Gen Z Insights

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Five Generation Z characteristics brand managers can’t ignore

by Christina Germano
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    More than any previous generation, Gen Z asks brands to reflect its social, economic, and moral values. They expect companies to meet these high standards and will direct their dollars accordingly.

    If your business wants to earn its stripes with Gen Z, be sure to take note of the characteristics that set this generation apart—and make Gen Z an irresistible market force.

    They value inclusion and diversity

    As America’s most diverse generation in history, they celebrate difference and rank inclusivity as a top priority. If your marketing doesn’t reflect these characteristics, it’s time to make the shift.

    This mindset extends beyond products to the people who represent them on screens, billboards, and in-person. If your models and spokespeople all look alike, your message may not resonate with  Gen Z, who want their media to reflect the diversity they see in the world around them. If your ads feature individuals of diverse backgrounds, genders, and orientations, you’re on the right track.

    Once you have diverse representatives of your brand, the next step is showing them as they are—not in artificial situations. Exude authenticity, and you won’t just connect with this generation, you’ll also  open your potential market up to anyone who sees themselves represented.

    Gen Z favorite Starbucks took this lesson to heart when it opened its first U.S. sign language store in Washington, D.C,  in good company with the likes of Skechers, H&M, Hurley, and ASOS, which also embrace diversity in their industries.

    They have a fluid mindset

    Gen Z has broken with countless  long-held beliefs that defined past generations . For one, they don’t necessarily buy into  demographic silos that would pin them to a single race or gender, instead embracing a fluidity that transcends binary distinctions. Failing to see how Gen Z views these categories won’t win you any friends or customers. These “identity nomads” fully expect the currents of life and culture  to take them in a variety of directions throughout their lives .

    Previous generations looked to brands to help define them. By contrast, members of Gen Z seek out products or services that fit their already established identities. Rather than seeking to shoehorn them into your story, ask yourself how your brand can help tell their story.

    They’re not always on their phones

    While smartphones are a vital part of Gen Z life, a majority also pursue offline hobbies, such as music, sports, art, and cooking. And brands who want to reach them have found offline success. One particularly effective form of promotion—once thought to be decidedly old-school—is out-of-home (OOH) advertising. In-store displays, billboards, and posters all appeal to Gen Z, who see them as a welcome break from the relentless onslaught of digital messaging that follows them across devices. Companies like Spotify, Taco Bell, and Kate Spade have all made innovative strides in this field.

    They trust friends and family over celebrities

    Gen Z trusts  recommendations from their family and friends over messages delivered from brands themselves (as does 83 percent of the general public). They crave authenticity and honesty in their marketing, and that is most easily delivered by people they already know.

    Enter the nano-influencer, an ordinary social media user with 2,000-10,000 followers who has impressive influence over Gen Z’s buying habits: 22 times  the number of buying conversations and up to 11 times  the ROI on a traditional digital ad. You likely already have them among your customer base. Reach out to them personally and start a conversation about leveraging their influence. .

    They want to change the world (and expect you to help)

    Gen Z wants to remake their world for the better. If your company’s actions match that mission, they will show up. Indeed, six in 10 Gen Zers align with brands that speak to issues of race, poverty, human rights, and sexual orientation. Brands that carefully address these issues can ignite the passion in Gen Zers and use it to grow their audience. 

    So if you want Gen Z’s commitment, the rules are fairly simple: be authentic, put actions to words, embrace diversity, and be prepared to roll up your sleeves and do a little good in the world.

    Want to dive deeper and learn the do’s and don’ts of Gen Z marketing? Start with our free report, the Gen Z Marketing Playbook.

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