Gen Z Men: An Introduction for Brands

Gen Z men - what makes them tick? We’ve outlined the characteristics brands should be aware of when advertising to this group of young consumers.
Fanbytes | Gen Z men

In 30 seconds:

  • Reaching male Gen Z audiences requires brands to understand what makes them tick.
  • This younger generation of men have different attitudes and interests to their predecessors, so you have to approach them in a new way.
  • We’re sharing the interesting characteristics of Gen Z men, and top tips for how brands can utilise this knowledge to nail their campaigns.

According to the Pew Research Centre, Generation Z is the most diverse generation in history. Gen Z is an umbrella term for an age group with a multitude of perspectives, experiences and personalities – but when many marketers discuss Gen Z, they tend to flatten them into one homogenous group.

A key example of this is discussing the differences between genders amongst Gen Z. Attitudes towards gender itself are shifting notably amongst this age group, and more Gen Z than any other generation regard gender constructs – and the notion of two genders – as irrelevant. Perhaps partly down to this, most marketers’ efforts to understand Gen Z thus far have taken a gender-blind approach. 

But generalising can also lead to missed opportunities. Ignoring the Gen Z male perspective could mean losing out on a chance to connect with a hard-to-reach yet valuable group.

What do we know about Gen Z men, then? Here’s our introduction for brands.

Gen Z vs Millennial men

It seemed only a short while ago that marketers were scratching their heads over millennial men. So, how is the Gen Z cohort different?

Research found that, when it comes to societal issues, millennial and Gen Z men are largely aligned in their views. Both believe that same-sex marriage is a good thing, for example.  

A huge difference between Gen Z and Millennial men, however, is the world they grew up in. Gen Z is characterised by their status as “digital natives” – they’re the first age group to grow up without a memory of before the internet. 

The way Gen Z men are influenced to buy products is markedly different to millennial men; and this reflects in both the products they buy and their attitudes towards purchasing them. Gen Z men grew up surrounded by online ads, and they’re much less likely to accept bad digital services, such as irrelevant digital marketing or slow web pages. They complete a greater portion of their purchases digitally, and more of them buy from brands they only encounter online. They’re also more likely to use a smartphone to make their purchase.  

Having a strong online presence isn’t regarded as competitive; it’s the minimum. Instead, Gen Z men want the brands they support to represent more of a holistic lifestyle, including marrying ethics and forward-thinking campaigns that have a wider impact on society.

Fanbytes | Gen Z Men’s style

Gen Z Men’s Style

We’ve previously explored how the fashion industry is one in which the impact of Gen Z’s attitudes are seen most clearly – and this is certainly true of Gen Z men’s fashion. In fact, brands that cater towards Gen Z men in particular have noted a significant change in the way this group approaches style. 

Gone is the millennial men’s style of skinny jeans and a t-shirt. Here to stay is a focus on individualism, and mindfulness of the environmental impact of fashion brands. 

Gen Z men are big on self-expression, and they’ll experiment with bold colours, styles and accessories in service of this. 58% of this group are willing to pay more for products targeted towards their personalities. OnePoll found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of young men feel more confident when they wear jewellery. And, like their female counterparts, they search for inspiration on social media platforms like TikTok; in the US, more than half of men aged 18-24 learn about beauty from TikTok. 

Gen Z men have a keen eye for nostalgic style. Research has shown that in moments of economic turmoil, humans are more likely to feel nostalgia. But whereas young women have resurrected the Y2K styles of pastel “baby tees” and diamanté denim, Gen Z men’s fashion features baggy jeans and corded headphones to make an “anti-finance bro” statement.

Gender and fashion for Gen Z men: Does it matter?

Recent trends towards gender neutral or gender-agnostic fashion and beauty advertising have seen growing popularity amongst Gen Z – of all genders. 

A survey by StudyFinds found that, among all respondents, 70% of young adults claim that their style is less bound by traditionally “male” or “female” expectations of fashion. 33% of Gen Z men said they believe clothing targeting a specific gender is old-fashioned. Forward-thinking brands are capitalising on this: Gucci’s engagement with Harry Styles (who famously wore a dress on the cover of Vogue) to design a Gen Z-orientated collection is a great recent example. 

Half of Gen Zers think that society is not accepting enough of individuals who identify as non-binary, or outside of the traditional gender binary. So for fashion and beauty brands, embracing gender fluidity and multi-gender expression is a key opportunity to win over young people

Fanbytes | Gen Z men’s finances

Gen Z men’s finances

We’ve discussed in our article on Gen Z finance how this group wants to avoid the financial mistakes of older generations. 70% of Gen Zers check their finances daily, and 12% have already begun saving for retirement. A recent study shows that 72% of American Gen Zers believe they’ll be wealthy one day (compared to 44% of the general population). But do Gen Z men differ from their female counterparts?

Bloomberg reports that both Gen Z men and women have sought financial education despite a lack of access in schools and communities, but found men are less worried about debt. It’s Gen Z women who are most likely to cite debt as a potential barrier to financial success. This is particularly interesting given that Gen Z women were also more likely to have zero debt (36.08%) vs. Gen Z men (31.09%).

Gen Z views financial discussions in a more social framework than their predecessors. A survey found that 64% discuss investments with friends. 41% of Gen Z respondents to a Fidelity survey said that they turn to social media influencers to educate themselves on investing. 

However, there are pronounced differences between genders when learning about finance. In another survey, almost double the number of Gen Z women said they learned personal finance from their family vs. Gen Z men. Instead, Gen Z men would rather learn about finance online: Gen Z men vastly preferred YouTube as a source of financial information (27.17%) vs. Gen Z women (11.98%).

Gen Z men are clearly more trusting of social media when considering finances. They are also more prepared to take on risk: whereas 38.1% of Gen Z women indicated they were not interested in investments, only 25% of Gen Z men were not interested. This explains why 52% of Gen Z men in a survey said they had invested in cryptocurrency and/or stocks (vs. just 32.50% of Gen Z women).

Gen Z earnings: is there a gender pay gap?

Gen Z women may have less debt, but this chimes with their hesitancy to take on risk in the form of financial investment. Does this indicate differences in attitudes towards financial security between genders?

Short answer: yes. 

While the gender pay gap is currently smallest for Gen Z vs. other generations, female Gen Zers are less optimistic about their job security and earning potential. Gen Z women are more likely to be concerned that COVID-19 will harm their jobs than men. Gen Z women also have significantly greater concerns about the impact of the pandemic on their finances. Additionally, when considering their career growth, Gen Z men were more interested in high future earnings, whereas Gen Z women said they looked forward to increased responsibilities.

Gen Z is young in the workplace, so differences between genders in salaries are less pronounced. However, what remains to be seen is whether a greater disparity emerges as this group ages – and this concern is reflected in the greater levels of apprehension seen in Gen Z women.

Fanbytes | Gen Z men’s entertainment

Gen Z men’s entertainment

We’ve covered work – now let’s look at play. Is there a difference between Gen Z attitudes to and predilections for entertainment vs. older groups, and where do Gen Z men differ from women?

Gen Z loves to stream video content. When compared to older adults, 18-to-24 year-olds are more likely to stream video content. In fact, 44% of young adults stream 3+ hours of video each day. Interestingly for this brand-sceptic generation, video can make marketing more palatable too: People between 18 and 34 are 1.5 times more likely to watch a video made by a brand compared to those aged 55 to 64.

It’ll shock no one to learn that Gen Z are fans of social media for entertainment, too. 65% of Gen Z say they use social media to find entertaining content. 

Regarding sports, there are also marked differences between generations. Only 53% of all Gen Zers identify as sports fans, compared to 63% of millennials and 63% of all adults. This shift is even more pronounced when examining Gen Z men specifically: only 58% of Gen Z men identify as sports fans compared to 75% of all adult men.

What competitive activities do Gen Z men enjoy more, then?

One key activity is gaming. 91% of Gen Z males regularly play video games, a figure higher than millennial males (84%). Gen Z men also enjoy watching others play video games: 75% claim to regularly watch gamers, a 25% increase over millennials. This explains the huge success of live-stream gaming platform Twitch, which 41% of US-based Gen Z males use. 

Clearly, gaming is here to stay. In fact, one study found that two-thirds of Gen Z men say gaming is a “core component” of who they are. You can read more about the key gaming influencers to get to know in our article here.

Gen Z men’s music tastes

There are plenty of articles out there telling you the most popular artists amongst Gen Z generally, but finding Gen Z men’s specific tastes is a more taxing task. There aren’t many streaming services that split their results by gender. Luckily, we’ve got the goods in the form of Gen Z’s most-watched music videos from Vevo – and the data shows an interesting pattern.

Source: Vevo Internal Analytics, U.S. March-May 2021 viewing metrics.

Only Lil Poppa, Olivia Rodrigo, Giveon and Lil Yachty feature in two lists, and there is no overlap between male and female. Male Gen Z tend to prefer male rappers (in fact, male Gen Zers exclusively prefer male artists in this list), whereas Gen Z females are more likely to prefer music by female pop artists (though they also prefer music by male artists).

Brands should take this learning into consideration if they are looking to target a specific gender amongst members of Gen Z by using popular artists. What interests the entirety of Gen Z does not always reflect the tastes of one particular gender or subgroup.

Fanbytes | Gen Z men’s health and nutrition

Gen Z men’s health and nutrition

What do Gen Z men eat? Apparently, not their greens. The UK government recently found that Gen Zers are not eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and are eating less of these healthy foods than older age groups. Instead, Gen Z are eating more pre-packaged sandwiches and ready meals than millennials.

Gen Z males are the most likely group to eat burgers once or twice a week. This could be explained by the fact that they’re more likely to eat meat: Gen Z females are slightly more likely to be vegetarian than their male counterparts. This correlates with Unidays’ findings that Gen Z males are more likely to report being “into” a high protein diet (over 60% of males, versus only 35% of females). 

Previous generations have held beliefs about a “manly plate”, but for Gen Z, eating “like a man” is becoming less important. There is still “some consideration” of some diets as more feminine, but this is fading. Instead, Gen Z is generally more concerned about where their food comes from. Nearly 40% of Gen Z say sustainably sourced ingredients are very important in their food purchasing decisions.

That same conformity to traditional masculinity is also often cited as a barrier to positive men’s health behaviours, but Gen Z men are more progressive here, too. Studies have found that younger men’s behaviours and beliefs are changing – it’s not “unmanly” to seek medical help. 

On a similar note, Gen Z also generally has a stronger understanding of the relationship between physical and mental health. 77% of this age group are motivated to exercise to improve their mental health, and that number skews higher for Gen Z men in particular (82.6%).

Gen Z men and mental health

“Toxic masculinity” is the phrase referring to the correlation between traditional masculine ideals and the inability to express oneself emotionally, leading to less positive mental health and well-being. As Gen Z starts to question traditional gender norms, are Gen Z men in a stronger emotional and mental state than their millennial predecessors?

Unfortunately, recent events have made that question more difficult to answer. In 2021, Deloitte reported that Half of UK Gen Zs feel stressed most of the time, and 46% of Gen Zs globally say they feel stressed or anxious all, or most, of the time. 22% of Gen Zs in the UK have even taken time off work due to stress and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then there’s the cost of living crisis. This is now a leading cause of concern amongst Gen Zers in the UK, with 31% of Gen Z saying financial worries is their gravest concern – knocking climate change from last year’s top spot.

Young men are likely to feel insecure about their appearance, too. As we wrote about in our Body Positivity article, when 18-24-year-olds were asked if they wanted to “change”, 97% of women said yes, but a shocking 100% of men said the same. 78% of Gen Z men feel pressured to be ‘summer body ready’; partly because of their increased consumption of social media. The New York Times reported on the emergence of “Bigorexia” amongst Gen Z men, whose interaction with fitness influencers led them to feel muscle dysmorphia. 

Brands reaching Gen Z men need to be very careful about how they engage with the body positivity movement. We’ve gathered insights and actionable steps in our report, Sex, Sexuality and Gen Z: Understanding Gen Z and How to Work With Them.

5 Gen Z male characteristics brands need to know

It’s not just the fashion, music, finance, food and drink or entertainment industries that need to take note of Gen Z men’s differing attitudes. *Any* brand hoping to cater to Gen Z men should know that Gen Zers are more than their reported 8 second attention spans

Here are 5 more characteristics brands should take note of:

1. They’re driven to succeed

Throw out your notion of Gen Z as “lazy and entitled” – the reality is that this generation is motivated to succeed, and they put in the work to make it happen. 

72% aspire to own a business – and a further 3 out of 4 believe they’re responsible for driving their own careers. 

Gen Z was raised through times of global economic stress – and it’s made them pragmatic. The good thing for brands is that, by understanding and recognising this, they can cater campaigns to appeal to a generation searching for realistic solutions to their problems. 

2. They trust word of mouth more than traditional advertisements

There’s a reason influencer marketing has surged as Gen Z has grown into their consumer status; while they have grown to distrust traditional advertisements and those which feature celebrities, Gen Z reports being more likely to buy a product based on a recommendation from an influencer. 

And, since 76% of Gen Zers follow at least one influencer on social media (and 45% follow over 10), it’s easy to see how working with content creators is a direct line between brands and Gen Z audiences. 

One thing that’s important to note: for a huge 95% of Gen Z men, YouTube is their primary source of information. 

Brands should consider using Gen Z influencers to deliver campaigns directed at Gen Z audiences in order to reap the benefits of this trust. 

3. They’re on track to be the best-educated generation

Despite an early characterisation as the generation that would turn down further education, it seems that Gen Z are on track to beat out every previous generation when it comes to levels of education.

Amongst 18-21 year old high-school leavers, 57% were enrolled in college. This is more than both Millennials (52%) and Gen Xers (43%). 

And even on their favourite social media platforms to unwind with – like TikTok, where men account for 39% of users – a hashtag like #LearnOnTikTok has over 246B views. 

Brands should consider campaigns that both entertain and educate, embracing both Gen Z’s preference for entertaining content, and the likelihood that the majority of the audience are students. 

What do Gen Z men want to learn about?

We used our social listening tool, Bytesights, to see the subjects Gen Z men are most interested in learning about on TikTok. These include:

  • Life hacks
  • Fitness and health
  • Culture and history
  • Recipes
  • Science and space
  • Sports
  • Finance and business
  • Sex and relationships
  • Reviews
  • Exam tips

To learn more about reaching Gen Z through #LearnOnTikTok, read our TikTok education article.

4. They embrace societal change

As we noted earlier, Gen Z’s concern for societal causes influences their consumption habits; 70% say they try to purchase products from companies that they consider to be ethical. 

And, while one study found a percentage of Gen Z men who believe feminist factions has gone “too far”, their views overall reflect this generation’s diverse makeup. Inclusivity and feminism are not just attractive to this generation: they are the standard.

Brands should be aware that Gen Z consumers pay attention to the way businesses operate, and 69% are more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes that they care about. 

What does this mean for your campaign? Brands should not shy away from advertising their values as well as their products, as these messages that are most likely to succeed in capturing Gen Z audiences (provided they are backed up).  

5. They’re tech focused

98% of Gen Z owns a smartphone. A huge 97% of Gen Z report using social media as their top source of shopping inspiration. 

Plus, 56% of Gen Z is friends with someone they only know online. This generation spends more than 4 hours a day on apps, with social media platforms like TikTok being a firm favourite.

It means an effective way to reach Gen Z is on social media. Advertising to Gen Z men should prioritise social media campaigns – and establishing a social commerce presence is likely to appeal to Gen Z consumers. 

Reaching Gen Z men: align your brand message

Effective targeting of Gen Z Men is reliant on brands understanding what it is that makes this group tick. 

With an endless wealth of options available to them, both online and in-person, Gen Z can be a difficult group to target – but they’re one of the most loyal consumer generations when they approve of a brand. 

Since diversity and societal concerns feature so heavily in Gen Zers’ ethics, brands that aim to please them can’t avoid making their own attitudes clear. The good news is that, as long as you follow your words with actions, you can expect to attract Gen Z’s approval. 

As for Gen Z men, they’re more open to self-expression than previous generations, so ensure that your campaigns highlight how your brand can appeal to each individual. Get to know them: this generation loves personalisation after all, so if you demonstrate you’ve taken time to understand them, they’ll reward you with their custom.

Reach out to them where they are – on social media – and you’ll find Gen Z men willing and eager followers of brands who ‘get’ them. If you’re unsure where to start, get in contact. As Gen Z marketing experts, we’ll be able to shine a light on your audience segments and help you stand out to them for all the right reasons.

Want to learn more about how to effectively advertise to Gen Z? We have further insights right here: 

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