How Your Brand Can Get Ahead with Gen Z

Insights / 2020.04.30

How Your Brand Can Get Ahead with Gen Z


Love them or hate them, Millennials have been the target generation on everybody’s mind. The term “Millennials” is so pervasive that even recently, it was incorrectly used in news stories to describe twenty-somethings buying up travel deals as COVID-19 began to impact the US. The catch? They were actually talking about Gen Z. 


Who is Gen Z, and why should my brand care?


Gen Z is made up of pre-teens to young twenty-somethings setting trends on and offline. They're doing everything from creating viral social media challenges and being the first to adopt new channels (we see you, TikTok) to leading national - and even global - movements for the environment, gun safety, and more. 

As digital natives, they're also leading the demand for frictionless, personalized digital customer experiences.

With safety measures like shelter-in-place accelerating the adoption and consumption of all things digital, these experiences are no longer going to just be a best practice for brands after COVID-19; they will be the norm.

It’s hard to scroll through social media without seeing variations of “life after COVID” predictions. We’ve even made some of our own. And it begs the question - what does marketing look like after COVID-19? Now more than ever, looking to Gen Z can help brands plan for what’s next and prioritize steps to get there.


Insight #1: Gen Z makes no online/offline distinction


Since the internet has been around their entire lives, Gen Zers move seamlessly between on and offline channels - and so should your brand experience.

Connected, personalized experiences are key to keep Gen Z engaged. And it’s not just about plugging their name into communications. Brands need to tailor the experience differently for this audience or they'll miss out. Leveraging prior behavior in a way that acknowledges who they are or makes their next step easier is one way brands can show they care about their Gen Z customers (and every customer). That respect will win brands the next purchase, and the ones after that. 

Gen Zers are also tech-savvy. They tend to be early adopters of digital offerings and functionalities. Prior to today's social distancing requirements, Gen Z was the driving force behind features like online ordering. One way brands can make the most of this unprecedented time is to look to Gen Z for inspiration. Incorporate other Gen Z-driven technology for everyone, enhancing life now and the years to come.


Insight #2: Gen Z's mantra is "prove it to me”


Unlike the idealistic Millennials who came before them, Gen Zers are more pragmatic decision makers, seeking truth and authenticity in every area of their life. This means they have strong points of view and want the same from others. They expect brands to take a stand and are likely to call out brands for inauthenticity (at best) or injustice (at worst).

Gen Zers do their research. They always have their phone on hand to cross-reference multiple sources of information. They prefer to stay informed via online videos, and over half are consuming even more online video content now than before COVID-19. Now is the time for brands to grow their canon of online content and create virtual or video options that enable customer interaction with products during their multi-channel decision process.

Finally, just because Gen Zers won’t compromise on substance doesn’t mean they don't care about style. They respond well to edgy, visual marketing tactics - so long as they are perceived as authentic, not pandering or capitalizing.


Insight #3: Consumption is the manifestation of Gen Z's unique identity


Other generations determine status by ownership. Gen Zers determine status by uniqueness and authenticity. They prefer to express their individuality through products over experiences. However, their view of products is flexible and can include both temporarily-owned items and technology-enabled access.

When it comes time to decide which products to buy, Gen Z purchases are a direct reflection of their unique selves at that moment in time, not a reflection of who they want to be or qualities they share with others. While other generations view corporate social responsibility as a plus, every Gen Z purchasing decision is seen as an ethical decision. Brands that can tap into this generation’s strong sense of individuality, fluidity and purpose will win come decision time.

While recent events may have thrust Gen Z into the spotlight, this group has led emerging marketing trends for some time. As consumers of all ages are forced to embrace new ways of connecting with brands and each other, we’ll see more of these habits and preferences become mainstream.

Experiencing a pandemic in their formative years will also fundamentally change Gen Zers' worldview, which could alter or refine how they interact with brands. At the very least, it’s likely to intensify their characteristics that all consumers are discovering now, like judicious, ethical spending and a fluid approach to learning and work. 

For now, we’ll be watching closely to see how Gen Z responds to this new normal so we can help brands map their response. If you’d like to learn more about how we can support your marketing strategy, send an email to