In 30 seconds:
- Marketing to Gen Z is a completely different ballgame to targeting Millennials or Gen X.
- Unlike these previous generations, Gen Zers are ‘digital natives’ having grown up online – and they’re demanding more from brands in these spaces.
- To reach a Gen Z audience, brands must have a clear idea of where they are, what they want, and how to get their attention. That’s where we can help.
Marketing campaigns aimed at Gen Z don’t look like the ones we’ve grown used to for Millennials in recent years.
Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, are the first generation of digital natives. That means they’ve never known a world without the internet, and traditional advertising campaigns just don’t cut it for them.
In fact, 69% of Gen Zers report avoiding ads altogether, and they’re adept at using ad-blockers or employing the well-practised scroll to sweep past anything that looks like a boring ad on their phones.
For marketers, this can present a real problem. After all, Gen Z is soon to become the biggest consumer generation, with a spending power of $360 billion, and capturing these young people as a consumer base is vital for brands looking to succeed in the future. But if you can’t reach them via traditional means, how can you seize this opportunity?
Well, there are a few ways that marketing campaigns can not only stick the landing well enough to avoid the dreaded scroll, but actively improve brand sentiment amongst Generation Z.
What is unique about marketing to Gen Z?
First things first, brands have to be aware of Gen Z’s impatience for boring content.
You may have heard that Gen Z have a “short attention span”. It’s reportedly even shorter than that of millennials – 8 seconds to a millennial’s 12. As Gen Z marketing experts, we can tell you that this is kind of right: tech-savvy Gen Z has no patience for boring digital experiences, be it slow-loading pages, long-winded checkouts, or drab ads.
You have 8 seconds to capture Gen Z’s attention. But if you can spark their interest in that time, you can engage them for longer. This means that any marketing campaigns have to be eye-catching and snappy if they’re going to get a chance amongst this generation.
Gen Z differs from older generations in a few other notable senses, too.
They’re the most diverse generation in history. That’s in terms of race, gender and sexuality. According to a Pew Research Study, Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation. One-in-four Gen Zers is Hispanic, 14% are Black, 6% are Asian and 5% are another race or two or more races.
An unprecedented number of this younger generation identify as LGBTQ+; 15% to be exact. Not only that, but half believe that traditional gender roles and labels related to the gender binary are outdated.
Why does this matter to brands?
Because Gen Z wants to support brands that support them. 70% say they try to buy from brands that they consider to be ethical – highlighting a trend McKinsey has called “consumption based on ethics”. Successful marketing to Gen Z therefore means engaging with activism: delivering an ethical view of your brand in an entertaining, engaging way. Easy, right?
How do you market to Gen Z?
Never fear – for those developing their marketing strategy for 2022, these top tips for marketing to Gen Z will help you nail your campaigns and capture a Gen Z audience.
1. Focus on social media
When you consider that only 51% of Gen Z watch an hour or more of TV a day (compared to 74% for Gen X), it’s clear that social media marketing is where you stand the highest chance of getting an audience of Gen Zers.
Social media platforms are well aware of their incredible potential to leverage Gen Z’s online time into value for brands. There’s an upward trend in social networks increasing their e-commerce offerings – like TikTok’s live shopping launch, and a new place for product drops on Instagram.
Making sure your brand has an active social media presence is step number 1 in targeting Generation Z.
2. Think video-first
Of course, which social media platforms you choose to use is key.
When you consider that Gen Z overwhelmingly (91%!) prefers video content to static ads, it’s obvious why so many brands are exploring the world of TikTok – a video-first social media platform. It certainly doesn’t hurt that over half of Gen Z consumers are on TikTok, or that it’s the place where they’re most likely to interact with brands‘ content marketing.
Video is popular for a reason: it’s eye-grabbing and ear-catching, it’s entertaining, and on platforms like TikTok, it’s a vehicle for Gen Z to collaborate and interact with the brands they love.
3. Incorporate experiences
73% of Gen Z rate experiences over new products.
That’s a huge majority – especially when you consider how the Coronavirus pandemic interrupted Gen Z’s ability to search out in-real-life experiences.
Now, there’s a chance for brands’ marketing efforts to provide the experiences this generation of consumers feel they “missed out” on during Covid – putting them in a great position to increase brand sentiment, and capture some of that all-important brand loyalty.
Plus, one survey found that Gen Z want the brands they support to be ‘fun’, so going out on a limb and providing a memorable experience is definitely one way brands can establish a reputation for positivity amongst Generation Z.
If you can make real-life, fun experiences that Gen Z are excited to share on social media, you’re in for a win. Find out more about how brands can use experiential marketing to reach Gen Z.
4. Use influencers
We couldn’t write a guide on marketing to Gen Z without mentioning influencers.
Influencer marketing is perhaps the best tool in a marketer’s kit when it comes to reaching Gen Z audiences. That’s because they’re more likely to buy a product based on a recommendation from an influencer, and 70% say they trust influencers more than celebs when it comes to purchasing decisions.
Stats like these are why influencer marketing is growing in popularity year-on-year. Now, 51% of marketers report that using influencers nets them better customers.
If you can find the right influencer for your campaign, you can leverage their trustworthiness, their existing audience, and their platform expertise to benefit your brand campaign.
Read more about how to perfect your influencer campaign in our guide.
5. Stay authentic
This is a big one – and it’s where brands most often go wrong.
Marketing to Gen Z might feel more demanding than attracting new customers from previous generations – but don’t be tempted to put on a show that you can’t back up.
Above all, it’s authenticity that Gen Zers want from brands.
82% of Gen Z respondents say they trust a company more if it uses real customers in its advertising, and they search for that same authenticity in every aspect of a brand’s marketing. If a claim is made but not backed up, young consumers are able to sniff it out.
It’s so important, in fact, that platforms like TikTok recommend that brands focus on authenticity in their online content if they want to create a positive impact and attract Gen Z followers on the app.
Top Gen Z marketing examples
Looking for inspiration? These Gen Z marketing campaigns leveraged some of the above tips for campaigns that succeeded in capturing Gen Z.
An intimate lifestyle company known for its luxury sex toys, BDSM accessories and massage products, Lelo challenged us with creating mass brand awareness and buzz on TikTok. The only problem? TikTok bans most sexual content.
Instead, we tapped influencers’ comedic, entertainment and educational skills to drive clicks and traffic to LELO’s website. Account Manager Sonia Gordhandas says “Knowing that we couldn’t speak too freely on TikTok, we wanted to create a level of intrigue.”
Sonia explains, “It showed the power of not selling a product, but a message – what you stand for as a brand.” Crafting these TikTok creatives was a balancing act. We also used a mix of different sexualities. The result? The campaign exceeded guaranteed view deliverables by 100%, achieved 1.8 million views, 13,000 website clicks and a 65% engagement rate.
You can read more about the campaign and what brands can learn from it in our report, Sex, Sexuality and Body Image: Understanding Gen Z and How to Work With Them
The Institute of Physics
Understanding how to capture Gen Z’s attention is vital for learning. Our work with the Institute of Physics made headlines as it used TikTok’s short-form video content to leverage ‘micro-learning’ to make physics more attractive to younger audiences.
In this campaign, TikTok influencers demonstrated engaging, at-home experiments. Fanbytes Account Manager Fiona Kolade says “the comedic challenge route was highly entertaining and the perfect way to attract the interest of the target demographic.”
Microlearning is 17% more efficient than longer-form learning, and Gen Z strongly prefers it. It’s not something traditional marketing can offer – but TikTok is different. By combining short facts in an engaging, video-first format with what Gen Z loves most about TikTok – influencers – we were able to capture their imagination and turn it into a boosted interest in physics.
Once a year, you’ll find your social media platforms inundated with a familiar looking series of graphics all detailing someone’s listening history.
Spotify Wrapped, which first launched in 2015, is the ultra-shareable end of year offering from music streaming service Spotify. It takes a user’s listening history and generates some key figures for them to share online – creating a huge influx in user-generated content across social media.
Why is it so popular? Not only is it inherently shareable, but it’s also highly personalised; 50% of this demographic want personalised products, and 44% are willing to trade their data for a more personalised experience.
Swedish singer Zara Larrsson debuted Ellesse’s Autumn/Winter ‘21 collections in a world first: a shoppable real-life concert live-streamed on TikTok. We created a diverse mix of TikTok influencers to support the campaign. This project was underpinned by a need for personality and precision: influencers would represent Ellesse’s aesthetic, and their dances would synchronise perfectly on stage.
Fashion & Beauty Account Executive Michaella White created a roster of the best TikTok influencers, who each wore different outfits from Ellesse’s new collection, and used a branded effect to create a harmonised aesthetic.
We achieved a total of 1.8M+ influencer views, overdelivering our guaranteed influencer views by more than double. The campaign received 31K+ likes across all videos. Additionally, the hashtag challenge secured 4.2 billion views. Ultimately, our collaboration with Ellesse illustrates how powerful an interactive campaign can be for reaching younger audiences. By nurturing Gen Z’s creativity, brands can effectively align with this demographic while achieving extraordinary results. You can read more about the campaign here.
Dunkin’ (formerly Dunkin’ Donuts) knows the way to Gen Zers’ hearts is through their stomach… and their TikTok feed. The brand is known for its TikTok influencer collaborations, most famously with TikTok star, Charli D’Amelio. After the teenager featured Dunkin’s products organically in her posts, the brand reached out to her to promote a new drink ‘The Charli‘.
The ‘Charli’ helped Dunkin’ reach a huge Gen Z audience and created a surge in Gen Z memberships in its DD Perks rewards program. The brand has since upped the momentum of this campaign by launching ‘The Charli remix’ drink.
That’s not the only influencer campaign from Dunkin’. It recently worked with New York based micro-influencers for their #SpringInWithDunkin campaign, where they enlisted help from micro influencers to promote a giveaway to local audiences. Dunkin’ also recently turned to TikTokers to front a major TV ad via a casting call-style challenge, unlocking huge views and an incredible boost in brand sentiment. You can read more about Dunkin’s campaigns and the other best food brands on TikTok here.
Ubisoft’s Riders Republic is a great example of influencer marketing breaching the gap between gaming and real-life sports experiences.
Riders Republic is an extreme sports game. We worked with top TikTok and Instagram creator talent, including Olympic athletes Bethany Shriever (@bethanyshriever) and Kye Whyte (@kyewhyte) alongside well-known gaming influencers to spread the word through a variety of creative routes. The result was a tidal wave of positivity, with the comments section full of Gen Zers keen to try the game for themselves.
We’ve mentioned above that Gen Z responds well to influencers. By working with this calibre of talent, we were able to demonstrate the similarities between gameplay and real-life sports. It capitalised on that trust, and brought sports fans to the game as well as avid gamers.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) had faced a challenge when attracting Gen Z members. They came to us for a fresh approach for the new generation. We worked with influencers to run polls on their Instagram Stories and Snapchat, which helped inform our insights around how Gen Z views accounting. The results revealed a common misconception; that accounting is mainly for “older, white men” from a “privileged background” who are “good at maths”.
We then delivered a campaign that challenged our audience’s existing perceptions. We used influencers that did not fit Gen Z’s idea of a ‘typical’ accountant, working with ambassadors from different backgrounds and identities. Their content ranged from personal stories to comedic videos about becoming entrepreneurs.
We over-achieved the KPI of 1 million views with 1.5 million views, achieved an engagement rate of 15%, and over 10,000 clicks to The Guardian x ACCA event site – leading to the highest ever number of sign ups for an event run by The Guardian.
Marketing to Gen Z: Lessons for brands
When your company is marketing to Gen Z, it can feel like you’re navigating through a maze of directives.
In reality, it’s much simpler than it might appear. A marketing strategy that focuses on authentic, entertaining content, content that has an ethical stance, is video-first and hosted on social media, is bound to land well amongst the digital-first generation tired of seeing traditional ads all over their screens.
Gen Z knows what they want, and that can make them seem like intimidating customers, but brands who are open to learning and getting stuck in will soon find that this generation of fun-loving changemakers are loyal customers, once you’ve found them.
We have even more advice for brands with Gen Z in their sights: