Generation Z (Gen Z) are the new generation of consumers. Regardless of whether they’re your ideal buyer persona yet, they will be soon, and marketing to Gen Z isn’t the same as for previous generations. In fact, it can be so much harder.
According to Insider, Gen Z has the fastest growing economic power, with a spending power of over $140 billion and reports state that by 2030 that will increase to $33 trillion! With the move to online shopping and the impact it’s continuing to have on brands and businesses across industries, it’s no surprise that companies want a piece of the Gen Z pie.
So how do you have to alter your marketing strategy to fit this wave of consumers? How do they engage with brands? And why is this important for all marketers? In this blog, we’ll get into just that.
First off, Who is Gen Z?
Gen Z refers to people born between 1997 and 2012. They’re digital natives and probably know more about technology than you. They’re described as the most socially and culturally aware generation, are open-minded, innovative and value-driven. Especially when it comes to companies they purchase from.
Marketing to Gen Z: How does Gen Z Consumer Behavior Differ?
Gen Z consume more content than any other generation. They have shorter attention spans, prefer video content and are less susceptible to marketing. As they understand all things digital, they also know when they’re being advertised and marketed to. And if they don’t like something they see, they’re vocal about it. For example with “cancel culture” and holding organizations and people to a higher standard.
This generation is also trend led, dictating media and marketing trends daily. And with 60% choosing jobs that have a positive impact on the world, that isn’t always a bad thing. As long as your brand aligns with their values and showcases how it does (they’ll sniff out surface level messaging), then Gen Z will happily become customers and brand ambassadors. On the other hand, if your brand doesn’t match their values, such as when it comes to sustainability and social issues, then your competitors will win their favour.
How Marketers can Market to Gen Z
Be authentic and consistent in your marketing campaigns
Gen Z respects authenticity and honesty. As a marketer you should think about how you can build trust, be personable and human-centred in your approach to marketing. How can your product or service give real value to your customer, and how can you portray this in your strategy?
How you can do this:
Show real people behind your company. Include your employees and CEO in your marketing. They should be shining examples of your company’s values and help spread your marketing message. This also humanizes your company. Remember that people buy from people – especially Gen Z – so the more they get to know the real people behind the business, the more comfortable they feel purchasing.
Focus on testimonials and user generated content. Like we said, Gen Z can often see past marketing, especially if it feels like marketing. They’re more likely to believe real people over brands. Testimonials or reviews are vital to gaining Gen Z’s trust.
Likewise with UGC, a study which researched consumer behavior in the US, UK and Australia, found that consumers “are 2.4x more likely to think user generated content is authentic, compared to brand-created content”. This is also why influencer marketing works so well, when aligned with the right influencer.
Show authentic and real experiences. Not all ads need to be perfectly curated and more companies are using marketing creatives that aren’t perfectly edited and aren’t made by professional studios. For example, TikTok brand ads that look like a normal TikTok made by your average Joe, perform better than those that are ‘obviously’ ads.
Interact with them as humans. Show humour and focus on building a community, rather than a pool of customers. A great example of this is Ryanair’s TikTok. When you think of brands that are likely to appeal to a Gen Z audience, Ryanair is definitely not top of the list. However, they’ve leveraged TikTok in a way that not a lot of brands have managed. They’re now one of the most followed brands on TikTok, purely through topical, humorous and relatable content. The videos gained traction without grand editing or much other than photos and videos they already had of their planes. They also interact with their audience by answering questions, giving witty replies and engaging with other big brands to leverage their audience too.
@ryanair Bestie how else will I make bank i’m sorry🤧 #ryanair #airline #traveleurope #cabincrew ♬ umm.. yeah - andrew
Use a consistent tone of voice across all communications. Gen Z don’t miss a trick. If you’re using a wildly different tone of voice on different platforms, trust in your brand will diminish, while they see through your marketing efforts to catch their attention.
Ensure your whole team use consistent messaging by planning campaigns and setting briefs in one central marketing hub.
Be Socially Aware
Gen Z care about aligning with companies that share their values. They’re extremely socially conscious and think before buying from a brand. This adds to their purchasing power as if companies want to cater to this audience they need to level up all aspects of the business. From sustainability, ethics, diversity, politics, you name it – Gen Z do their research on all of this before buying from a company.
They are likely to ask themselves questions like: What does buying from this company say about me? What is this brand’s stance on sustainability? Is there a diverse representation of people used in their marketing, product placements and advertising? Does this company seem to care about issues I care about? And do their actions match their words?
Ensure you answer these questions in your marketing strategy and watch your engagement from this demographic increase.
A great example of a brand who has got this right is Patagonia. Patagonia have positioned themselves as an activist within their industry. They started off by removing all of their Facebook Advertising in June 2020 as they didn’t like how Facebook platforms “spread hate speech and misinformation about climate change and our democracy.” In a statement, their CEO, Ryan Gellert, said: “We believe Facebook has a responsibility to make sure its products do no harm, and until they do, Patagonia will continue to withhold our advertising. We encourage other businesses to join us in pushing Facebook to prioritize people and planet over profit.”
Gen Z now expect brands to take a stance on social issues, instead of it being a “nice to have”. This is intertwined with their desire to express their ideas and opinions. Obviously, the level to which your company gets on board with this will differ depending on what’s appropriate for your organization. This tweet from Calm was topical but aligned with their brand identity.
Mental health is health. 🎾— Calm (@calm) June 2, 2021
To support Naomi Osaka’s decision to prioritize her mental health, Calm is donating $15,000 to @LaureusSport in France, an organization doing incredible work in the mental health space to transform the lives of young people through the power of sport. pic.twitter.com/C53ptXsks5
Create Shareable and Topical Content
Gen Z love to share content that’s amusing, they relate to, spreads a message they agree with, that is visually eye-catching. This is one of the reasons TikTok has blown up in the past couple of years. Everyday people making amusing and personable content that others can relate to, in short, digestible videos. It’s a Gen Z’s dream.
Brands that succeed at attracting this generation create shareable and topical content. Make sure you keep up with topical news and trends that’s of interest to your audience. And don’t spend too long jumping on trends, as if you’re a day late, they won’t care anymore and will have moved onto the next one.
Another example of a company killing it on TikTok is Duolingo. They jump on trends and put their own spin on it, the videos are funny and push boundaries of what people think brands are allowed to say so people want to engage with them. Implementing a strategy like Duolingo have increases brand awareness and for them, the number of young people using their app. So much so that they’re now the #1 education app in the Apple App Store and have been since their TikTok success.
@duolingo Reply to @foxygrandpa_ still the #1 language learning app, so we must be doing something right 🤷♀️ #Duolingo #comedy #languagelearning #kardashians ♬ original sound - JoeyM
TikTok isn’t the only platform and video isn’t the form for connecting with this generation. They key is in your content strategy and trends for each platform. For example this tweet from Oreo. Horoscopes and star signs is an increasing trend amongst Gen Z audiences (and Millennials, we might add!) Oreo used this trend to their own advantage in this tweet:
You know your sun sign. You know your moon sign. But have you ever wondered about your OREO sign? 🧐.— OREO Cookie (@Oreo) May 17, 2021
❤ this to receive your very own OREO scope reading based on how you Tweet. #StayPlayful pic.twitter.com/HvU9rxfW4X
Unsure if this is the right fit for your brand? Why not A/B test the messaging and content of your next campaign. See what works better with younger audiences. Track and measure the results of your test using a platform like Mediatool, so you have clear visibility of what works with this audience demographic.
Show Gen Z That You Really Understand Them
At the end of the day, Gen Z want brands and organizations to understand them and their needs. They’re more likely to buy from companies that get this right, over competitors that might offer a better or cheaper alternative. That’s how important this is. The issue is that not a lot of companies get it right. And once you’re in Gen Z’s bad books it can be hard to claw back their respect.
You must take the time to learn what this generation likes and dislikes and what content and tactics they engage with, to buld valuable relationships that benefit them as consumers and you as a brand.
It’s therefore even more important that you plan campaigns to your best ability. Measure your data to figure out how your campaigns are being perceived, and that you can pivot at a moments notice. Trying to juggle multiple platforms will get in the way of marketing to Gen Z. Blink and you’ll miss opportunities with this audience. That’s why you need a marketing management platform like Mediatool, to give you a holistic overview of your marketing and media activities. To fully understand how your brand can fulfil this audience’s needs.