Reaching Gen Z

Generation Z is the same, but different; they’re involved and want to improve the world, but connect to causes that fit their personal brands; they live on social media, but are the most active on sites that don’t broadcast to the world. Born after 1995, they came into a post 9/11 world that was dealing with an economic recession and a surge in social media, topped with a change in social and cultural norms.  Gen Z makes up over a quarter of the population and spends $44 billion in the US. So how can brands reach and connect to Gen Z? We have some advice:

  1. Understand what drives them. Living in a world where social media is as commonplace as family dinner, it needs to be recognized that Gen Z has an innate sense of curating their personal brands. They like what they like, and they know they don’t need to jump on the bandwagon if something doesn’t align with their values. They’re ‘careful consumers’ who know they’re needed. Gen Z feels empowered by being able to personalize, and giving them control over preference settings is a good way to have them feel as they’re making something their own. Each Instagram page is exactly what the user wants it to be, and each tag is an endorsement for a brand that the user feels they can genuinely vouch for. They will not be swayed into believing ingenuine campaigns, and they have the tools at their fingertips to do the research if they have a glimmer of a doubt.
  2. Be authentic. This generation also carries causes close to their heart; a majority of them are concerned about affordable education, education access, and human rights (both racial and gender equality). Over half of Gen Z wants jobs that impacts the world and a whopping 76% are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet. In short; by involving a company in a cause, it will be more marketable and human to this generation. They overwhelmingly share the mentality of being ‘one based on acceptance, not tolerance’. This is why ads that glamorize situations do not speak to them, while ones illustrating people in realistic situations do.
  3. Be short but ubiquitous. Because of the overstimulation of all types of media, they have a fine-tuned filter to determine if something aligns with their brands. To try to stay ahead of this, note that Gen Z is more apt to respond to images than text and brands have about 8 seconds before they turn their attention to the next screen. Because they are multitasking, it’s important to note that just one platform is not enough to draw attention to a brand. Campaigns need to be built out over several platforms to be recognized, then remembered. Forty-one percent of Gen Z spends more than 3 hours a day on the computer for pleasure, and over half of them use YouTube for research assignments instead of traditional sources.
  4. Be part of their journey. A vast majority of Gen Z wants to create their own businesses and turn hobbies into full time jobs. More 80% of them think that they are more driven than their peers. Gen Z wants to be involved in resolving issues, but on their own terms. By providing them the opportunity to use a brand and its causes in their own way, Gen Z is more likely to respond and consider you in their arsenal.

Adweek –

  • Want to be involved in more issues and resolving them, but on their terms
    • Take a more liberal stance and more about equality across the board
  • Need to present the situation and let them make of it what they will. They will form opinions individually but not be molded
    • Want to create their own identities and have brands give them the ‘tools’ to do so
  • Willing to work hard for success
    • Almost like they have something to prove. Personal success ranked as most important to them
  • Affordable education and education access, followed by racial and gender equality are top 3 social issues
    • Expect brands to support their causes, but about the same as millennials do
    • Human rights, race, sexual orientation, and poverty
    • Expect real life situation ads with a variety of people, dislike ads that glamorize
  • Use social media, but a majority are on youtube, then Instagram, twitter, snapchat
    • Twitter declining except for discussions on big news topics
    • Majority of snap chat – quick messaging and keeping everybody up to date
    • Use Instagram to really build their own brand/ post ‘aspirational images of themselves’

Edelman –

  • Gen z has ‘ annual purchasing power of $44 billion’
  • Probably the most diverse generation; have a ‘we are one mentality based not on tolerance, but acceptance’
  • Because of the information overload, gen z has to filter through what’s worth their attention; about 8 seconds
    • Because of the ‘multitasking nature’ of this generation, ads need to be approached in a multi-platform way
    • More evidence that gen z can sniff out somebody trying to hard and not being ‘real’
    • More evidence that they want to create and build their own brand with brands aligning with their image – want to create instead of RT or RP

Mashable –

  • ‘Growing up post 9/11, recession, changing norms, gen z is more mature, self-directed, and resourceful’
  • Over half of them use youtube for research assignments
  • Because of the DIY culture, vast majority want to own their own businesses, turn hobbies into full time jobs, and 80% of them think they’re more driven than their peers
    • 60% of them want jobs to impact the world and 76% are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet
  • 41% of them spend 3+ hours a day on the computer for pleasure
  • More evidence of keeping them interested with small bits of graphics; tap into their entrepreneurial spirits
    • ‘Empower them with control over preference settings’


About PlayOn!

PlayOn! is the expert on high school communities. Our mission is to honor and celebrate the commitment and achievements of high school students, parents, coaches, and teachers — inside the walls of the schools and in communities across the country.  Our services, products and programs exist for students and teachers by students and teachers. Our corporate partnership program supports this mission by teaming up with organizations that share our values and seek to support our communities’ needs.

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