Marketing to Gen Z: Authenticity Matters

Generation Z and Brand Engagement

Born in the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, living entirely within the digital age, Generation Z has never experienced a time without the internet. Each new generation comes with its own characteristics and presents unique opportunities and challenges for marketers.  Gen Z’ers are stigmatized as being technology addicts and lacking the ability to connect with people face-to-face, but these digital-first natives are changing the marketing game, and smart marketers are tuning in and learning how to best engage with this new wave of consumers. 

Despite some Gen Zers not even being old enough to have a job, by 2025 their spending power will top $55 million but more importantly, they influence more than $600 billion in family spending (eMarketer, 2022 & Global Newswire, 2019). As more Gen Z members enter the workforce, their spending power is only going to increase, making it even more important for brands to focus their efforts on marketing to this generation.  This is especially true for Health, Wellness, and Lifestyle clients where brands are hoping to make an early and lasting connection with their customers.

There is a misconception that marketing to Millennials and Gen Z using the same strategies is an effective way to engage with both generations. While there are certainly some similarities between Millennials and Gen Z’ers, there are also some fundamental differences that mandate different marketing strategies. It’s time to stop thinking about Gen Z as a demographic and begin to think of them as a psychographic. 

Gen Z as a Psychographic 

While demographics focus on the physical traits of a particular population (age, household income, marital status, etc.), psychographics place an emphasis on the intangible characteristics of a population, such as personalities, emotions, and preferences. When marketers are armed with this psychographic information, they can not only begin to predict what products and services Gen Z is interested in purchasing but also why they want to purchase – gaining strong insights into the driving factors behind consumer behavior in valuable populations. 

Generation Z has come of age in a post-9/11 world. They have seen first-hand the effects of the Great Recession from parents and family. And now, they are entering higher education and the workplace in the midst of a global pandemic. Given these monumental cultural influences, is it any surprise that this generation is filled with pragmatic, realistic, and socially-minded individuals?  They search for the truth, emphasize individual expression, and recognize their responsibility in shaping the future. 

Authenticity, Interaction, and Transparency 

Members of Gen Z have grown up in the era of “fake news,” so in order to build a lasting relationship with this new generation, brands should prioritize transparency & authenticity.  

Gen Z has no concerns about doing research. They will deep dive into a brand’s website, read comments and reviews, and check social media accounts. Companies need to make sure that information available on their site shines a positive, but honest light on their brand. 

They want to see transparency in a company’s products and marketing. Because of their digital prowess,  they are not easily fooled by marketing schemes and are very capable of deciphering what is real and what is fake. They don’t care as much about what is “new” and “trendy” as much as people think. They would rather see brands with a value that extends beyond those things, like companies that have a social or environmental conscience. 

Companies with a Purpose

Gen Zers have high expectations when it comes to brands taking stances on social issues. They are very aware of the environmental, political, social, and economic issues that our society faces, and make purchasing decisions based on what brands are doing for the greater good. They want to buy from brands that are supportive of these societal issues and align with their own core values in an authentic way. While aligning with a social cause may be a great way to get some positive PR, brands need to make sure that their business practices align with the cause. But most importantly – you can not just speak out about these issues, but actually, be doing something about it. Many Gen Zers will choose to boycott brands linked to certain injustices or brands that have not been true to their word – and they will most likely make it known on social for others to follow suit. 

While Gen Zers may be quick to rule out brands that don’t align with any causes, even more so important to marketers is that they are also willing to spend more money to support a brand that is actively making a positive change in the world. Gen Z is 3x more likely than other generations to say that a purpose of a brand is to “serve communities and society” (Marketing Dive, 2019). 

Cater Content to Attention Spans 

It’s probably no surprise, but the attention span of the average Gen Z consumer is only 8 seconds. This means it’s important to create content that “stops the scroll”. Get to the point and deliver your message before they bail. 

This extends beyond unique visual content – they want to see content specific to the platform. Posting the same video across multiple platforms isn’t enough for them. Remember that Gen Zers have grown up with social media, they are accustomed to seeing ads everywhere – and they will not be fooled or amused by corporate spun advertisements. 

These short attention spans mean that short-form video content is crucial as a Gen Z’er is unlikely to sit through an entire 30-second ad spot. Short videos that use overlays, video effects, and music are marketing GOLD for brands and should be a component of any brand’s marketing strategy if wanting to connect with Gen Z. 

Generation Z represents an up-and-coming economic force that expects authenticity and transparency from brands. Brands that modernize and meet them where they are now will be far more successful than those that stick to the tried and true. 

Reach out to us if you’re interested in learning more about how we can tailor your marketing strategy to reach and engage with Generation Z.

Consumer Study Webinar

Please fill out the form below to watch the webinar

Consumer Study Webinar