Strategic Ways Of Marketing Your Brand To Gen Z

According to Sheila McGillivray, Tribe Leader at One Lady And A Tribe, individuals born from mid-1990 to 2014 are Gen Z consumers who are growing up to be ‘millennials on steroids’. These digital natives will make up 40% of all customers by 2020, so its best we elevate their potential buying power to become a marketing priority. As the focus in June is youth, here are 16 ways in which to market to the Gen Z demographic.

1. Use real(ish) people

’67% of Gen Zs prefer seeing real people in ads,’ according to Dana Communications. ‘Real people’ means micro-influencers and not the hugely paid Instagram celebs. The unofficial definition of  a micro-influencer is to have an average of 10,000 followers and that they be who they say they are – not who they’re paid to appear. Indeed, Google found that 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers relate to YouTube ‘creators more than traditional celebrities’.

2. Personalisation over data privacy  

‘Gen Z is the first generation to intrinsically combine the digital and the physical worlds’ – WP Engine. The idea that Gen Z would be less concerned about data privacy than personalisation came as a surprise to me, but it seems this is actually because they are so astute at using ad blockers and savvy privacy settings. Having said that, a report by WP Engine report found: ’45% of Gen Z will provide data to prioritise a personalised experience over privacy with a further 55% of Gen Z believing websites will become more human in experience.’

3. Use language wisely

Gen Z want quality products but are also big on authenticity, so advertising jargon or marketing speak will be an instant turn off. User generated content (UGC) is a good way to attract the attention of the youth as they rely heavily on online reviews and comments. Have open social media platforms for real discussions to take place and don’t try to jump on every trend. Be real and mediate honestly on social media. 

4. Deepen the Connection

This speaks to the previous point of languge too. To deepen the connection with Gen Z, showcase real stories. As Saja Chodosh of Emotive Brand writes, ‘Think experiential events, mixed medium, VR – experiences that allow individuals to shape them.’ Also consider engaging the youth by doing surveys, having community conversations and focus groups to get real-world insight into the difficulties Gen Z face on a daily basis.

5. Monthly subscription boxes

Subscription e-commerce offerings are escalating rapidly and have had, according to, over 100% growth each year during the past five years. A ‘mystery’ or ‘try before you buy’ box satisfies the cautious spending habits and the curiosity of Gen Z. Starting off mainly in the beauty industry, there are now subscription boxes for everything, including book clubs, ‘dog products’, ‘geek gear’ and more. It’s a great opportunity for cross-pollination of like-minded but different products within one subscription box.

6. Ship up or shape out

In Morning Consult’s study of Gen Z’s Top 25 Favourite Brands, one of the things which impacted on brand love was whether it had fast, reliable shipping of goods. Gen Z literally have a world of options at their fingertips. If brands don’t move quickly, they are out of the picture. For brands to be successful with Gen Z, they’ll need to have super speedy shipping and keep their delivery promises.

7. Transformation and education

Many Gen Zers aspire to a life of ongoing personal transformation. This includes being as highly educated as possible, for as little expense as possible. Education technology or EdTech is a ‘global phenomenon’ and has a market expected to grow at 17% per year, to US $252 billion by 2020.

According to the Digital Marketing Insitute, ’33% of Gen Z prefer to watch their lessons online, while 32% choose to collaborate with their classmates via the internet.’ This makes an alliance with an EdTech platform a good idea for brands wanting to appeal to the Gen Z market.

8. Don’t dictate

We can learn from the Chase Bank’s recent #MondayMotivation Twitter fallout. In a hypothetical conversation between a customer (about the low funds in their bank account) the bank’s Tweet suggested they, ‘Make coffee at home’, ‘Eat the food already in the fridge’, as well as ‘You don’t need a cab, it’s only three blocks’. Corporate greed dictating to their fictional customer? Not going to work.

9. Know you don’t know more

We live in a world where the Gen Z customer really is always right because they’re hard wired to research everything, to question quality and to speak up about the things that don’t align with their values.

10. Act more frugal

Many Gen Zers grew up learning how to be frugal and luxury brands are taking note of this and moving away from the so-called ‘culture of exclusion’. We see this happening with brands such as Hermès, who are trying to become more ‘street’ and accessible to the Gen Z audience.

11. Be ‘Glogal

Gen Z are also known as the world’s first global generation and according to cultural mythologist John Bucher, Gen Zers generally prefer phygital (mixed-reality) experiences as they provide a ‘best-of-both-worlds chance’ to take a break from their constantly connected lifestyle. This means being ‘glogal’: keeping a close eye on global digital and physical trends and, especially in the case of South Africa, integrating them with local flavour.

12. Individual fluidity

For this point I can’t say it better than this insightful article on Gen Z from Mckinsey: ‘For Gen Zers, the key point is not to define themselves through only one stereotype but rather for individuals to experiment with different ways of being themselves and to shape their individual identities over time. In this respect, you might call them ‘identity nomads.’

13. Entrepreneurial

Gen Z want to be independent. An HBR study found that 25% of Gen Z students are interested in starting their own business and according to Gallup, eight out of ten kids want to be their own boss. Many teens already have a side hustle, whether it’s online or babysitting. Brands who can tap into, encourage and support Gen Z’s entrepreneurial flair will be noticed.  

14. Make it entertaining, and be quick about it

‘It doesn’t matter how good your ad is if only the first three seconds get watched. Be funny, be compelling or be skipped,’ said Head of a Gen Z Marketing Firm Crimson Connection Michael Pankowski. He reinforces the statistic that the average attention span of a Gen Zer is reckoned to be eight seconds. ‘Boredom strikes us almost immediately; sometimes we’ll click ‘skip’ on advertisements before we even know what the product is.’

15. Follow them

Gen Z basically grew up with, and were largely educated by, YouTube – which is actually still their favoured website. Facebook is for ‘old’ people, so focus on Snapchat or Instagram and chat message rather than email.

16. Values and purpose

I’ve saved my favourite point for last. Gen Z are going to cleave to brands who are real, authentic and unique but most of all, who have purpose. Growing up in the shadow of the unsustainable footprint left behind by previous generations, Gen Z want to see real change – politically, socially and environmentally. Long-term sustainable values, visibly mapped out by brands, will see them becoming favourites with Gen Z. True brand values will be the only way to keep the loyalty of a generation who will continue to search for true activists of global change.



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