Marketing to Generation Z – Their Multitude and Buying Power Prove that Youth is Not Wasted on the Young

Over the last 100 years in the United States, there’s been a trend to categorize different generations based on their behaviors.

There was the Greatest Generation – people born in the 1920s who volunteered to fight in World War II. The Silent Generation – born in the 1930s, these quietly patriotic good citizens followed society’s rules with no complaining. Baby Boomers – born during the huge economic and population growth period after WWII. They made muddy free love at Woodstock and now lovingly wash every speck of mud off their BMWs.

There’s Generation X – born between 1965-1980, who rocked big hair 40 years ago and rock big financial portfolios today. And they are grounded, influential, no-nonsense, and rather cynical and skeptical by nature. The Millennials are the children of the prosperous 1980s and 1990s – the kids that got a trophy just for showing up. Their level of self-importance can make big-mouthed Baby Boomers look timid by comparison.

But now, a new group has come of age:  Generation Z. GenZ was born between the late 1990s and today, and often overlooked by the generations before them. But that oversight is a critical mistake because GenZ makes up 40% of the U.S. population and has $143 billion in buying power, according to Forbes magazine. Wow! Who knew? Smart advertisers, that’s who.

What Traits Do GenZers Have?

As with any other generation, the trick to successfully attracting GenZ consumers is knowing how they think…and they think differently, for sure. In an article on Sprout Social, content strategist Katherine Kim explains the primary traits of GenZers:

  • GenZ are progressive, very diverse racially and culturally, and probably the best-educated generation on Earth. They’re also sure of themselves and very outspoken, especially in the digital world.
  • They’re “digital natives.” GenZers have never known life without mobile phones, the Internet, streaming video, or electric cars. These people are way beyond “plugged in.” They’re 5G Wi-Fi enabled like a bunch of 20-something robots.
  • Despite their youth, they’re generally not impulsive with their money. They take the time to research big buying decisions to really understand their options.
  • They define the “bleeding edge” of social media trends. For GenZ, having a strong online voice is the bread of life.
  • Even with these clear characteristics, GenZers hate being labeled or strictly defined, and their diversity lets them get away with that. Don’t try to tell them who they are…they’ll tell you.

How To Reach the GenZers?

So, how do marketers get the attention of this sometimes quirky, constantly online, opinionated consumer group? As noted by Sprout Social and digital marketing trends blogsite, the tricks are surprisingly easy.

Take advantage of their shorter attention span.

Eye-catching visuals, short-form videos, and bite-sized content on platforms like Instagram are the at-a-glance information sources of choice for marketing to Generation Z. More than 80% of GenZers name Instagram and YouTube as their preferred social networks, with Instagram dominating and TikTok gaining ground by the minute. In fact, TikTok is already a vital part of a strong online strategy to reach young buyers, now with almost 700 million users worldwide and 25% of them in GenZ.

Make your content as interactive as you can.

GenZ people live to take action through social media. Quick online surveys, teaser questions that require a tap to get the answer, and screen-disrupting sliders that just beg to be swiped are just a few effective touchpoints (yes, pun definitely intended).

Don’t be FOMO-phobic.

The Fear of Missing Out runs deep in GenZ. Time-sensitive offers, and buzzworthy, unexpected product launches that include short-term deals are screen magnets for marketing to Generation Z. You can even go as far as to livestream shopping during televised or online special events like annual music awards shows. “Up next, Billie Eilish performs her new hit single, and you can buy her latest album online which you watch!”

TAG…and you’re it!

Branded hashtags and requests for young consumers to spread your message by tagging their family or friends can build your prospect base at almost no additional cost, especially when a limited-time offer is tied in. In 2021, for example, Chicago’s North Coast Festival used an “act now,” tag-a-friend promotion that gave new followers a chance to win a three-day free pass to this popular cultural fair.

Get real about responding in real-time.

Forty-one percent of GenZ consumers say they would buy from a brand that’s committed to timely, responsive customer engagement. For GenZ, waiting for leads to hating.

Make company brand a good citizen as well as a good purchase decision.

Sprout Social’s recent Brands Get Real report found that GenZ consumers are 3x more likely to choose a brand that shows a commitment to the good of society. An anecdotal example of this is Subaru.  Subaru typically attracts more youthful, socially-aware buyers.  Their highly-publicized annual Share the Love sales event benefits charities like the ASPCA and Meals on Wheels. And this proves that love really is what makes a Subaru a Subaru.

Basically, to effectively engage the incredibly unique, large and financially healthy GenZ consumer base, stick to a few simple rules:  Be approachable, immediate, attentive, socially open-minded, speak in short bursts, and don’t forget to make your name stand for something more virtuous than just the almighty dollar. Be genuinely Authentic, and you’ll bring in young consumers from A to Z.