Three Things Brands Need to Know About Marketing to Gen Z Consumers

November 16, 2022
7 min read
Three Things Brands Need to Know About Marketing to Gen Z Consumers

Over the next ten years, all new adults will be members of Generation Z. Roughly defined as those born between 1997-2012, Gen Z is poised to be the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet, and a key consideration for marketing strategists today.   

Four years ago, Mintel’s team of global beauty and personal care analysts coined an acronym to help identify this next wave of consumers: AVID.  Approaching adulthood, Video driven, Influencer aware, Digitally native consumers.

Gen Zs have unique interests, behaviors, and expectations when they shop. Brands and retailers looking to target and appeal to them will want to tailor shopping experiences and product offerings to meet their needs and preferences. So how do you market to this “AVID” generation? What do they look for? Here, we break down three key things brands need to know about marketing to Gen Z consumers.

1. They’re digitally savvy

Older generations think they know what being ‘digitally savvy’ means, but it goes further than you might think. Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with smartphones, tablets, and platforms like social media and YouTube as the norm. The oldest Gen Zs were 11 when iPhones first launched (2007), soon followed by the iPad (2010).

This generation’s media habits and usage of digital technology are forcing businesses to approach them differently than previous generations. Having never known a world without it, social media is integrated into the fabric of Gen Z and is paramount to how they communicate. They are intolerant of traditional ads, which makes them tune out. But they are open to being influenced by people they genuinely trust, including celebrities and micro-influencers (who Gen Z find more authentic and emotionally appealing).

Gen Z’s usage of social media is a behavioral trait that sets them apart as a generation. But more importantly, it creates new avenues for marketers to connect with them. Gen Z has a tendency to shop with smartphones; this mobile-first economy creates opportunities to engage with them at any time and anywhere. Brands and retailers will continue to leverage channels where these consumers typically consume content (eg social media platforms) to drive discovery, engagement, and, ultimately, purchases. Leveraging brand-owned apps and digital offerings can also drive engagement and loyalty.

2. They care about the world around them, and the people in it

Gen Z has experienced several economic and social traumas. They are no longer willing to be silent about the cards they’ve been dealt. They are calling for social and environmental change, and are holding corporations accountable for their actions.

Gen Zs are more likely than older consumers to pay attention to brands’ values/missions and to support those that align with them. They are also more likely than others to sign online petitions, but less likely to donate money. This is a generation that has learned that a small gesture can go a long way if enough people contribute. Not only does that make it easier for them to support causes, but it also lets them support a wide range of causes rather than committing to just one.

For marketers, that creates the opportunity to connect causes with purchase behaviors. Category players that lead with a cause that aligns with Gen Z’s values are better positioned to connect with this audience, thus driving more brand engagement and, ultimately, repeat purchases from an engaged target. Whether it’s supporting local communities, helping the environment, or being an advocate for demographics that have long been overlooked, there are countless ways to become a brand that Gen Z shoppers are proud to buy from.

Companies that can make consumers feel like they are doing their part by purchasing their products will disproportionately resonate with Gen Z, which believes that enough small individual actions can add up to a big collective effect.

3. They understand complexity and want brands to be real

Gen Z is more diverse than any previous generation in terms of race, gender, and sexuality. They value individuality, while proudly supporting equity and inclusion. They rally behind authentic and accurate representations of all life’s aspects.

Over half of Gen Z consumers in the US feel they would be better represented in advertising if more people without perfect lives were shown. Therefore, brands looking to increase their relatability among this generation would do well to focus on creating ads that embrace inclusivity and use real people rather than relying on celebrities, influencers, or models held to unattainable beauty standards. Importantly, beyond focusing on physical characteristics, brands must also consider highlighting “unseen” issues such as those relating to physical and mental health. By doing so, brands can give a voice to these consumers and relate to them in a more authentic way.

Gen Z wants realistic, authentic, and attainable representation, and will increasingly expect brands to destigmatize flaws and work to undo unrealistic beauty standards. This desire for authentic content is further reflected in the growing global popularity of BeReal – a French social media app that aims to promote authentic, unfiltered photo sharing by giving users a daily two-minute window in which to share an unfiltered photo of what they’re doing in the exact moment. 

As the most diverse generation, members of Gen Z will be more inclined to notice any instances of discrimination or underrepresentation. As almost one-third of Gen Z adults say they would feel better represented if they saw more racial diversity and more people who do not follow “traditional” gender stereotypes in advertising, it is important that brands take note and deliver on this desire if they want to accurately represent this generation. Gen Z consumers in the US are more likely than average to shop from beauty brands with diversity and inclusivity.

They are also more open to new thinking, culture, trends, and lifestyles, while at the same time, well aware of the learnings from the experiences of older generations. That is partly why they appear so complicated. For brands, it is crucial to respect different choices and think the way Gen Z does – equal communication, daring to express themselves, and sparing no effort to love what they love.

What we think

  • Marketers have mastered the complex art of understanding Millennials, but Gen Z is now emerging as the new, influential kid on the block. Brands will need to diversify their approach to connecting with Gen Z. They must understand the generation’s nuances, target them with relevant products, and craft relatable narratives.
  • Gen Z’s potential buying power is valued in the billions, and with only half in the workforce, it won’t be long before they fully transition into financial independence. Moving forward, the various forms of value and technology that enhance and make shopping fun, as well as ethical practices will all be important to better appeal to Gen Z consumers.
  • To reach Gen Z, brands should focus on being transparent about their values, market using authentic representatives, and be willing to embrace new digital ways of reaching consumers. But regardless of age, a product’s quality and the brand image are the bottom line of consumer purchasing values, which should always be a brand or company’s focus. 

Interested to learn more about Gen Z? Check out Mintel Little Conversation Podcast Ep. 101 – Debunking Gen Z: The truths, trends and behaviours brands should pay attention to.

Subscribers of Mintel’s premium food and drink content can log in now to read a special five-part series on Gen Z, titled ‘Inside the curious culinary world of Gen Z,’ by Jonny Forsyth, Director, Mintel Food & Drink.

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