Paging Gen Z: How to Market to the Youngest Generation

By Alexa Matia, January 26, 2017

“Millennials” is a term that usually leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those saying it. It’s a term synonymous with lazy, narcissistic, and unmotivated teens and young adults. And there are plenty of memes to back up those beliefs.

Obi-Wan Kenobi Millennial Meme

Source: Imgflip

But did you know that Millennials are now all in their twenties and thirties?

The last of the Millennials turned 18 in 2014. Those teenagers you’re describing are actually a part of Generation Z.

And while there are many similarities between the two generations, there are also plenty of differences. You’ll need to overhaul your marketing strategy to reach the newest generation of consumers.

Their Buying Power Will Surpass Millennials’

Generally, the starting point for Gen Z is said to be around 1998 to 2000, which means that the oldest Gen Zers turned 18 in 2016. Generation Z has many names: Founders Generation, iGeneration, Plurals, and Post-Millennials. But Gen Z is the most commonly used name for the Millennial successors.

Related Post: 5 Reasons Not to Bully Millennials and Why We Still Do

Even though the generation is still young, you need to start thinking about your company’s marketing strategy now. Gen Z already makes up 22% of the U.S. population, and they’re set to surpass Millennials not only in size, but also in buying power.

Currently, Gen Z’s buying power is around $44 billion, but 93% of Gen Zers’ parents have said that their teenage children influence the overall household spending. So, in marketing to Gen Z, you’re also tapping into the buying power of their Generation X parents.

They’re the Digital Generation

Generation Z has never known a world without technology, and the vast world of the Internet was at their fingertips from a very young age. This means that they’re also the generation that depends on technology the most. They literally can’t live without it.

Only 12% of teens ages 12-17 don’t have a cell phone. And of the 77% that do own cell phones, three quarters of them own smartphones. Basic flip phones beloved by Millennials everywhere are a thing of the past. (RIP Motorola Razr.)

Gen Zers Never Had a Motorola Razr

Source: Pinterest

Because of mobile devices being so common, most teens also use them as their primary source of Internet access. In fact, over half of Gen Z does almost everything on their mobile phones. Some Gen Zers even spend upwards of 17 hours a day on some sort of mobile device.

Mobile is also where Gen Z does most of their shopping in almost every major type of industry, including, electronics, beauty products, books, and clothes.

They’re Okay With Advertisements

If you can catch the attention of a Gen Zer, you’ll find that they’re more open to ads than Millennials. According to consumer ad sentiment research, teens are the most accepting of mobile video ads, and 48% of them aren’t bothered by sponsored messages and content.

Gen Zers are more likely to engage with the ads they see, too, and you’re more likely to see a conversion. In fact, when teens engage with mobile banner ads, 21% of them will actually make a purchase. For teens engaging with video ads, 19% of them will make a purchase.

Gen Z is also the generation least likely to use ad blockers. Only 3% of teens report using an ad blocker. But don’t get too excited and start bombarding them with ads. Generation Z members are the most accepting of advertising that blends in and doesn’t disrupt their browsing experience.

They Like to Participate With Brands

Gen Z really doesn’t trust the endorsement of celebrities. Only 7% of them will even watch an ad with a celebrity.

Instead, teens want to see social media influencers or their fellow young consumers. Gen Zers are much more likely to trust the review of someone who purchased and used the product. The photo below is actually an ad for an outlet fashion center that was posted by a 17-year-old, and it earned over 16 thousand likes.

Social Media Teen Influencer Example

Source: @janadacovic

For Gen Z, it’s more authentic than a professionally staged post or advertisement because it’s coming from a real person.

Teens also like to know that their opinion matters. If you want to catch Gen Z’s attention, then you really need to implement user-generated content. Encouraging them to post about your product with specific hashtags or marketing campaigns makes them feel important to your brand.

Gen Z Matured Faster Than Millennials

In a sense, Gen Z had to grow up faster than Millennials. The generation spent their childhood in a post 9/11 world, and came of age during the 2008 recession.

Of course, every generation also experienced these events, but for Gen Zers, it shaped their entire childhood. For this reason, Gen Zers often show more maturity at a younger age than their predecessors. (And as a younger Millennial myself, it pains me to say that.)

While the generation’s maturity is one advantage of an unfortunate situation, those defining events also caused Gen Zers to be more realistic, careful, and cynical. They’re slower to trust and harder to reach, which is why authenticity is a marketer’s best friend when trying to reach Gen Z.

They’re Careful With Their Social Lives

Millennials are known for oversharing on Facebook, especially when they were in their younger years. (Facebook Memories reminds us of this everyday, too.)

Gen Zers learned from their predecessor’s mistakes, and as a result, they’re much more reserved on social media.

Coming of age in a digital world means that your online presence is just as important as your physical one. Teens are more focused on building their personal brands on social, not just sharing ridiculous photos of themselves in questionable situations.

Related Post: Use Social Media Like a Politician: 5 Ways to Boost Your Personal Brand

Outside of the digital realm, Gen Z also reports having less substance abuse, lower teen pregnancy rates, and they’re even more likely to wear their seatbelts. Growing up in harder times have made them more careful and private.

However, Gen Z still loves to be social. A majority of them use multiple social sites, but teens are drawn toward more anonymous social sites, such as Snapchat and Whisper.

They’re a Diverse Generation

Gen Z is predicted to be the last generation in America with a Caucasian majority. The youngest generation is not only the most diverse, but its members are also the most accepting of ethnic, sexual, social, and cultural diversity.

As a result of their openness to diversity, they’re also more likely to have a very mixed social circle consisting of a variety of different religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and economic backgrounds.

Gen Zers Are Socially Conscious

Gen Z’s diversity has also made its members more aware of the political, economic, and environmental problems around them. They’ve come of age in a world they see as “broken,” and they want to be the generation that fixes these systems. Gen Zers are realistic; most of them don’t even believe in the American Dream anymore.

In this sense, brands that have the most luck in earning Gen Z’s loyalty are those brands who support a charitable cause and are consistently socially conscious. 80% of Gen Zers are more likely to support a company that has promised to make an environmental or social difference.

That’s why brands like TOMS and Boxed Water are thriving right now. Both are brands who continually strive to improve the world.

Boxed Water and Toms are Socially Conscious Brands

Source: @boxedwater and @toms

Boxed Water is concerned about the environment, and they emphasize the sustainability of their business because they don’t use plastic bottles. TOMS is a more socioeconomically conscious brand. With every pair of shoes purchased, they help provide shoes, water, and healthcare to people who need it.

By purchasing from brands like TOMS and Boxed Water, teens feel as though they’re making a difference. If you want to reach Gen Z, consider pairing your marketing efforts with a charity or organization that appeals to teens.

It’s Hard to Catch Gen Z’s Attention

Gen Zers have a notoriously short eight-second attention span, which is a lot shorter than the 12-second attention span teens had in 2000. And you thought it was hard to catch Millennials’ attention.

Related Post: 5 Reasons You Need to Embrace Creative Visual Content

For marketers, this means that your content has to be attention-grabbing from the start. Teens love bite-sized content, and if it doesn’t interest them right away, they’ll quickly move on. There’s just too much for them to see online these days, so there isn’t any time to waste on second-rate finds.

There’s good news, though. If your content catches a teen’s attention, they’ll probably watch it through to the end.

Gen Zers Take Matters Into Their Own Hands

Most Gen Zers have older Millennial relatives or friends that they’ve watched struggle through school and finding a job. Generation Z is full of self-starters; they’re ambitious enough to take matters into their own hands to ensure they don’t struggle, too.

Millennials are the Me Generation

Source: The Financial Brand

Many teens have plans to start their own businesses, and they believe whatever they need to know can be self-taught.

A lot of teens want professional experience starting at a very young age, and over half of high schoolers already know they want to be entrepreneurs. That’s one of the main reasons why most Gen Zers prefer to be called the “Founders Generation.”

They’re Less Idealistic Than Millennials

Generation Z is more focused on the future, but they’re realistic about it. They know it’ll take hard work and dedication from a young age. That’s why there are several parallels drawn between the Silent Generation and Generation Z.

The Silent Generation was the wealthiest and most career-focused generation in history, and Gen Zers have a chance of beating that. With the oldest Gen Zers entering the workforce in a few years, it’s impossible for brands to ignore their untapped buying power.
Alexa Matia

Alexa Matia

Alexa Matia is eZanga's former Content Writer and Digital Specialist. She's a native of Central Pennsylvania and a graduate of Shippensburg University, where she majored in English. When she's not writing, Alexa is either watching Star Wars (again), reading, running, or cuddling her overly spoiled dachshund, Chewbacca. More Articles by Alexa Matia