How to Market to Gen Z

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While the Millennial demographic may have recently come of age, it’s Generation Z that’s beginning to dominate the attention of marketers and brands from across the globe.

There’s good reason for this too; with some studies estimating the Gen buying power at around $44 billion in the US. Similarly, it’s thought that 30% of the global workforce will be accounted for by Gen Z by the year 2030, while this demographic is set to be over 2.56 billion-people strong by the end of 2021.

But who exactly comprises Generation Z, and how can brands successfully market to them in the modern age?

Who are Gen Z?

In simple terms, Generation Z followed Millennials, while it’s generally accepted that this demographic includes individuals aged between 1997 and 2012.

However, this definition can vary wildly depending on who you speak to, with some suggesting that it comprises people born in the mid 90s and early noughties.

If we accept the former definition, we see that a typical Generation Z member would be aged between eight and 23 in 2021, which highlights the fact that this demographic has a long way to go to fulfil its spending potential.

We can also see that the older members of Generation Z will be beginning to graduate, meaning that the spending capacity and influence of this demographic is likely to increase exponentially in the coming years.

What habits and behaviours define Gen Z?

Well, we’ve outlined some interesting examples that can help you to understand this burgeoning demographic in greater detail.

#1. Gen Z Members Don’t Rate Traditional Media

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Generation Z members don’t tend to get their news or information from traditional media outlets or terrestrial TV.

Instead, they’re more inclined to draw from social media platforms like YouTube, Tiktok and Twitter, which tend to aggregate news from other sources to provide a more comprehensive overview of information.

#2. Gen Z Members Don’t Trust Large Brands and Institutions

Typically, Gen Z members are sceptical of big brands and organisations, apart from those in the big tech space (such as Google, Amazon and Netflix).

To this end, Gen Z shoppers have an average brand trust rating of plus 10, less than the average Baby Boomer rating of plus 21. 

#3. Generation Z Members Interact with Smartphones More Than Other Technology

Gen Z members are increasingly tech-savvy, with smartphones and laptops typically their devices of choice.

For example, 95% of Gen Zers currently own a smartphone, while 83% own and operate a laptop on a regular basis.

This is crucial information for brands, who must create responsive and accessible websites that are increasingly mobile-friendly. 

#4. Generation Z Members are Less Susceptible to Online Ads

The cynical nature of Gen Zers is also born out by their reluctance to engage with online ads and share their personal data through the Internet.

In fact, 66% of Generation Z members now have ad-blockers installed on one or more of their devices, with this number rising as the online ad space becomes increasingly saturated.

#5. Generation Z Members Demand Socially Responsible Brands

Brand neutrality on social issues is no longer acceptable from the perspective of Gen Z members, who want to engage with socially responsible and sustainable businesses that boast a clear and demonstrably positive purpose.

Remember, this demographic also values transparency, and its members aren’t averse to researching brand information and learning more about the brands they partner with.

Exploring Gen Z and Their Core Ideology

These insights are genuinely telling, with many seemingly underpinned by a desire for transparency and a growing cynicism of big brand messaging.

To this end, it appears as though the main spur to consumption is authenticity and the endless search for truth, both in a personal and communal form. 

Make no mistake; it’s this mindset that ensures Gen Zers are amongst the most open-minded and expressive demographics imaginable, creating a scenario where they appraise brands and businesses on their merit rather than their name alone.

This perfectly describes the typical ideology of Generation Z, which in many represents a logical evolution of the mindset and outlook shared by the majority of Millennials.

This ideology manifests itself in four key behaviours that are united by the quest for truth, which can be broken down as follows:

#1. An Undefined and Evolving Identity

We’ve spoken about Gen Zers as being expressive and open-minded, which is why they rarely define themselves in a single or rigid way.

Instead, they retain a largely undefined and constantly evolving identity, through which they constantly express their individual truth and unique opinions.

This is an extension of the Millennials’ inquisitive nature, which initially compelled brands to develop more communal and socially responsible values.

#2. Being a Communaholic

Generation Z members are often described as being “communaholics”, which means that they’re radically inclusive and happy to engage with people and brands of all shapes and sizes.

This is even reflected by the way in which they source news, by aggregating content from different sources and embracing various views and perspectives.

In this respect, they’re able to connect through different truths and find common ground.

#3. Gen Zers are Keen on Dialogue

On a similar note, the open and engaging nature of Generation Z members makes them more inclined to engage in dialogue and avoid confrontations (unlike idealistic boomers).

This includes interactions with brands, which provides unique opportunities for companies to drive marketing opportunities through scalable customer service.

This outlook also enables Gen Zers to understand different truths and move forward accordingly.

#4. The Importance of Realism and Pragmatism

If boomers are indeed idealistic in their mindset, Generation Z members are best described as realistic and pragmatic in their approach to life.

This is underpinned by their desire to seek out authentic experiences (both with brands and elsewhere), which is why companies find such joy when creating engaging and down-to-earth narratives.

Through this approach, Gen Z members are able to unveil the truth behind all things and satisfy their quest for authentic interactions.

Exploring Gen Z and Their Consumption Habits

At this stage, you should have a clear understanding of the make-up of Generation Z and the fundamental ideology of its members.

We’ve also explored a few opportunities for businesses to exploit when marketing to this demographic, but before we drill a little deeper into these, it’s important to look at Generation Z’s consumption habits in a little more detail.

One of the key considerations here is access, which is now typically more commonly accepted by Gen Zers than the concept of outright ownership of a particular product.

More specifically, Gen Zers are increasingly inclined to eschew outright product ownership than previous generations, with this best borne out by the way in which they consume music and videos. 

For example, members of this demographic are increasingly likely to stream songs and video content through platforms such as Amazon Music and Netflix, rather than buy physical copies or invest in downloadable content.

This is borne out by the fact that Gen Zers represent Netflix’s most extensive user base, with 71% of this demographic currently boasting a subscription.

Even in instances where a purchase is made, the more pragmatic and realistic Gen Z demographic also expects to access and evaluate a more diverse range of information before completing a transaction.

In this respect, Gen Zers are arguably the single most analytical consumer demographic in the market, as they look to analyse both the item or service that they’re buying and the very act of consumption itself.

All things considered, the emergence of Gen Z has potentially afforded the term ‘consumption’ a brand new meaning, as this now refers to having access to products and services rather than necessarily owning them outright.

This is arguably becoming a key trend amongst older consumers too, but there’s no doubt that Gen Zers have blazed a trail for others to follow in this respect. 

The evolution of access as a new form of consumption has also impacted directly on brands, who have had to consider new business and revenue-generating models to thrive.

Remember, concepts such as streaming create unlimited access to certain goods for a competitive monthly subscription, creating significant value from a consumer perspective transforming products into services in the process.

Prior to the advent of Netflix, for example, customers would often spend anywhere between £2 and £3 renting DVDs from physical retailers like Blockbuster.

When we touch on the fact that Generation Z members have increased access to information, this demographic is increasingly inclined to conduct thorough brand research before completing a purchase or entering into a subscription.

This has made businesses far more conscious about the way in which they present data and interact with customers, especially through popular channels such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Despite the fastidious nature of Gen Zers, however, their interest in a brand extends far beyond pricing and basic company information, which in turn means that they’re likely to forgive brands that make mistakes or inadvertently present false information so long as they take steps to correct such wrongs.

Of course, this can be more difficult for major firms, thanks largely to the mistrust and disconnect that exists between Gen Z members and brands.

OK, we hear you ask, but are there any other consumption habits that businesses need to bear in mind? Here are a select few that are worthy of your consideration:

Generation Z Members are Willing to Spend More on Products That Reflect Their Identity

As you can probably imagine, the members of Gen Z are more willing to spend a price premium on products (or services) that reflect their identity.

This can take many forms, of course, from their innate fashion sense to their taste in music, but the key thing to remember is that brands that are able to engage Gen Zers in this manner will be able to build a more loyal and valuable consumer base over time.

Because of this, Generation Z members are less inclined to spend with a brand simply because of its name or a particular price promotion, with their desire for authentic interactions and quest to find entities that they can relate to of far greater importance.

This is something that all businesses should keep in mind when targeting Gen Zers, but we’ll touch on this further a little later in the piece.

Generation Z Members Value Honesty and Transparency Above Anything Else

When the concept of corporate social responsibility first came to the fore, some brands struggled to showcase authentic values and instead came across as reiterating broad and generic politically correct views.

This won’t wash with the members of Generation Z, however, who are extremely clear in that they expect their preferred brands to share honest opinions and occasionally take bold stances when discussing important social, cultural and environmental issues.

Of course, consistency and transparency are also key here, while brands must also avoid taking stances that clearly contradict their core premise or the way in which they manufacture, market and sell products.

Ultimately, the most successful brands from a Gen Z perspective will be extremely vocal and have a great deal to say about pressing and topical world issues, while they’ll also communicate clearly and honestly through accessible channels such as Twitter.

What are the Vital Strategies When Targeting Generation Z Members?

Given all that we’ve discussed so far, you should by now have an initial understanding of how to successfully engage Generation Z members and target them with your marketing efforts.

However, there are several things to keep in mind when creating your Gen Z marketing strategies, however, including the following:

#1. Ensure Your Business has a Purpose

As we’ve already touched on, Gen Z-friendly brands must have an authentic and clearly-defined purpose if they’re to achieve any kind of sustainable success.

It’s absolutely imperative that brands only pursue causes and purposes that they truly back and understand, as Generation Z members are able to distinguish between genuine companies and those that are simply paying lip service to a particular issue.

#2. Talk the Language of the Customer

Given the cynical nature of Gen Zers and their reluctance to engage with overly promotional online ads, it makes sense that brands should only ever look to engage members of this demographic with conversational and informal language.

You should also be concise and knowledgeable, while being willing to discuss far more than your basic products and their specifications.

This will require a significant method on behalf of your customer service team, with proactive and positive communication central to your brand’s success or failure.

#3. Use the Right Social Channels

Social channels are ideal for this type of casual and conversational interaction, but you’ll need to incorporate the right platforms to optimise your reach and engagement levels.

Of course, this may vary depending on the nature of your brand and its core products or services, but when targeting Generation Z members you should strive to integrate sites such as Snapchat and Instagram into your campaigns.

#4. Avoid Facebook (or Least Use This Platform Sparingly)

Conversely, Facebook (which is a common staple when targeting Millennials and slightly older consumers) is not a particularly popular channel amongst Gen Z members.

This is particularly true when engaging in audience first out-of-home (OOH) campaigns, which put the consumer at the front and centre of any advertisements and typically doesn’t deliver exceptional results when targeting those aged 23 or under.

Why is OOH Great for Targeting Gen Z?

We’ve already mentioned OOH on a couple of occasions, and there’s no doubt that this fast-evolving channel is ideal when targeting the members of Generation Z members.

It’s important for businesses to keep this in mind when planning and formulating their campaigns, as it can help them to optimise their rate of assisted conversions and create an accessible customer journey that maximises sales conversions over time.

But why exactly is OOH such a viable channel when targeting Gen Z members?

There’s a Strong Line Between OOH and Smartphones

It’s worth repeating that 95% of Gen Z members own a smartphone, while they’re also increasingly likely to engage through social channels like Instagram and Twitter through this medium.

In the case of OOH, people who see a billboard or similar ad are thought to be 17% more likely to engage with the associated brand on their mobile device. 

So, targeting Generation Z members through such channels enables marketers to optimise their mobile and social reach, creating a superior return on their marketing spend in the process.

What’s more, Nielsen has reported that OOH is fast becoming the best offline channel for driving interactions through social channels like Instagram and Twitter. Given that these channels are particularly popular amongst Gen Zers, this strategy creates something of a perfect storm that brands can capitalise on.

OOH Showcases a Great Visual Representation of Your Brand

In their search for authenticity, Gen Zers have demonstrated a tremendous affinity with strong brand narratives and identities in recent times.

This makes yet another compelling argument on behalf of OOH media, particularly as large format 48 and 96-sheet billboards provide the ideal showcase for a brand’s logo, colour palate and core visual identity.

Typically, billboards are designed according to the so-called “rule of three”, which segregate the advertising space into three different sections and creates a visually appealing and effective layout.

This provides the ideal real estate on which to utilise colourful artwork and your brand’s core colours, while also making room for concise, primary messaging that can actively engage savvy Gen Z consumers.

This is highly effective when looking to initially engage this demographic and build brand awareness, so it’s ideal for new or startup ventures operating within a local catchment area.

Demonstrating Brand Purpose Clearly to Consumers

While brands cannot be overly promotional when communicating with Gen Z members, they can use non-intrusive and accessible channels such as OOH to share company news and demonstrate their purpose to a target audience.

Make no mistake; OOH is the ideal platform when looking to demonstrate your brand’s core purpose, whether this pertains to an ecological or social issue or something that’s more likely to resonate within the local community.

For example, OOH can be used to display charitable partnerships with local organisations, through the use of colourful and clearly-defined materials that are strategically placed within a particular community.

You can also create innovative ads that express a clear view or stance on key social or environmental events, which may have more impact on a national level and help to engage Generation Z members through authentic and purposeful messaging.

Regardless, these statements are highly valued by the Gen Z demographics, while they create a natural, engaging and non-intrusive hook that can effectively satisfy your target audience.

Just remember that your brand will need to walk the walk as well as talking the talk, as Generation Zers will quickly abandon businesses that don’t follow through on their commitments or ultimately lack the courage of their convictions.

The Last Word

So there you have it; our comprehensive introduction to the Generation Z demographic and the key components of marketing to them in the digital age.

As you can see, OOH can play a significant role in effectively reaching and engaging the members of Generation Z, particularly when it comes to showcasing a positive visual representation of your brand.

Similarly, there’s an inextricable link between OOH, mobile and social media, with the former proven to drive increased levels of engagement and traffic through the latter channels. 

With the overwhelming majority of Gen Z members active on smartphones and known to source much of their daily news and entertainment through social media, this makes for a powerful union that can enhance the marketing efforts of brands considerably.

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