What You Need To Know About Marketing To The Gen Z Customer


Gen Z is the next purchasing powerhouse, but they’re still a mystery to many marketers. Although they’re close in age to the Millennials, they have almost exact-opposite desires when it comes to their brands and advertising.


Gen Z—which is anyone currently under age 21—is expected to account for 40% of consumers by 2020. This means that in the next two years, you could have a completely new target audience, advertising strategy, and even overall brand.


What do you need to know about Gen Z in order to get ahead of the curve? What can you do now to start winning over this massive population?


Challenges of Gen Z

A number of studies have looked at the challenge of marketing to the Gen Z population. In essence, Gen Zers are the most difficult to reach and engage—because everyone is trying to reach and engage them.


Gen Zers grew up with technology. They’re used to being bombarded with information, so they’ve learned how to not take it all in. They ignore what they don’t find relevant and move on without expending any energy on it. They skip advertisements, use ad blockers, and clicking away from intrusive content. They have a “lower threshold for boredom,” and they’re especially wary of how brands are interacting with them on mobile.


This can be a challenge for advertisers who want to increase their impressions with the Gen Z market.


Plus, some marketers are still trying to figure out the Millennial generation. They wrongly assume that Gen Zers and Millennials want the same sort of advertising. Despite their closeness in age, the introduction of technology has created two very different generations. Millennials grew up alongside technology, while Gen Zers always had access to technology when and how they wanted it.


Not all marketing, then, is created equal. You need to define your target audience and address them appropriately.


What do you need to know about Gen Z if they are your current or projected target audience?


What You Need To Know About Marketing To The Gen Z Customer young consumers sitting on a subway on their mobile phones


1. They prefer traditional advertising.

Studies have shown that Gen Z actually prefers OOH (out-of-house) marketing over digital advertising. This might be because of Gen Z’s love of the internet, so they don’t want advertisers “invading” their home.


When we fell in love with amazing TV shows, we stopped wanting television ads. Now that Gen Z is using mobile and internet as their primary means of communication and entertainment, they don’t want advertisements on these forms. They use more ad blockers than ever to protect their favorite sites.


Interestingly, they’re more responsive to billboards and cinema marketing than previous generations. They view traditional marketing as novel and more authentic marketing.


Keep in mind, though, that they are not consuming in the same ways as before. TV is not their primary medium, as they’ve moved to on-demand viewing. Thus, traditional TV advertisements don’t work either. Another example is magazines. Although they don’t mind magazine marketing, they’re not picking magazines up the shelves nearly as often.


Thus, marketers are struggling to figure out ways to reach a wide audience when Gen Zers primarily use online sites but prefer advertising in non-online avenues.


2. They want fast content.

The topic of discussion with Millennials was “fast fashion, fast content,” but Gen Zers don’t want it any slower. In fact, you have even less time to convince a Gen Z crowd to stay engaged. With Millennials, you had only a few seconds to engage them, but they were more likely to read or watch longer-form content once you had them. Gen Zers are not willing to give you more than a few seconds of your time—no matter how great your long-form content is.


In fact, Gen Z gives you no more than 5 seconds to engage and 30 seconds to get your message across before moving on to the next piece of content.


Gen Z is being bombarded with endless content at unprecedented rates. They’ve become adept at figuring out how to filter what they intake and where they put their attention.


It’s your job to cut through the noise.


This means you need to focus on fast, engaging, creative content. Visuals, infograhics, and short-form videos work especially well. Gen Zers will interact with written content, but they need to first be drawn in with a clean visual, strong headers, and a clear message.


3. They fragment their use of social media.

Gen Zers use social media more than any other generation, but they use each platform for a different purpose. They get news on Twitter and information on Facebook. They show their aspirational selves on Instagram and their real-life moments on Twitter.


This fragmentation of social media time places a challenge on marketers. Although Gen Zers are on every platform, they’re not engaging fully on those platforms. They log on nearly 100 times per day, but they’re on for shorter periods of time and seeing less content. They have “micro-interactions” that last only a few seconds.


This means that marketers need to focus on ultra-fast creative with clear, concise messaging.


4. They’re socially conscious.

Gen Zers are concerned about social responsibility in their personal lives as well as in the brands they purchase from. They’re willing to pay more for a product that gives back to the greater good. Studies have shown that they’re more knowledgeable and engaged with discussions of racial, gender, and income equality as well as environmental concerns.


Gen Zers expect that their brands will be socially responsible. For Millennials, this “give back” model was a differentiator for brands. With Gen Z, though, it’s quickly becoming the norm.


This is important to note for your products and business. More and more companies are focusing on the Gen Z population because they can charge a premium for products by being socially conscious. But that means you need to be authentically and genuinely social in all facets of your business.


Social consciousness is also a great marketing focus. Promoting your social mission is a great way to attract Gen Zers quickly and effectively. A succinct social message can instantly engage the Gen Z population.


What You Need To Know About Marketing To The Gen Z Customer young men looking at laptop together


5. They want a brand story.

This is also a great way to create a targeted or niche audience. Gen Zers use social consciousness to choose which brands from which they want to purchase. They choose their products based on the brand story with which they most associate.


For example, they have to decide if they want to support the toothpaste brand that uses all eco-friendly ingredients or the brand that gives a tube to children in developing countries. One Gen Zer may have an environmental focus, so they’ll choose the former, while another Gen Zer might want to focus on the social aspect.


Your brand mission becomes your differentiator. How your brand interacts with social responsibility determines how customers will interact with your brand.


This means that you need to be highly branded and specific. Your marketing can’t just show your product. You need to have a clear message that tells a story about your mission statement.


The brand story must also be authentic and genuine. Gen Z has a no-tolerance policy for “fake” brands that don’t stay true to who they say they are.


The best way to do this is to hook your audience with a series of narratives. Create short creative that captures their attention in quick micro-moments.


Talk to Seller’s Choice to create a concise, authentic brand strategy that will sell.


6. They want to be involved in branding.

Gen Zers don’t want to just hear about your brand—they want to be a part of your brand. You can easily gain the affection of a Gen Zer if you give them opportunities to interact with your brand and share that interaction with their friends.


For example, a Snapchat geofilter allows users to interact with your brand to create their own stories. Another example would be a branded hashtag that customers can use with their Tweets or Instagram photos. This is a great way to optimize on word-of-mouth marketing as well. Gen Zers often share their purchases on social media, promoting your brand without incentive.


You can use this interaction to your advantage to create strong customer loyalty. If you can engage a Gen Zer, they will be your avid fan and social promoter.


"Gen Z—which is anyone currently under age 21—is expected  to account for 40% of consumers by 2020.  This means that in the next two years,  you could have a completely new target audience, advertising strategy,  and even overall brand."   Click to Tweet


7. They use social media for product research.

This engagement and word-of-mouth is also critical for gaining new customers. One study found that Millennial moms prefer to do product research with user reviews, like on Google Business or Amazon. Gen Z moms turn to other sources, though. They look at professional reviews, social media, and brand websites more than user-generated reviews.


This means that you need to have consistent branding across all platforms, including your website and social media. Gen Zers care more about what you have to say about your product and brand mission than what others have to say.


This also means you need to monitor your word-of-mouth status. You want customers to consistently post positively about your brand on social media, so potential Gen Z customers will see these social assessments.


Learn how to control your negative reviews on Amazon or social media here.


8. They don’t mind customized ads.

That same study found that Gen Zers have a positive reaction to relevant advertising—more so than Millennials. In fact, Gen Zers are likely to give over personal information, like their email addresses, if they feel the content is relevant and tailored to them.


This is likely because Gen Zers have had technology since birth, so they don’t feel a sense of privacy or security with their online information like older generations do. They also see value in exchanging their data for content.


This is important to keep in mind when creating targeted ads. You want to tailor the advertisement as much as possible based on the customer’s buying behaviors, physical location, and more. You should also focus on collecting email addresses, so you can run highly targeted and relevant email drip campaigns to responsive Gen Zers.


What You Need To Know About Marketing To The Gen Z Customer girl on social media on cell phone and laptop checking likes


9. They’re unforgiving.

You need to constantly keep a close eye on your brands. If you have one Tweet that goes against your brand story or social mission, then you’ve lost your market.


Think of how quickly Snapchat lost favor—and billions of dollars—after Kylie Jenner tweeted, “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.”


Gen Zers care about what is being said about their products and services on social media. They care more about the social aspect of branding than any other generation.


If you can engage and retain the Gen Zer, you’ve tapped into a huge market. If you lose favor, they’re gone for good.



There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing, especially when it comes to Gen Z. They’re more difficult to reach and engage than every before considering their hostility towards certain types of digital advertising. However, once you grab a Gen Zer, they’re much easier to transform into a raving brand fan.


Gen Z cares about brands more than ever before. They want targeted marketing that is socially conscious, shares a story, and engages them personally.


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