Looking to the Future and Marketing to Gen Z

Posted by: Brendan Shaughnessy

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There are over 80 million members of the millennial generation and they represent 25% of the US population and hold more than $200 billion in buying power. As much power as this generation holds, marketers always have a tendency to ask, what’s next? What do we know about the generation that follows, who will they be, how will they be different and most importantly, how can we prepare for them?

Wanting to answer these questions is fair, but the reality is that we won’t know for sure. Many people tried projecting who millennials would be based on their parents and new technological advances, but most of those projections and theories are wrong. So without trying to overthink things, let’s simply start with what we know.

What’s in a Name?

There have already been a number of names thrown around for this young generation. While some names like iGen and the Pluralist Generation are catchy, most marketers have landed on Gen Z. We know Gen Z consists of those ages 0-18 and, like millennials, they too represent over a quarter of the US population.

While they don’t currently hold direct purchasing power, over two-thirds of US moms 6871102931_1479de3d36_zfeel their Gen Z child is influential when purchasing toys, apparel, weekly dinner menu and entertainment.

Marketers will have to be smarter with how they reach Gen Z. After growing up in the midst of the recession, 57% of Zs would rather save money than spend it immediately and 72% want to own their own business. Forget living in their parents’ basement, these entrepreneurs are about to take marketers by force. So now that we know they’re important, what else should you know?

Rethinking Brand Loyalty

Marketers have been told that the way into millennials’ hearts is to create lasting relationships with their consumers and brand loyalty will grow. While creating relationships is still key with Gen Z, they care much more about the product than the reputation of a brand. According to Martin-Wilbourne Partners, consumers will easily drop a name brand product if they can find something of higher quality or that is more useful to their daily routine.

Brands can still maintain a sense of loyalty by remaining consistent and providing value past today to Gen Z. Providing a sense of stability and confidence for consumers will make brands more trustworthy in the skeptical eyes of Gen Z.

Digital Natives an Understatement

There’s no gray space here, you can put this one in the books. Gen Z is the most tech savvy generation ever, and it’s not even close. Gen Z-ers multi-task across 5 different screens daily, compared to just 2 screens for millennials. They use technology to communicate as emojis have more or less become a second language, and 76% say that they depend on technology to help them reach their goals.

With many of them now older than Google, it’s clear that growing up in the midst of tech and social innovation has created a generation with higher tech expectations than ever before. Marketers must adapt by not simply slapping up a Facebook page for Gen Z-ers to “like”, rather, a brand must fully digitally integrate itself in order to interact with Gen Z-ers as often as possible in truly authentic ways.

The Next Great Leaders

As mentioned earlier, Gen Z-ers are driven with entrepreneurial spirit, but they’re doing so at an earlier age than previous generations. Teens are giving TED talks and developing groundbreaking apps and 69% even say they want to make a significant difference in the 14836238854_f4f7493d13_zworld. While it may sound cliché that there are so many members of Gen Z ready to make a difference, the reality is that marketers can capitalize on giving these young consumers opportunities to express themselves and further expand brands through innovative ideation opportunities.

So let’s make something straight: In many ways, engaging millennials and members of Gen Z both are very similar processes. However, as time goes on, Gen Z will require more creative and robust activation plans requiring marketers to continue to integrate Gen Z though digital tactics. Marketers cannot bank on making “viral videos,” rather, the generation of tomorrow will be looking for the brands that make the strongest connection by creating quality products and offer consumers the chance to expand the brand in new, robust ways.

Photo Credit via FlickrSusan Sermoneta, Jouris Louwes & Daniel Foster


To learn more about the Pivotal Generation and their impact on the market, download our latest research report Getting to Know Gen Z: How The Pivotal Generation is Different From Millennials.

Download the latest Gen Z research now

About Brendan Shaughnessy

Brendan Shaughnessy is an Associate Strategist at Barkley. Brendan uses his data-driven background to develop strategic insights to help brands speak authentically to modern consumers and reimagine their best possible future. Client challenges are not...See Brendan's full bio.

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