Who is Gen Z and Why Market to Them?

There’s been a lot written about Millennials and marketing to “Generation Me.” But, what about the up-and-coming Generation Z? Who are THEY? How are they different? And, as a marketer, why is it important to pay attention?

Only recently has the term “Gen Z” even started to appear in our culture’s vernacular. (They’re also referred to as the iGeneration, Post Millennials, Plurals, and Neo-Digital Natives.) Like every generation, Gen Z has its distinct traits.

At Kindred, we work with Gen Z. A lot. For the past couple of years, we’ve been incubating a new brand called Epic Sky – a Girl Power marketplace that we created hand-in-hand WITH a diverse, talented, opinionated and awesome group of Gen Z girls ages 10-18 yrs.

First, who are Gen Z-ers? Generally, they were born between the mid 1990’s and early 2000’s (some say, 1996 – 2014). This is a generation whose pragmatic and resilient mindset is shaped by 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis. Gen Z-ers are digital natives – having not known a world without the smart phone, YouTube, SnapChat and Instagram. It’s also the most culturally and racially diverse generation – open and appreciative of individualism. These circumstances have informed a generation that is distinctly self-sufficient, entrepreneurial, collaborative and community-minded.

Gen Z-ers have a VOICE. They want to EXPRESS it!

Traditional big brand marketing strategies simply don’t work with this group. So, what does? Here are some of our key learnings.

Gen Z supports brands with meaningful purpose. They want and expect mission-driven brands with a larger purpose. For example, Ivory Ella is a new purpose-driven brand with a passionate following amongst teens. Proceeds from Ivory Ella clothes go toward Save the Elephant. TOMS is another brand that Gen Z-ers know and embrace for it’s “One for One” message. 

Gen Z values authenticity and can sniff out corporate BS quickly. Gen Z-ers want realness and expect transparency from their brands. On social media, users favor user-generated content exponentially more than polished imagery that looks like big brand advertising. With Epic Sky, teens repeatedly say they love that the brand is both aspirational and “relatable.” Epic Sky uses real girls as models, designers, creators and contributors. And, when it comes to celebrities they most admire, Gen Zers consider their favorite YouTubers (“peers” just like them) to be as popular as the most famous movie stars like Leonardo DiCaprio.

Gen Z is elusive and cannot be marketed to in any one way. Gen Zers don’t read email regularly. And, they don’t go online unless it’s for homework. Gen Zers are always changing their social media apps and platforms. They like the ephemeral nature of Snapchat.  They have secondary private Instagram accounts that only allow their closest friends to see what they’re up to. And, although Facebook (or “Mombook”) has far-ranging reach in terms of users, it’s not cool.

Gen Z likes consuming “snackable” content. They communicate quickly, in short-hand and with few words. Texting (and, therefore, messaging apps) is the primary way of communicating.  Emojis are even better than words – providing Gen Zers with the most efficient way to express them selves. Thanks to Instagram, visuals are a key mode of communication. Images need to be “Instagram-worthy” – with just the right filters and cropping. You can see the Instagram visual influence on teen-focused websites such as Urban Outfitters. 

Gen Z is the DIY generation, and entrepreneurship is in their DNA. It’s not unusual for young teens and tweens to run their own small businesses – from cat sitting to tutoring. They run bake sales and lemon stands to raise money for good causes. They teach themselves skills via YouTube. At Epic Sky, Kindred works with jewelry designers, bikini designers, graphic artists, photographers, and writers – burgeoning entrepreneurs who are developing their craft, learning from mentors, and earning money while pursuing their passions.

At Kindred, we love working with this wildly creative and community-minded generation. We are inspired by what we learn every day. And, we can’t wait to see how this generation positively impacts and shapes our world and future.

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