Gen Z Insights

Who Are Gen Z Consumers, and Why is Marketing to Them Essential for Brands?

Ambitious, mobile, and conscientious, Gen Z is the first generation born to a truly digital existence. Born between 1997 and 2012 (as defined by the Pew Research Center), it is quickly surpassing its predecessor generations, including the formidable Boomer and Millennial consumers, in size and spending. With 2.5 billion around the world and 60-70 million in the US alone constituting 25 percent of the US population, these consumers already hold $44 billion in buying power. Given these staggering numbers, knowing how to market to Gen Z and satisfying them as consumers are now table stakes for business success.

Key Insights for Marketing to Gen Z Consumers

Like all great targeted marketing, marketing to Gen Z is grounded in knowing your consumer through insights that help you earn trust, connect, customize, and cater to your target consumers.

You probably want or need custom consumer research related to your specific business landscape and a broader set of targeting criteria than generational demographics. But knowing their distinct and unique characteristics can be a powerful starting point and frame of reference for engaging with them.

Below is a sample collection of insights you can count on as you engage in marketing to Gen Z to tap this massive consumer group.

Technology-Native

Gen Z consumers are the first fully digital generation. They don’t know a world without mobile and social media, and they live there as a fully integrated part of their lives. Their even shorter attention span is baked into this fundamental truth. Gen Z consumers view, engage with, create and share content constantly, especially video, but NOT all in one place. They prefer to be everywhere rather than one dominant channel. They are not impressed by technology – they expect and demand it.

Woke Individuals

Socially conscious and fiercely independent, Gen Z embraces authenticity and rejects labels. Don’t mistake this for disconnection; they are exceptionally connected in the world and they’re paying close attention. They just don’t subscribe to the concepts of generalization or even segmentation, which also means they tend to lack interest in brands. They appreciate personalization, inclusion and genuine experiences, and are quick to call out the opposite when they spot injustice or fakes.

Refusal to Settle

Linked to their independence, Gen Z is highly entrepreneurial. Their digitally-driven world offers a large measure of flexibility and options, and they expect to be able to structure it to their liking, from work to culture. They grew up hearing that they were special, and they are bringing that sentiment with them as they enter the workforce and the marketplace. That means they will not settle for less in products, in experiences, for the environment, society or themselves.

Realistic and Ambitious

Gen Z consumers saw the Millennials enter the workforce during the Great Recession. They saw their parents struggle through layoffs, high mortgage debt, and a long recovery. As a result, they are pragmatic when it comes to expectations – they do not expect it to be easy. They are more fiscally cautious, and they are heavy users of the nearly infinite data they have literally in the palms of their hands to help them make purchases and other decisions. The gig economy will serve them well.

Decentralized Participants

Skeptical of “establishment,” Gen Z consumers prefer to curate multiple platforms – they don’t get too attached to any one technology or influencer. They share and seek reviews freely. Although they are more concerned about their data than Millennials are, they are also more likely to share in the interest of more personalization and convenience when they believe it’s authentic. They have their primary resource – their mobile phone – with them everywhere, and they use it at all times.

Holistic Self-Care

Perhaps part of “being special” is the Gen Z perspective on their lifestyle. They want to work hard, play hard, travel, see the world, make a difference and take good care of themselves all at the same time. They seek balance and connection everywhere and expect brands and employers to provide and participate in their holistic viewpoint. Gen Z considers the environment part of this holistic balance, and are already challenging companies to demonstrate what they offer for individuals and the world.

How to Market to Gen Z

Insights like those outlined above, individually and combined, provide valuable clues as to how to market to Gen Z. For example:

  • Start online.

  • Use multiple channels.

  • Use decentralized apps (“Dapps”).

  • Offer bite-sized content.

  • Keep it short.

  • Always be visual.

  • Video>Words.

  • Use video. A lot. 

  • Embrace peer reviews

  • Experience matters.

  • Personalize.

  • Go green.

  • Mobile first. And last. And in between.

  • Stay up-to-date,

  • Livestream fearlessly.

  • Feature user-generated content.

  • Be authentic.

  • No gimmicks. 

  • Interact directly.

  • Save them time.

  • Be fast – slow tech loses.

  • Be active on social.

  • Incorporate “giving back.”

  • Bring digital in-store.

How Will Gen Z Evolve?

The oldest consumers of this generation are just in their early 20s this year and the youngest consumers are not even teenagers yet. The pace of technology advances continues to increase, and Gen Z has virtually no adoption curve. Their ease and speed online will continue to drive marketing to adapt more quickly, while their need for personalization, authenticity, and self-care will continue to elevate the importance of experience. Between the access to information and the level of attention Gen Z consumers pay to the state of the world around them, you can bet on this generation to make a dramatic impact on brands and on society as a whole.

Learn about Millennials