“Brands targeting Gen Z need to look beyond the confines of traditional segmentation, the ultimate priority always has to be on the alignment that helps us cultivate relationships with youth culture – not just organize it.” – Gregg L. Witt, The Gen Z Frequency: How Brands Tune in and Build Credibility
Who is Gen Z?
The definition of Gen Z
Before we get straight to the point, let’s first make sure that we actually know who we’re talking about. Gen Z, commonly known as zoomers, is the generational cohort that follows Millenials and precedes generation alpha. While some sources slightly diverge from each other, the consensus is that zoomers were born roughly between 1997 and 2012. Thus, making them 9 to 24 years old as of 2021.
Being digital natives and widely tech-savvy, this has landed Gen Z the nickname of iGeneration. With TikTok and Instagram being among their preferred social media platforms, zoomers have been significantly shaped by hyper-connectivity through digital media.
The Internet and the Covid-19 pandemic are the two biggest defining factors influencing the way that they think and behave. The pandemic had a lasting effect on zoomers’ mental well-being. And they were also hit the hardest in terms of job and housing security.
The difference to other generations
Gen Z is the most liberal, modern, and diverse generation recorded in history in terms of characteristics. They are highly interconnected, demanding, and have strong expectations for brands and companies to take a stand for social and environmental justice. Ben & Jerry’s is a great example of a brand that has managed to gain the trust of the Gen Z audience by publicly and loudly taking a stand against socio-political injustices by dedicating educational posts to unjust incarceration, voting rights, and environmental issues.
Zoomers also consider themselves smart workers rather than hard workers, which differentiates them from previous generations. Coinciding with this, data shows that they are actually much more careful with their money than previous generations make them out to be; they like to spend mindfully and are oftentimes financially literate at a young age. Driven by a desire to make a lasting impact on the quest for a better world, their main stressors are – unsurprisingly – job and career, followed by school and education.
Why does Gen Z matter?
As an established brand with a solid millennial consumer base, you might be wondering: “Why should I care so much, they’re still so young!”
While this isn’t meant to scare you off, we should all take note of the fact that Gen Z is currently taking over millennials as the leading market segment. Not only are zoomers dictating the future of digital and social media, as they count the highest number of social media users. But they also don’t hold back when it comes to holding brands accountable – especially online!
Projected to have a global income of 33 trillion dollars by 2030, Gen Z will overrun millennials in spending power within the next years. Zoomers are a new cohort of consumers that brands will have to serve undeniably, market to, and communicate with for a solid while. And to do so efficiently, we must understand them first.
Needs and behavior of Gen Z
A common trait observed among zoomers is that they’re very vocal about what they want. Some might perceive this to be an entitlement. However, it is actually quite beneficial because all brands have to do is properly listen. And once they started to identify with a brand, they are very likely to stay loyal for a long period. So let’s have a look at some of the most relevant learning points for brands.
Values and purchase decisions
The most important thing to understand is that zoomers are value-driven consumers. They make decisions based on their values and life philosophy rather than solely based on their direct needs. Some of their most prevalent, shared values count transparency, visibility, activism, and collaborative innovation.
It comes as no surprise that cancel-culture is as hot as ever. With anti-centralized-power sentiments being more radicalized than ever among zoomers. Gen Z has realized that they hold power to dismantle what goes against their values. And they certainly don’t shy back from doing so.
This sentiment is reminiscent of when K-pop fans across the globe decided to assemble their forces; not only did they hijack Trump’s 2020 rallies by booking tickets and ridiculing him for the empty stadiums, but they also flooded racist hashtags on social platforms with fan cams and memes.
Interestingly enough, Gen Z really doesn’t care about the picture-perfect ideal anymore. Instead, they long for relatability, genuine connections, and educational content that benefits them on a deeper level. A key factor to note is that zoomers are much more receptive to digital content. But only if the message conveyed to them contains valuable information. Rather than just buying into a paid Instagram post that features an attractive model holding a shaker with some detox tea, they want to see real people sharing real stories.
As anticipated, the creator economy and, therefore, Influencer marketing is changing and mega influencers with millions of followers and little to no relatability do not speak to the average zoomer anymore. On the contrary, they prefer small-scale, niche-type digital creators to relate to and feel connected with.
Platforms like TikTok are a great example of this. Given that the creators that thrive most usually focus on very niche content. Not only does TikTok itself promote content by categories, but it is generally recommended to choose a niche to grow on the platform organically.
Now that we’ve had a thorough look at Gen Z and what appeals to them the most, let’s wrap things up to put your plan into action.
- Be authentic, transparent, and accountable – stand for more than just a product.
- Monitor your Gen Z audience online and listen to what they have to say.
- To promote your brand online, foster a network of authentic and niche digital creators with a story to tell and align with your Gen Z audience’s values.
- Make sure that you provide a highly personalized online experience and a smooth digital customer journey; being highly tech-savvy, they have equally high expectations regarding the functionality of online experiences.
- Organically integrate values into your brand that matter to Gen Z; think of social and environmental responsibility, diversity, and inclusion.
No go’s and pitfalls
- Lack of accountability and transparency.
- Not taking a clear position on important unavoidable topics. But having a public opinion on everything can backfire dramatically, so chose carefully.
- Diversity and inclusion tokenism; a large number of brands that posted a black square in June 2020, yet had never made significant efforts with regards to diversity and inclusion, were heavily criticized in the public eye for it.
- Hopping on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) just because it’s trending; it has to be part of your essence as a brand and shouldn’t function as a temporary accessory.
- Slow or dysfunctional websites; zoomers will abandon purchases because of it, and they don’t hold back from posting negative reviews.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of Gen Z and its needs, values, and consumer behavior. Do not hesitate to get in touch with the team if you need help with online branding!