Posted by Joseph Cook
17 May, 2021

Understanding the importance (and mindset) of this rising but hard-to-reach generation.

Gen Z is the generation of consumers born in the mid-1990s: a group that far needs closer attention than those that came before it. 

Unlike their forebears, Gen Z can be difficult to engage through traditional channels, including classic display adverts. Gen Z-ers want to receive information quickly and nearly always visually; as a generation brought up on technology, it’s no surprise that this group has less patience and a desire for transparency. 

In order to create mass appeal to a new style generation, we first need to really understand what content they want to see and how they want to see it. These are the people who have embraced and driven TikTok, use Instagram as a search engine, and see Snapchat as their own visual message board. Gen Z isn’t interested in Facebook and thinks WhatsApp is a platform used for work chat or their parents. But most importantly, this age group wants honesty. 

So, what does Gen Z care about?

Nearly three quarters of Gen Z-ers state that stress and mental health are their most important health and wellness concerns. It’s therefore experiences that really dominate their thoughts. The growth of Instagram, and the ever-expanding power of the influencer, gives a clear insight into how Gen Z wants to experience endorsements. 

Unlike many other generations, luxury isn’t at the forefront of their buying process. A whopping 93% of Gen Z will try a restaurant that offers discounts; being in a cost-effective yet cool setting that can provide an Instagrammable experience is key. This means that they can not only enjoy their experiences, but more importantly, share them with others. 

By the time Gen Z dominates the consumer markets in 2025, it will account for 50% of the largest spending consumer group.

The other important area is self-image: Gen Z isn’t looking to be told what to wear and how to wear it. They want non-gender-specific clothing: the growth of the so-called “boyfriend” jumper has waned, and now it’s simply an oversized sweater that they’ve chosen to wear themselves. Gen Z is a generation forced to become emotionally mature at a young age, or be judged for it. By the time they dominate the consumer markets in 2025, they’ll account for 68% of the fast fashion market and 50% of the largest spending consumer group. 

What does this mean for marketers?

Gen Z-ers are digital natives, and will respond far less to other channels, books and standard-time TV. But most important is their expectation of digital: they’re not willing to pay for download fees or app costs. Instead, they are a generation that will only pay for something they believe to be essential to their lives, such as Spotify and Netflix. 

Brought up to be mobile-first, Gen Z has far fewer worries about data protection than any that came before them. This is simply due to the fact that they’re used to sharing their lives online and therefore expect to be tracked and promoted to. However, unlike Millennials, Gen Z-ers are far less trusting; gimmicks and guilt trips relative to purchase decisions won’t wash for these cool kids. It’s four chords and the truth, or nothing. 

The biggest consideration when marketing to Gen Z is to avoid the trap of grouping them with Millennials. The eighties has no traction here, aside from the odd Michael Jackson track or the fact that they’re unknowingly wearing the same brands that were popular forty years ago. 

These are future-driven people: their primary cares are about innovation and cost saving. They’re used to growing up in a world with high costs and economic downturn, so while experiences do matter, they’re also far more concerned with creating savings and wealth than the experience-loving Millennial. When marketing, stressing high-quality investments and offering plentiful deals and bonuses is a smart strategy.

The biggest hurdle for a lot of marketers to overcome is that Gen Z doesn’t want to be defined by brands. Instead, they are their own brands. They want to celebrate themselves, and they use social media to find community circles to be a part of and to belong to. Because of this, the best marketing approach for Gen Z is to celebrate the individual, telling customers they can be whatever and whoever they want, not trying to prescribe a specific or too-narrow image. 

In sum, show Gen Z truth, honesty, and personal empowerment. Forget glossy photo shoots and let real people and influencers drive your promotional marketing; no matter how much they filter, they will always be seen as authentic. And finally, remember that Gen Z-ers are unsure about the present outside of their own circles, so show them a future they can believe in. For marketers, it’s a future that will look very different.