Four Realities about Generation Z (And Four Ways Brands Can Adapt)


With many marketers focusing on how to reach millennials, sometimes Generation Z gets left out of the picture. But, this up-and-coming group can’t be ignored.

Born from the mid-90s to 2010, they pack serious purchasing power through gift cards and parental persuasion. More so, they have the ability to impact brands via social like no generation before.

And, brands beware: Zs have big expectations. Those who understand four realities about this unique generation will be poised to meet their needs and succeed in the years ahead.

Reality #1: Generation Z was born to share.

Sharing has a different meaning to Zs, who are used to operating in a web of connected friends, media and entertainment. When they hate the plot of a TV show, or love a new video game, they don’t call up their friends. They put it online through Facebook posts, Tweets, Snapchat stories, Instagram pics … the list goes on.

And, because Zs know they have a powerful voice, they’re more demanding of brands. Don’t like the design of the new Air Jordans? Generation Z will be the ones who tell Nike exactly how they feel.

How to Respond: It’s essential that listening and fast response are key tenets of your community management strategy. Simply by listening to user comments, answering questions or sharing feedback, Gen Z will feel you’re a brand who cares.

To encourage them to share, make sure you’re creating content that Zs enjoy. A fun brand voice, engaging content and incentive to share is a winning combo.

Reality #2: Generation Z will research everything. 

Some suspect Generation Z will be warier with money as they reach adulthood. A Forbes study cited 57% of Zs saying they would rather save money than spend it immediately: “After seeing their parents lose jobs and their older siblings move back home, this generation will avoid debt. They’ll find the best deals and will expect to test out products physically or virtually before they buy.”

How to Respond: As with millennials, traditional advertising isn’t likely to be as effective with Generation Z. They will turn to online reviews, bloggers and product experts to learn about products. That’s where a brand advocacy strategy becomes critical. By harnessing people who love your brand, and encouraging or incentivizing them to share their opinions online, you’ll provide a source of authentic information that Z is likelier to trust.

Reality #3: Zs Need High-Octane Engagement.

Remember the whole “they have high expectations” thing? This is especially true when it comes to entertainment. They’ve been witness to the rise of 3D movies, life-like video games, and insanely creative advertising.

How to Respond: There’s no room for boring brand messaging here. Instead, focus on a strategy that delivers engaging content. Consider bringing game mechanics into your marketing, like voting, rewards, points, contests and competition, to spur action.

Wrangler ran an exclusive sweepstakes on Facebook using Promotions. Giving their fans a chance to win a five-night trip to the CMA Music Festival, the contest also ran across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook ads. Bringing game mechanics into their marketing was a win for the brand, netting more than 48,000 new fans, over 11,000 sweepstakes entries, and a 63% increase in daily engaged Facebook users.


Reality #4: Zs Are Visual Creatures.

It may be hard to understand, but Gen Z uses YouTube like it’s Google. A Wikia study shows that 54% visit YouTube multiple times a day. Visual sharing sites like Instagram and Snapchat are also huge avenues of communication for teens.

How to Respond: If you’re wondering how you’ll afford to generate expensive video and photographs, remember that over-produced, high-gloss media is not necessarily the ticket to engagement. (Grainy, poorly filmed videos of cats dancing on pianos get millions of views, after all). But, for those that appreciate quality, apps like Instagram make it simple to create a beautiful photo without a professional photographer. When equipped with a smartphone and the right apps, you can make magic happen on the cheap. 

If you’re still strapped for visual content, consider encouraging followers to submit pictures and video (i.e. crowdsourcing images). This can be an effective engagement strategy and a way to accumulate more visual content to share.

A world-changing generation

It’s exciting to watch Generation Z come of age. They’re poised to transform companies, media, creativity, and how our society works and plays. Taking the time to understand them now will position you and your brand to succeed when this revolution comes.

Jaime Netzer's picture

Jaime Netzer

Jaime Netzer is Content Marketing Strategist, leading content operations in marketing at Spredfast. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly.