Generation Z: What Marketers Need to Know
Let’s face it: everyone loves to talk about millennials. Our fascination with the demographic and its impact on society implies that the cohort is and should remain a marketer’s primary focus. But the reality is: millennials are quickly becoming old news. The future is now; and that future is Generation Z. Largely considered any individual born between 1995 and 2010, Gen Z is making an impact in various ways. They currently make up 27% of the US population, which is a larger share than Millennials and Baby Boomers. By 2020, they will represent 40% of the global consumer population. Much like when their predecessors acquired their buying power, Gen Z are projected to have an unprecedented 44 billion dollars in purchasing power. Considering their projected market power and impact, it is shocking how little brands know about connecting with this ever-growing demographic. As a marketer, here’s what you need to know to connect with Gen Z:
WHO ARE THEY? The lack of knowledge about Gen Z often comes from the misconception that they are similar to Millennials – but nothing could be further from the truth. Millennials grew up during times of economic prosperity, leading to a more optimistic generation, that is liberal with their buying power. Their Gen Z counterparts, however, are very frugal, having “experienced” a recession. As a result, they are skeptical of traditional institutions, such as school and government. Unlike Millennials, Gen Z live most of their lives online. They are known as “Digital Natives”: a generation that cannot recall a time before the internet. For most of their lives, they’ve had access to smartphones and social media. Unlike their predecessors, they didn’t have to adapt to using these resources; they simply exist in unison with them. Gen Z’s symbiotic relationship with technology has created a generation that interacts with brands in a very unique way.
Gen Z’s increased skepticism has made the days of brand loyalty a thing of the past. Before accepting a brand, Gen Z take multiple factors into account:
Gen Z measures authenticity in a variety of ways, for example, by considering the size of a brand. They consider smaller brands with grassroot origins to be more authentic than their larger counterparts. Smaller brands are also more likely to interact with consumers in a more personal way, which is a quality that this generation appreciates. Brands that engage in an authentic manner, without automated “generic” responses, are valued by Gen Z.
Before engaging with a brand, Gen Z takes the time to research its practices and values. When a brand’s values align with their own, Gen Z fully “buys in”. They care about making a statement, and support brands to align themselves with common values.
ETHICS & ACCOUNTABILITY:
Gen Z believe in brands that are accountable and use their platform for the betterment of society. For example, Nike’s stocks skyrocketed after the release of their “Dream Crazy” campaign in support of former NFL star Colin Kaepernick and his anti-police brutality message. Kaepernick and Nike’s message resonated with Gen Z who showed their support by engaging with the brand. On the flip side, Gen Z are social justice-oriented and hold brands accountable for their actions. Papa John’s was recently shunned by Gen Z after their CEO become embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal. It didn’t take long for Gen Z to “organize” a boycott via social media, leading to the eventual resignation of Papa John’s CEO.
Gen Z are future-oriented. They “survived” economic upheaval, so they look ahead to anticipate the future. They admire brands that work towards building a better tomorrow. For example, Tesla is fiercely admired by the demo for being pioneers of clean energy. While they may not be able to afford a Tesla (yet!), Gen Z already touts the brand as a preferred manufacturer.
HOW DO THEY ENGAGE? As radically-inclusive Digital Natives, Gen Z’ers do not distinguish between an online life and a physical one. While Millennials embrace a (small) barrier in between their true selves and their online personas, Gen Z considers the digital space the “real world”. This is no more evident than by their acceptance and celebration of the Influencer. A large group of Influencers fall into the Gen Z category and represent one of the cohort’s largest values: entrepreneurship. A whopping 41% of Gen Z’ers want to become entrepreneurs, with 72% identifying as having entrepreneurial values. They appreciate brands who partner with Influencers with 10,000 – 100,000 followers, who they consider to be friend-like figures. To communicate with Gen Z, brands must speak their language – their direct, “snackable” language. They love to communicate through “memes” while exploring emerging content formats. 55% of Gen Z’ers spend the majority of their digital time on non-traditional social media platforms such as Twitch. They use different platforms for different purposes (i.e. Snapchat for communicating with friends, and Facebook for news), so brands should adjust their messaging to best-suit individual platforms.
Gen Z’s consumer demands are simple: authenticity, accountability, and shared values. Brands who do not comply, will feel the “wrath” of these Digital Natives. They’re here, they’re important, and they want you to know.