Attracting Gen Z

Gen Z is complex; there’s no doubt about it. They live in the past, but at the same time, they’re defining the future. Born between 1997 and the early 2010s, Generation Z is the group that all marketers are working hardest to understand. They’re growing up in the digital age where social media establishes trends and forms their outlook and opinions. 

Not everyone agrees with Gen Z, and you don’t have to. Still, they aren’t going anywhere, so the best way to fully understand their sometimes conflicting needs is to do what it takes to better understand them both as people and as a primary target audience. Here are two things you need to know:

Gen Z Is Ambitious

They look ahead to a better world. Not only are they pushing themselves, but they’re driving change for tons of important social issues like gender equality, sustainable environment solutions, mental health, economic security, racial equity, and so much more. Seriously, they’re incredible.

The pandemic was eye-opening for everyone. No matter your age, it instilled a sense of uncertainty about the future, but the impending sustainability crisis and rapid rise of tech left Gen Z highly aware and exceedingly nervous about the challenges they face ahead. 

They’re woke (for lack of better words), which means they’re experts at weeding out the brands lacking purpose and that don’t have their best interests at heart. In fact, a GWI article shared that today’s generation will happily “dispose of brands that don’t stand for something.” Take Patagonia’s “Vote the Assholes Out” tags, for instance. It’s honest, it’s bold, it expresses their values, and it sets them apart. 

Gen Z Is Nostalgic

To this generation, ‘90s and Y2K style is “retro” (feel old yet?), they TikTok like their lives depend on it, and they’ve even (somehow) reintroduced Juicy Couture tracksuits! Tiny bags are back, flip phones are a fad, claw clips are the latest craze, and they’ve made America pop-punk once again. Perhaps the biggest blip—and one we’re willing to overlook—was that one time Gen Z-aged Kanye West fans thought the beloved rapper/producer discovered “that one old guy in the FourFiveSeconds song” and made him famous. You know, that one old guy Paul McCartney? Sigh.  

Some might consider nostalgia unhealthy, but to most and specifically to Gen Z, it’s comfortable — it’s clear that this idealized view of the turn of the century is a soothing distraction from the chaos of the world, but that’s not to say they aren’t taking some time away from thrifting and TikTokking to do their part and change that world.

Marketing With Purpose (To a Driven Generation)

Now that you know what’s most important to the generation that makes up over 20% of the population, here are some strategies for reaching them and connecting with them in a lasting and impactful way.

Form a Community — Non-hierarchical leadership is essential. Create a collaborative community where your consumers can go to connect. Amplify your aligning core values and brand beliefs and engage in a way that they can feel heard like through interactive polls and feedback requests. 

Be Authentic — Showcase your personality. It’s okay to be funny and feel real feelings. Just look at Wendy’s! The only thing spicier than their nugs is their Twitter feed, and over time, that’s earned them a whopping 4 million followers.

Gen Z is attracted to the real and relatable, so don’t be afraid to show behind the curtain. Highlight the process and the people behind the brand, share your brand’s take on social justice initiatives, and don’t be afraid to make waves. 

Be Interactive — If you haven’t noticed, this generation likes to be involved. They want to engage with the brands they follow, so experimenting with interactive elements like user-generated content (UGC) opportunities, polls, quizzes, and swipe-to-react features is a sure-fire way to elevate your brand.

Leverage Visual Content — ICYMI (or live under a rock), Gen Z has quite the appetite for short-form video content, so incorporating this into your practices is key. Consider favored visual platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok to increase your reach.

Be Responsive — And embrace feedback! Undivided attention, strong customer service, and timely responses go hand-in-hand with brand loyalty. Take it a step further by asking for and welcoming feedback. This makes your audience feel heard and like their opinion is valued while setting your brand up to be the best it can be.

Tap Into FOMO — If there’s anything Gen Z has a fear of—and any other generation, really—it’s a fear of missing out! Show the people what they’re missing and create a time-sensitive buzz around special promos, deals, and product launches.

Long story short, don’t talk about it, be about it. Don’t claim to be authentic and transparent or to be a brand that takes a stand—DO IT! This is a powerful generation that’s proven time and time again to be all about action, so let your actions speak for themselves and command the attention your brand deserves.