How to connect with Generation Z: Insights and tips for marketers

Welcome to a world where digital natives reign supreme, and traditional marketing tactics are no longer enough. This world belongs to Generation Z, a diverse and influential group of consumers who are the trendsetters and tastemakers of tomorrow. In this blog, we’ll explore the most effective strategies to stay ahead of the curve and reach this powerful audience. From understanding their values and beliefs, to creating authentic and inclusive campaigns, we cover it all.

Insights:
Before we explore the best strategies for marketing to Generation Z, it’s essential to understand who they are and what makes them tick. Generation Z is defined as the individuals born between the years of 1997 and 2012, making them the youngest generation in the workforce and consumer market.
One of the most defining characteristics of Generation Z is their relationship with technology. These consumers have grown up with smartphones, social media, and instant gratification, making them one of the most tech-savvy generations to date. In 2021, The Influencer Marketing Factory reported that 97% of Australian Generation Z consumers are inspired by social media when shopping. Furthermore, 65% use social media to source entertaining content, with video content being the most interesting type of media viewed (The Influencer Marketing Factory 2021).
Generation Z is also the most diverse generation in history, with a range of ethnicities, cultures, and languages represented. They are socially conscious and prioritise issues such as environmentalism, diversity, inclusion, and mental health. Additionally, they demand authenticity from the brands they support and are quick to call out any performative behaviour. According to B and T (2023), almost 3 in 4 of Generation Z “actively seek to be more authentic and real online and they’re expecting the same from the brands they communicate with too.”

Ultimately, these insights provide a starting point for understanding Generation Z as consumers, but it’s important to note that there is significant individual variation within the generation as well. By keeping these insights in mind and continuing to learn about the habits and preferences of Generation Z, marketers can create strategies that resonate with this demographic.

Strategies:
1. Embrace the Power of Influencers
As Generation Z is highly influenced by their peers and social media personalities, influencer marketing is notably a highly effective strategy for reaching this generation, as these individuals are more likely to engage with brands that are recommended by people they trust. However, it’s important to select influencers who genuinely believe in your product or service and can help you build trust and credibility with your target audience. Consider partnering with micro-influencers, who have a smaller following but a more engaged audience. Micro-influencers are more affordable than larger influencers and they can help you reach a more niche audience that is highly engaged with your brand.
Brands should also consider partnering with well-known celebrities, as, although they may be more expensive, they already have an existing level of trust and credibility within their target audience. Additionally, if you execute your strategy correctly, you might just find it not so expensive after all. In 2014, Australian swimwear brand, Triangl, skilfully targeted well-known celebrity influencer, Kendall Jenner, by gifting her friends, Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid a swimsuit, and not Kendall. Loving the brand, it wasn’t long before Kendall, and her fellow Kardashian sisters, reached out to the brand personally and requested some suits of their own.
Although the brand never asked for a single Instagram post or even a tag on social media, it was this out-of-the-box influencer strategy which launched Triangl into the US market. The hype came naturally from publications like the Daily Mail, and word of mouth came from teenagers who loved it. Costs were down, and sales skyrocketed from $25 million in 2014 to $60 million in 2015 (Foundr 2022). This is just one of many examples that show how easily influenced Generation Z can be, particularly inside the social media space.

2. Make Use of Experiential Marketing
Generation Z is drawn to interactive and immersive experiences, so incorporating experiential marketing into your strategy can be highly effective. Virtual reality or augmented reality experiences can give your audience a unique and memorable experience that sets your brand apart. Experiential marketing also allows your audience to engage with your brand in a more meaningful way, which can lead to increased brand awareness, loyalty, and sales.
Interactive experiences can also be strongly linked to the increasing popularity and usage surrounding gaming. Gaming not only engages and entertains an audience, but also provides a unique way for brands to showcase their products and services. For example, the free VR app ‘PICTOFIT Shopping’ allows users to create personalised shopping experiences from the comfort of their own phone. Users can shop through a large selection of clothing items from various companies and pop it into a dressing room when they are ready for a virtual try on. By utilising a “photorealistic avatar” users can scan their face, upload their dimensions, and try on their selected outfits, mixing and matching with different apparel and backgrounds (TechFashionIsta 2022).

3. Use Social Media to Build Online Communities
Social media has come a long way since the birth of Generation Z. What was once a simple platform people used to connect, is now an uber-powerful marketing tool, transforming the way marketers create content and consumer experiences. Since the introduction of Facebook in 2004, social media has evolved significantly, especially since the launch of new features, including instant messaging, status updates and news sources. In 2023, popular social media platform, Tik Tok even started being used as a search engine tool, replacing websites such as Google. “According to Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president at Google, around 40% of young people (aged 18 to 24) are using TikTok or Instagram for finding lunch recommendations” (ChannelNews 2022).
Although social media is a key channel for reaching Generation Z users, it can also be used to build positive (or even negative) communities around your brand. By creating branded hashtags and encouraging your audience to share their experiences and stories with your brand, a sense of community can be created, fostering long-term engagement and loyalty with the brand.
YouTube is a great example of a social media platform which strongly encourages audience engagement, interaction, and brand communities. According to Morning Consult’s 2022 survey, 88% of Generation Z users spend most of their screen time on YouTube. Whether a creator is utilising YouTube to promote themselves as a brand, or a brand is utilising YouTube to promote a product, this platform can help promote content that is authentic, entertaining, and highly relatable to viewers.
Recently, in their initial efforts to promote their new energy drink, PRIME, Youtuber’s Logan Paul and KSI used their collective YouTube subscriber count, of 39 million, to upload a video of themselves going undercover as PRIME employees at Walmart and pretended they had been hired to promote PRIME. Generating 9.9M views, over 15K comments and over 500K likes, the success which followed was not only a direct response of the duo’s business partnership formation, which joined two brand communities into one, but also the multitude of advertising videos which were published on the duo’s Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok accounts. This included a video of Logan Paul sitting on a beach with a beard, with the caption reading “POV: You’ve been on an abandoned island for five years and you’re mad thirsty, but you launched a hydration drink w/ your rival now turned business partner, so you’re always quenched.” Gaining tens of millions of views over all social platforms, PRIME’s marketing strategy is a perfect example of the impact in which organic social media, viral marketing and brand communities have on a brand when executed correctly.
It is important to note that not all generations are familiar with the same platforms as Generation Z, and even if they are, they will not be exposed to the same algorithm. According to Sprout Social (2023), the Instagram algorithm “is the set of processes Instagram uses to understand what users like. The platform uses this information to show people more of what they enjoy by predicting what content someone will find interesting and engaging.” Ultimately, when PRIME launched in early 2022, it became apparent that a large portion of parents and guardians were heavily ignorant to the viral marketing campaigns which were being launched on social media, and, even more consequentially, ignorant to the harmful effects in which PRIME had on the human body. The product has now been banned in Australian supermarkets for containing double the legal caffeine requirement.
By keeping in mind their digital savviness, preference for authenticity, and desire for social consciousness, marketers can create campaigns that effectively reach and engage this important audience. It’s also essential to remain adaptable and keep an eye on emerging trends and technologies to stay ahead of the curve. Looking towards the future, personalisation, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and augmented reality will continue to be important factors in Generation Z’s purchasing decisions. By focusing on these trends and considerations, marketers can successfully connect with Generation Z and ensure the long-term success of their brand.

References:
The Influencer Marketing Factory 2021, Status of Social Commerce Report 2021, The Influencer Marketing Factory, viewed 26 April 2023 https://theinfluencermarketingfactory.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/social-commerce-report.pdf
B and T 2023, Snap // Shots: Gen Z Report Offers New Perspectives On Australia’s Young People, B and T Magazine, viewed 27 April 2023 https://www.bandt.com.au/snap-shots-gen-z-report/  
Foundr 2022, How Erin Deering Built Triangl Into a Swimwear Movement – Exclusive¸ Foundr, viewed 26 April 2023 https://foundr.com/articles/building-a-business/erin-deering-triangl  
ChannelNews 2022, Tik Tok Becoming Gen-Z’s New Google, ChannelNews, viewed 28 April 2023 https://www.channelnews.com.au/tiktok-is-gen-zs-new-google/  
Morning Consult 2022, Gen Z is Extremely Online, Morning Consult, viewed 28 April 2023 https://morningconsult.com/2022/12/12/gen-z-social-media-usage/
Sprout Social 2023, The Instagram Algorithm: How it works and Strategies for 2023, viewed 1 May 2023 https://sproutsocial.com/insights/instagram-algorithm/
TechFashionIsta 2022, 7 Best AR/VR Apps to Try Virtual Fashion On, TechFashionIsta, viewed 1 May 2023 https://thetechfashionista.com/best-apps-to-try-virtual-fashion-on/