Gen Z

Keeping up with the Gen Zs

November 2020

Any brand who ignores Generation Z, does so at their peril. These are the young, sophisticated, digital natives who know what they want from life, know what they want from a brand, and are experts in social media platforms that you haven’t even heard of.

Also, there are lots of them. Gen Z is generally understood to refer to anyone born between 1995 and 2010, and that’s 3 billion people worldwide – more than a third of the global population. Understanding what makes them tick is to get a head start in understanding the consumer of the future.

The next big spenders

So who exactly are these people? Gen Z is well-educated, ethnically diverse, socially aware, creative and enterprising. And, while Gen Zers might be young, they have plenty of buying-power – an estimated $143bn in the US alone, according to this study.

They also have a big say on what their families spend money on: they influence 70% of family food purchases and 80-90% of other items.

Social media natives

For Gen Z, the virtual space of apps and social media is a natural habitat. They spend most of their free time online, with 75% of them saying they receive most of their information on social media and follow at least one brand.

Mobiles are their device of choice, video is their go-to format, and emojis and memes are their first language. They hang out with friends old and new in ‘third spaces’ such as Discord and Twitch.

“When Gen Zers are online, they’re not just consuming content, they are eagerly joining in. They are creators”

And when they’re online, they’re not simply consuming content, they are eagerly joining in. They are creators, with multiple personas and multiple Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat accounts, and they use these platforms to express themselves, to entertain, to socialise – and to change the world.

A generation of digital activists

Gen Z is similar to the Millennial generation in that they are socially and politically aware, and they seek out brands that reflect their values. They expect companies to be transparent about their social and environmental impact, and to take an active stance on issues important to them. According to one study, 69% of Gen Zers are more likely to buy from a brand that makes contributions to social causes they care about. 

But it’s not just about the media they consume and the brands they buy from. Gen Zers use social media as a platform for social activism. TikTok, the video platform of choice for Gen Z, for example, is known for the large number of Black creators making a name for themselves. There are dedicated pages calling out racists, and vocality is the norm. The threshold for any racism, sexism, genderism is very low.

“When it comes to what’s happening in social media, they are always one step ahead, and they are marketing savvy”

What does this all mean for marketers? It means that Gen Z has a lot of power, and they know how to use it. When it comes to what’s happening in social media, they are always one step ahead, and they are marketing savvy – they know when a brand is sincere, and they are quick to call it out when it isn’t.

How to win over the Gen Zers

Get real – Gen Zers don’t want to be marketed to by celebrities living perfect lives. They want to see real people, who look like themselves, and they want to see true diversity. User-generated content and word-of-mouth and influencer marketing is where it’s at.

Show up in the right places – Try out new platforms and experiment. Get a TikTok account and collaborate with unconventional, upcoming influencers on content such as challenges and competitions.

Mobile first and video first – Invest time in creating short-form video and make sure everything you generate is meme-worthy and shareable.

Show your social values –  but live them, too. Make sure your advertising and influencers reflect them – and make sure your company culture reflects them. Gen Z is unforgiving of hypocrisy, and when a brand is found out to be simply posturing, they’ll be quick to let people know about it.