Marketing to Gen Z: The Massive Generation That will be Coming to Age
Gen Z, the generation born after the millennials, is rapidly becoming a critical audience for marketers and brands to understand. Even if they aren’t your target at the moment, they will be soon. The Gen Z’ers, loosely defined as those under currently 20, are America’s largest demographic group (25.9% of the population). They are the nation’s first age group to be born into the digital era and already contribute $44 billion to the American economy each year.
According to a report by JWT, “over 70% of parents say their Gen Z children have the power to influence buying decisions about apparel and family meals. In just a few years, nearly 4 in 10 consumers will be from Gen Z, and their purchasing power will rise exponentially over the next 5 to 7 years as they grow to be the single largest group of consumers worldwide.” They are forming their spending habits now which can influence their habits into adulthood.
While many may view this group as simply the next wave of millennials, there are in fact many differences between the two generations. While millennials grew up with desktops, and then tablets, Gen Z grew up with smartphones and other portable, “always on” and connected devices. While millennials prefer text, the Gen Z’ers prefer to communicate with images.
What Characteristics Define Gen Z?
Gen Z has been raised in a vastly different world from other generations. And because they are barely out of school, only a fifth work for a living. However, they already have the power to influence decisions in their households as indicated earlier and marketers must develop an understanding now of how to best target this group as they come to age and gain more spending power.
A new study by Kantar Millard Brown spanned 39 countries and 23,907 interviews, including populations representing Gen X (35–49), Gen Y (20–34) and Gen Z (16–19). Why some of the attitudes of Gen Z are very unique to their generation, they also share some similarities with Gen Y and Gen Z. For example, 43% of Gen Z likes to have always-on access to music via digital platforms, compared to 30% of Gen Y and 25% of Gen X. Gen Z is also very focused on achieving their goals, both personally and professionally. 43% of Gen Z is focused on achieving personal goals, compared to 37% of Gen Y and 35% of Gen X.
Types of Advertising That Appeals to Gen Z
The study found that Gen Z is more positive than other groups towards ads displayed in traditional media versus digital. However, they have a strong aversion to digital ads in the form of search, display and mobile video. This is exactly contrary to what most would think given that they are heavy users of digital and mobile. Despite this, Gen Z responds better to traditional ads versus ad formats that they see as intrusive.
The study asked respondents, “How would you describe your attitude toward each of the following formats of advertising?” Gen Z was most favorable of cinema ads and felt unfavorable about online mobile display ads and video ads.
So what characteristics make this generation more positive towards ads? Gen Z is not a group in general that can be persuaded by celebrities or augmented reality. This group responds best to ads that are funny or humorous, has good music, and tells an interesting story.
Advertisers should also pay attention to timing of when people are most receptive to ads. Gen Z is more receptive to ads during the afternoon when others may be at work. But in the evening they are slightly less open to ads than Gens Y and X. They also like their ads short - 10 seconds or less is ideal for them.
Gen Z also wants to participate rather than just sit back and relax when it comes to ads. Based on a global study, PR and communications agency Zeno Group believes companies must give Gen Z “a job to do” and “let them be brand advocates.” Similar results were revealed in the Kantar Millard Brown study. They respond best to interactive ad formats and desire greater control in regulating the content they are exposed to and deciding what they want to watch.
Brands must take the time now to gain the upper hand in relating to and targeting Gen Z. Based on new research, Goldman Sachs recently stated that “Gen Z matters more than Millennials.” These digital natives now represent 22 percent of the U.S. population, putting them right behind millennials (23 percent) and ahead of Gen X (21 percent). However, by 2020, they’ll make up a staggering 40 percent of all consumers.