Generation Z, or Gen Z, refers to the demographic cohort born between 1997 and 2012. This group of young consumers is an important target for brands, as they are estimated to make up 15% of the British population.
Gen Z audiences are a unique generation, with different values, beliefs, and behaviours compared to previous generations. To appeal to Gen Z audiences, marketers need to understand their preferences and adapt their strategies accordingly.
That’s why we’ve assembled a complete guide, profiling their behaviour and preferences, alongside advice on how brands can put them into practice.
So, let’s dive in.
1. Be authentic
Gen Z is known for valuing authenticity and transparency in the brands they engage with.
As a result, the Gen-Z consumer has built an incredibly sophisticated filter to winnow out the noise and do so almost instantaneously. If a brand can’t make the case in less than 10 seconds, it’s out.
And with this superhuman filter, Gen-Z has also redefined what ‘authenticity’ means to them. An authentic brand, in the eyes of a Gen-Z consumer, is:
- A brand that stands for something other than making a profit.
- A brand that helps improve the world in some unique way.
- A brand that is transparent and shares more about how it operates.
- A brand that keeps it “real” – using real, relatable people in its communications and advertising.
A highly tailored and targeted communication approach is key to Gen-Z success. They are not easily swayed by traditional advertising tactics, so marketers need to be genuine and transparent in their messaging. Brands that are honest and upfront about their products and services tend to be more appealing to Gen Z.
2. Practice social consciousness
Gen Z is a socially conscious generation that cares deeply about issues like sustainability, diversity, and inclusivity. Studies have shown that Gen Z folks are more critical and practical in the purchasing process, analysing brands and businesses before arriving at a buying decision. They are looking at everything from ethical manufacturing practices to the treatment of employees and from eco-friendly initiatives to sustainability.
Marketers can appeal to this audience by highlighting their brand’s commitment to these values and making meaningful contributions to social causes.
3. Adopt a mobile-first approach
Gen Z is a mobile-first generation that spends a significant amount of time on their smartphones.
Marketers need to prioritize mobile-friendly content and make sure their campaigns are optimized for smaller screens.
4. Take humour seriously
Boring content gets you nowhere. The majority of Gen Z want to support brands that they see as fun. That explains why humour and meme-centric social content is so popular among this audience.
The challenge for brands here is keeping up with the speed of the internet. Brands trying to post a months-old meme risk coming off as out of touch. Similarly, not all industries have the benefit of being able to play the role of a comedian.
What matters most is for brands to have a distinct voice, showcasing the human side of their social presence through authentic interactions that don’t sound like something totally suit-and-tie. When interacting with customers, brands should strive to be organic and unpredictable, rather than templated.
Since showing that you can take a joke really makes a difference, so consider using meme marketing in your marketing.
5. Social media marketing
Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with social media, so social media platforms are a crucial part of their lives. Marketers should use social media platforms to engage with Gen Z audiences in an authentic and entertaining way.
Remember to create channel-specific content.
Instead of replicating one campaign and burst it across multiple channels, create content for a specific audience in mind. Generation Z prefers brands that know how to use each social media platform uniquely, just as they do.
- Instagram for aspirational posts.
- Snapchat for everyday moments.
- TikTok for fun and trending challenges.
- Twitter for news.
- LinkedIn for career-focused content.
You need to fit in with the online social community you are posting on if you want your paid or organic content to be a success.
6. Diversity and Inclusion
Gen Z values diversity and inclusion and expects brands to do the same. Brands that demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion, both in their marketing and in their company culture, are more likely to attract Gen Z customers.
This goes hand-in-hand with putting values first: putting on a facade of activism while doing nothing to actually help the cause isn’t going to make Gen Z like you. In fact, it might get you blocked.
7. Visual content
Gen Z is a highly visual generation that responds well to visual content like photos, videos, and infographics. Marketers should prioritize visually appealing content in their campaigns.
The popularity of video is also giving companies incentives to create more video content. Marketers, influencers, news sites, and anyone else who wants to deliver a message to the next consumer generation – which also happens to be the most diverse in history – is going to have to invest in video content. Use short, engaging videos to tell your brand story or showcase your products.
Other visual content you can use to engage Gen Z include:
- Interactive tools
8. User-generated content
Gen Z is more likely to trust the opinions and experiences of their peers than traditional advertising. Brands can leverage user-generated content by encouraging Gen Z customers to share their experiences with their products or services on social media.
Partner with Gen-Zers in a co-creative manner. Ask them to participate in your marketing by interviewing them on video, sharing their tweets about your product (good and bad) and have ways to interact with them—not just through your PR team, but through your own top Gen-Z customers or Gen-Z employees. Share, interact, record, report, retort and respond. This transparency will create real bonds.
9. Influencer marketing
Gen Z is highly influenced by social media influencers who they view as authentic and relatable. Marketers should leverage the power of influencers to reach this audience and build credibility for their brand.
- Stay on top of new trends and platforms. If a new platform has potential longevity and is relevant for your brand, try it out and see if there are any influencers in the space who can support you with this new venture and expose your brand to their engaged followers.
- Embrace micro-bloggers. As mentioned, the big names in the social sphere may be too expensive, but their mass followings may also be less engaged than a smaller influencer. Someone who has built up a strong following of say, 5,000, may have better engagement rates than someone with 50,000.
- Create a community. What are you selling and what do you want this influencer to portray to their following? Creating a community feel where a user feels part of it, not only appeals to Gen Z but will ensure your audience has more longevity with your brand.
10. Interactive content
Gen Z is a highly engaged generation that loves to participate in interactive experiences.
Create interactive content like quizzes, polls, contests, questions and games to engage this audience and encourage them to share their experiences with others.
Overall, appealing to Gen Z requires a shift away from traditional advertising tactics and towards more personalized, authentic, and engaging strategies. By understanding the unique preferences and behaviours of this generation, marketers can create more effective campaigns that resonate with their target audience.
To read more about Gen-Z’s attitudes and behaviours, see:
- What financial services brands can learn from TikTok
- Feeling the squeeze: #BudgetTravel on TikTok
- #BookTok: from romance to rebellion
By: Louise Alestam