Generation Z is the youngest, most ethnically diverse, and largest generation in American history, making up 20% of the US population in 2023 and positioned to surpass Gen X in its number of US buyers by 2025 (Source).
But contrary to negative stereotypes about these “digital natives” being addicted to technology and unable to handle social interactions, Gen Z wants to connect with the brands they support both online and in real life. And they mean business: Gen Z amasses $4.4 Trillion in spending power collectively, with $1.9 trillion in North America alone. Bloomberg estimates their disposable income at $360 million.
But this generation of young people are savers, not spenders. So, if you’re in marketing, figuring out how best to reach and engage the tech-savvy Gen Z—and persuade them to buy your product and support your brand—is well worth your effort.
Who Is Generation Z?
Generation Z refers to individuals born between 1997 and 2012, following Millennials. Gen Z grew up with technology at their fingertips, tethered to the internet and social media. As you’d expect, they are a highly connected, tech-savvy, diverse, and socially conscious generation, and their behaviors and preferences can differ significantly from those of previous generations.
Stanford researcher Roberta Katz describes the generation based on her studies: “A typical Gen Zer is a self-driver who deeply cares about others, strives for a diverse community, is highly collaborative and social, values flexibility, relevance, authenticity, and non-hierarchical leadership, and, while dismayed about inherited issues like climate change, has a pragmatic attitude about the work that has to be done to address those issues.”
Gen Z Values
Gen Z is a group as much as they are a movement: MediaTool.com reports that “50% of Gen Zers firmly believe brands should take a stance on social issues such as climate change, racial justice, and LGBTQ+ rights. These are issues that are important to them, and they’re willing to support and even pay more for like-minded brands. Gen Z is also the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, with 43% identifying as non-white.
“The Snapchat generation is 3X more likely to say businesses should ‘serve communities and society’ rather than simply ‘make good products and services.’ Brands are also more likely to be called out by Gen Z than all others to make a difference by ‘using their voice to advocate or speak out’ on the most pressing issues of our times.”
A 2022 Global Crowd DNA Study on Snapchat found that Gen Z has five core values (ranked):
- 72% Having fun.
- 64% Accomplishing their goals.
- 60% Caring for their health and well-being.
- 56% Making money.
- 56% Prioritizing their relationships.
With a better understanding of what makes this generation tick, marketers can adapt and align our strategies to reach Gen Z on their terms and with content and messaging that resonate.
Here Are Some Best Practices for Marketing to Gen Z
Understand Who They Are.
Content Marketing Institute suggests that before engaging the Gen Z audience with your content, “revisit and update your marketing personas to reflect this audience’s interests and preferences accurately.” Do your research, ask for customer feedback, engage on social channels—and then use their perspectives and values as your guide.
Gen Z is highly attuned to authenticity and quick to call out brands they perceive as inauthentic. To connect with this audience, your marketing should be genuine and consistent, reflecting your brand values. Content Marketing Institute advises, “If you don’t want to set off Gen Z’s BS meter, forgo lip-service messages.”
75% of Gen Z consider mobile phones their device of choice. To connect with this mobile-first generation, ensure that your website and other digital content are optimized for mobile devices and that your campaigns are designed with mobile in mind.
Use Social Media.
Gen Z spends significant time on social media: Morning Consult reports that 38% of Gen Zers spend over four hours daily (compared to 18% of US adults). Here’s how they spend that time: 88% of Gen Z use YouTube, followed by Instagram (76%), TikTok (68%), and Snapchat (67%) (Source). Use these channels to engage with this audience and create content that resonates with them.
And don’t overlook the importance of using social channels for informational content: 60% of Gen Z use social media to research and discover information (Source).
Use Visual Content.
As a highly visual group, Gen Z responds well to engaging and entertaining visual content such as videos, graphics, and images. For example, a 2020 study found that 70% of Gen Z say product videos and photos are beneficial when making purchasing decisions. So, using these types of visual content in your marketing campaigns can help capture their attention and increase engagement.
Gen Z is a tech-savvy generation, so leveraging emerging technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and gamification can help create engaging and immersive experiences they’ll relate to.
This group values personalized experiences and expects brands to understand their unique needs and preferences. Use data and analytics to create customized marketing campaigns that speak directly to Gen Z for the best outcomes.
Highlight Social Responsibility.
We know that Gen Z is highly socially conscious and values brands that are committed to making a positive impact in the world. Incorporate social responsibility and sustainability into your marketing efforts to resonate with this audience. But make it authentic: Gen Z expects the brands they support to do more than talk about the issues that matter to them. They want action.
Emphasize Diversity and Inclusion.
As the most diverse generation yet, Gen Z values inclusivity and diversity. According to data from Pew Research Center, 48% of Gen Z is non-white, followed by millennials (39%) and Gen X (30%). Furthermore, according to a Gallup poll, 20.8% of Gen Z identifies as LGBT. These characteristics frame their values and expectations. So, ensure that your marketing campaigns reflect this by including all races, genders, and identities.
What’s more, diversity and inclusion should be demonstrated among your company’s core values to attract Gen Z as employees.
Focus on Experiences.
Gen Z values experiences over material possessions. So, strive to create brand experiences that are memorable, shareable, and aligned with their values and interests. Even better, this digital generation prioritizes face-to-face interactions: Build IRL brand opportunities to make impactful connections.
Use Influencer Marketing:
Nearly three-quarters of Gen Z follow influencers on social media, and a majority say social media is where they most often learn about new products they’re interested in. Gen Z looks to social media influencers as trusted sources of information and inspiration. So, research and partner with relevant influencers who align with your brand and Gen Z values and interests.
Overall, marketing to Gen Z is like targeting any other group: It requires a deep understanding of their preferences, behaviors, and values. By following these best practices, you can create marketing campaigns that resonate with them, ultimately driving engagement and building brand loyalty.