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Gen-Z Marketing 101

Who is Gen-Z?

As with most generations, it’s hard to put an exact date on who exactly qualifies as a member of Gen-Z, but general estimates put the starting years somewhere around 1996 and 1997, and the ending years somewhere between 2010 and 2012. As you might notice from this date range, this is a generation which has grown up completely surrounded by the rapid advancement of technology. Even those on the older side of the Gen-Z spectrum likely had computers and cellphones in their household for a large portion of their formative years. While millennials helped to shape the internet we know and love, Gen-Z took that internet and made it their own. From Tik-Tok celebrities, to surreal memes and worldwide political activism campaigns, Gen-Z undoubtedly knows how to play the social media game far better than any of the prior generations. Some brands have taken notice of this, rejecting traditional notions of seniority and experience to work with members of Gen-Z to advance their company’s social media presence.

Understanding what makes Gen-Z tick can be a difficult, even treacherous task. Born with their faces placed in front of glowing screens from a young age, this generation’s aptitude for understanding the fast-paced nature of our changing world, and their sheer ability to command vast sums of influence through social media can strike fear in the hearts of even the most seasoned digital marketers. That being said, it is crucial that business owners understand how to market to this highly influential generation. Below are my top three strategies for marketing to Gen-Z.

Marketing to Gen-Z through Authentic Connection:

Gen-Z has a nose for fakery— Having grown up on the internet, they are used to being bombarded with digital advertisements 24/7. The older members of Gen-Z have essentially seen every marketing scheme and trick in the book. Unfortunately, this means you can no longer rely on old, outdated marketing tactics. Corny jokes and catchy hooks are simply not going to cut it when appealing to this generation. In a world of digital illusions, Gen-Z is desperately seeking businesses with authenticity and sincerity of purpose. In order to market to Gen-Z you and your company are going to have to do some deep work to understand what your brand is offering to your customers and the world. I suggest using real, relatable people to advertise and promote your company. Don’t rely too heavily on actors, fraudulent influencers, or overt product placements. Gen-Z can see right through all of that.

Social Awareness and Selling to Gen-Z:

Gen-Z has a deep sense of social responsibility and political awareness, more so than most members of previous generations. This is one of the biggest reasons why I believe that incorporating social causes which you and your brand care about into your marketing tactics can be a fantastic means of winning Gen-Z over. Many brands have gone to great lengths to achieve this, creating eco-friendly product lines, enabling monetary donations to various organizations with purchases, and diversifying their models and employees. These are all wonderful ideas, but I want to build on the previous point here: If your brand does this in a corny or inauthentic manner, the backlash will be far greater than the payout. Gen-Z does not want to be patronized. Subtlety is absolutely key here, and if at all possible I suggest you only associate your brand with causes you genuinely care about. It may sound a little woo-woo, but I firmly believe that being true to you and your brand’s values will always work out better than running with whatever hashtag is currently trending on Tik-Tok.

Collaborate and Brand Yourself with Gen-Z:

Gen-Z doesn’t just want to be a passive consumer of your product. They want to be a part of a genuine movement. That’s why I believe collaborating with Gen-Z is an absolutely crucial aspect of marketing to this generation. Instead of only posting your brand’s original content, brands ought to consider reposting content from their followers. The ability to create this kind of inclusive, collaborative marketing is what I consider to be one of the biggest advantages of marketing through social media, as this is something that simply cannot be achieved with traditional marketing strategies. I’m going to give you some harsh advice here— Collaboration and sharing are a huge part of Gen-Z’s core values, so if you are trying to market to this demographic and not collaborating with your brand’s audience directly, you are simply wasting your time.

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