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Marketing to Generation Z

An extraordinary amount of time and energy (not to mention digital ink) has gone into investigating millennials. It’s become a cliché: articles about what millennials are (and are not) spending their money on, what industries they are killing next. But for all this effort, comparatively little has been written about the generation that comes after them: Gen Z.

Generation Z refers to anyone born roughly between 1995 and the mid-2010s. It’s a critical young market that represents 26 percent of the U.S. population. That’s larger than millennials, Generation X, and even the much-vaunted Baby Boomer generation. More interestingly, these youngsters are growing up quickly, and as such, they represent a largely untapped market with enormous potential purchasing power.

If reaching this market makes sense for your business, read on: Marketing to Gen Z can be a tricky proposition. They’re a smart, savvy bunch, and to gain a competitive edge, it’s critical you understand how to connect with Gen Z, first.

What does this post-millennial generation value?

Above all else, Generation Z values authentic connections. This can be expressed in many ways.

Social media

Generation Z doesn’t remember a time before social media. Their social media accounts aren’t a novelty or a means of staying in touch, but rather an extension of their very identities and one of the primary ways that this generation interacts with the world. They’re constantly connected – not only to their friends and family, but with brands as well.

It’s only natural, then, that Generation Z leads the world in the use of several social media platforms, including YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, Kik, and Periscope. However, the platforms they gravitate to are the ones that allow them to selectively connect rather than broadly over share.

For example, they typically prefer Snapchat (where they can easily specify who sees their snaps, and content has a very limited lifespan) over Facebook (where everyone sees everything, forever).

Visual content

Because Gen Z has grown up with technology, they’re typically connected to this technology at the hip – operating with as many as five screens at a time.

While this means Gen Z is exceptionally open to digital content, it also means if content doesn’t capture their attention, they’ll waste no time in clicking through to something that does.

To connect with Gen Z, they want messages that are concise, eye-catching and easy to comprehend. Visuals need to be clear and bold, with great design and high impact.


Don’t talk down to Gen Z. Don’t pander to them. And certainly don’t treat them like younger millennials.

This is a generation who watched their parents struggle during the Great Recession. They’ve watched millennials get slammed for coming across as whiny and entitled. They’re pushing themselves harder then ever in school, even though they know they’ll graduate with crushing debt and insecure job prospects.

But despite it all, 89% of them remain optimistic about their futures. They’re determined to make a difference. And they deserve to be treated like the young adults they are (or soon becoming).

How can you connect with Gen Z?

While these caveats may make it seem that Gen Z is a difficult market to tap into, by following a few key guidelines you will find yourself quite easily speaking this generation’s language:

  • Reach out to them were they are: social media. If you’re marketing to Gen Z, a social media strategy cannot be an afterthought or add on, but rather the core of what you do.
  • Make a mobile strategy a key part of your marketing plan. Gen Z interacts with the world via tablets and phones more than any other, and reaching them on this platform is critical.
  • Pay attention to the details. If your Instagram image is badly formatted or you misuse a hashtag, they’ll notice. And probably laugh at you.
  • Develop an authentic brand voice. Don’t try to be something that you are not. Strive for clarity, honestly and genuine vulnerability.
  • Give back to the world. If you’re invested in the same causes as Gen Z is, they will be invested in you. Roll up your sleeves alongside this group and empower them to work together to create an impact.

Have you had any great success stories about marketing to Gen Z? Share them with us, and we’ll try to publish your best advice in a future post!

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