finds in online gaming platforms attracts increasingly larger and more sophisticated audiences. Even prestige and luxury brands have launched collaborations with games in attempts to reach younger audiences. For example, thanks to a partnership with the fashion house, a virtual clothing collection designed by Louis Vuitton is now available inside the League of Legends universe.

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Brands must have both an entertaining and meaningful digital presence to earn Gen Z’s admiration. If there is one thing Gen Z holds in high esteem, it's authenticity. In fact, Gen Z values genuine self-expression, truth, and originality in online content over everything else. On TikTok, one strategy brands are using to find success is posting "imperfect content." Anything too obviously professionally produced and overly glossy will turn off Gen Z, so keeping TikTok videos casual and relatable is key. When testing out TikTok, consider using popular songs and hashtags and even participating in viral trends. Brands like GUESS Jeans (#inmydenim challenge) and Chipotle Mexican Grill (#GuacDance Challenge in celebration of National Avocado Day) have stacked billions of views, allowing users to show off their creativity, originality, and unique selves. TikTok’s duet feature is an excellent tool that incorporates fans into the conversation as well and encouraging them to further interact with your content. And, when it comes to social media, we can't forget about influencers. Partnering with influencers on TikTok and Instagram broadens your reach by introducing your brand and product to new audiences, resulting in both immediate exposure and growth.

Another result of Gen Z's search for authentic connections and communities is a move towards a new generation of social channels. Social platforms like Clubhouse and Discord allow strangers to voice chat with each other, letting users join groups with others who have similar interests. These new platforms strip away the facades presented on other social networks and provide a space for open and candid conversations. 

One thing Gen Z doesn't shy away from is a social or political cause. This generation is passionate about their beliefs, and they want to support brands and businesses that have established values. Don't be shy about sharing your mission and any social causes your business supports when crafting messaging for this audience. Gen Zers are also not afraid to vote with their dollars– 70% of Gen Zers make an effort to only shop with businesses they consider ethical. Gen Z is also outspoken; they are ready to use their social profiles to bring attention to injustice and call out brands they think are doing the wrong thing. It's crucial for brands that want to win their trust to be both transparent and unafraid to take responsibility for any missteps. Finally, don’t forget to establish a brand personality. More often than not, Gen Zers love products that are positioned as bold, fun, and, most importantly– real.

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