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Generation Z consumers have been immersed in the digital world their entire lives – a fact that brands must consider as they create Gen Z-focused marketing initiatives. Source: Google Images

For a long time now, brands have largely focused marketing efforts to appeal to the millennial generation. However, as generation Z (those born in 1996 and later, according to a Huffington Post article) grows older, they are quickly becoming the new generation of consumers. It’s crucial that brands invest in marketing efforts geared around connecting with generation Z consumers. This may not be easy, though, as Gen Zers seem to be more demanding and very different from the millennials that brands have been focusing on.

According to a study from Barkley and FutureCast referenced in a recent AdWeek article, there is a lot to consider when marketing to Gen Zers. First of all, Gen Zers put a heavy importance on social and environmental causes, and expect the brands they invest in to do the same. From an early age, they are engaging in social activism, and look for ethnic diversity in ads. What’s more, having grown up during times of terrorism, war, and recession, Gen Zers feel the need to make a positive impact in the world and aspire to jobs that have such an impact. 80% prefer to invest in brands that make a positive impact on society and the environment.

Another factor to consider when targeting generation Z consumers is that they value brands that are authentic and relatable. Consumers of this generation know when they are being marketed to, and are turned off by this. They are looking for authentic interactions with companies, rather than marketing efforts that try too hard to be trendy and attractive to their generation. According to the Huffington Post article, these young consumers “act and behave like adults, and they want to be treated as such.” They also want brands to be honest and transparent, and need to be convinced that this is so.

More so than millennials, who have been stereotyped and criticized for their upbringing with an “everyone is a winner” mentality, generation Z consumers believe strongly that success comes from hard work. In fact, success is so important to Gen Zers that 53% consider it their first priority, according to the AdWeek article. This is higher than the 46% of millennials who believe success is the most important thing.

Furthermore, Gen Zers have generally grown up using technology and interacting in the digital world more than any other generation. Social media makes up a huge portion of their lives, and they are sensitive to how it should be used. In fact, 40% of Gen Zers claim that their happiness is directly affected by social media, according to the Center for Generational Kinetics and the Huffington Post article. With this, brands have the opportunity to use uplifting messages in their social media marketing towards Gen Zers. According to the Barkley and FutureCast study, the social media platforms most frequently used by Gen Zers are YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr and Tinder, with some Gen Z users checking these profiles up to 100 times a day. Only 77% of Gen Zers use Facebook, however, compared to 87% of millennials that are likely to visit the site on a daily basis.

When it comes to communicating messages using social and other channels, when targeting Gen Zers, the more visuals, the better. Because this young generation spends much of their time using technology and being exposed to marketing messages, ads with images, short videos, and GIFs are most attractive to them. It is important to serve messages to this generation in the formats that make them most comfortable.

According to the Huffington Post article, Gen Zers will make up 40% of all consumers by the year 2020. It is imperative that brands learn how to connect with Gen Zers now in order to attract them and retain their loyalty long-term. Overall, this new generation of consumers calls for authentic and relatable brands that share their values and communicate through the platforms with which they’re most comfortable.

From a marketing management perspective, here are some questions to consider:

  • What are some of the main differences between the millennial and Z generations?
  • Identify a brand that is targeting Gen Zers. What marketing tactics are they using that are specific to this new generation of consumers?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges brands might encounter when marketing to Gen Zers?