Marketing to Gen Z: Keep It Brief, Tech-Savvy and Real

They’re hard-working, focused and fiscally responsible. They’re also independent, tech-savvy and entrepreneurial. Their social media habits are similar to those of Millennials, the generation before them, but they frequent different sites and care more about their privacy. They tend to be socially conscious, and they want the brands they choose to be the same.

Meet Generation Z, who, according to Pew Research, represents people born after 1997. You might not think of Gen Zers as a major force in marketing yet – after all, some are still in elementary school or even younger – but think again. Gen Z is considered one of the most powerful consumer groups in the market today, with $44 billion in purchasing power. By 2020, this group will represent 40% of American consumers. That means, if you haven’t done so already, start putting your traditional marketing methods on the shelf and adjusting your strategy to a group that’s different from its predecessors.

When determining how to market to Gen Z, it’s critical to understand who they are and what factors shaped their lives.

They Have Lived in a Turbulent World

Many Gen Zers grew up in tumultuous times politically and economically. While most are too young to remember the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001, they have no memories of a nation at peace and not fighting terrorism. In addition, many have watched their parents and other family members navigate difficult economic times, including a housing crisis, a severe economic recession, and a downturn in the U.S. stock market. They’ve seen their parents struggle to get jobs and put their family on stable financial ground.

As a result, Gen Zers tend to be fiscally conservative realists. They want to avoid their parents’ financial setbacks and look for ways to position themselves for success, whether that means quickly getting on the fast track in a corporate environment, taking on entrepreneurial ventures or figuring out the best way to approach other career pursuits.

They Are Do-Gooders

With many having experienced a good deal of political, sociological and environmental unrest during their lifetimes – from gun violence to climate change – a good portion of this group is politically and socially conscious, like the Millennials. Gen Z looks for realistic approaches to world problems and can see through empty promises.

They Juggle Five Screens

Gen Z is probably the most tech-savvy generation, having been born into an always-on era with multiple devices, numerous social media options and ubiquitous online entertainment. It’s not unusual for them to use five screens intermittently: smartphones, laptops, tablets, desktops and TV. They won’t put up with outdated, non-intuitive technology and content, they will gravitate toward companies and products that measure up to their technological standards.

They Won’t Sit Through Long Ads

This group has little patience for content that aims to sell, but doesn’t speak their language or show you care about what they want. They’re also unlikely to hang around for long. According to Forbes, their attention is hyper-focused at about eight seconds. Eight. That means you need to make your point really fast.

Tips for Marketing to Gen Z

To develop an effective marketing strategy that appeals to Gen Z, you need to carefully consider their backgrounds, characteristics and preferences. Here are a few tips that take those factors into account:

  • Be authentic. Smart and cautious Gen Zers can spot heavily sponsored content from a mile away, and they don’t want any part of it. They do like honest, human voices, including the right kind of influencers. Be sincere in your marketing and talk to Gen Zers like people, not prospects.
  • Draw them in with compelling images and concise, clever content. Create copy that’s short, sweet and engaging. Use photos and videos that tell a story quickly. Make it clear, in eight seconds, that what you have to offer is worth their time and attention.
  • Build communities. Gen Z may have an independent streak, but they also want to feel like they’re part of something, like a community or a movement. Think about the interests of the Gen Zers you’d like to attract to your brand and create an online campaign. Spotify, for instance, isn’t just a music streaming service, but a community of fans who support new artists. Fitbit creates a gaming type site feature where people can compare their fitness stats with friends and others.
  • Support social causes they care about. Gen Zers want positive change and will gravitate toward brands that share their values. Think about innovative ways you can support these values. Create campaigns that associate your brand with them, like Dove’s Real Beauty campaign to build women’s self-esteem, and Coca Cola’s partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to help preserve the melting ice caps where polar bears live. (FYI: Coca Cola is also launching a line of health-conscious drinks targeted at Gen Z. )
  • Find them on the social media platforms they use. Don’t just plunk your ads on Facebook and call it a day. (If you haven’t heard, Gen Z has been leaving Facebook in droves over the past few years in favor of Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms.) Once you find where your target Gen Zers are, make sure you know how to use their platforms correctly so you don’t stand out like a sore thumb among this social media-savvy set.



Pew Research—Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins

NRF—Despite living a digital life, 98 percent of Generation Z still shop in-store

MNI Targeted Media Releases Data to Help Marketers Win Gen Z-ers

Forbes—5 D​ifferences ​Between ​Marketing ​To​ M​illennials V​s​. ​Gen Z

By Julie Vallone, ETMG Writer/Editor

When writer/editor Julie Vallone isn’t blogging about marketing hacks, lifestyle trends and quirky little grammar tips, she’s turning complex technical concepts into clear, engaging content guaranteed to remove the knitted brow from your favorite technophobe. In her “free” time, she’s a dedicated stage mom, creating big, elaborate props and calming her resident thespian, or she’s busy at home herding way too many cats.