A generation is a community of people who share similar attitudes and habits based on socioeconomic and political influences in their era. The latest generation is Gen-Z. Born between 1996 and 2010, they are already predicted to be larger and more influential than their older Millennial siblings. The oldest Zers are now 22 and teetering on adulthood, as they become more financially independent, stakeholders across the spectrum will want to know what makes them unique, and how to target it. In this article, we will discuss the prominent habits and attitudes of Western Zers and what this means for the future of marketing.


1. Generation Z Are Socially And Politically Conscious

Since anything can be shared online, Zers are exposed to a larger variety of sociopolitical issues than any generation prior. Discussions on a variety of issues, notably: fracking, police brutality, and harassment have been prompted by viral protest in forms such as hashtag activism (#NODAPL, #BlackLivesMatter, and #MeToo).

Being the most diverse generation to-date (first to be majority non-white, and more which identify as LGBT ever in the US), their personal experiences have forced them to become conscious of socio-political issues, they have lived the issues they fight for.

For the marketing industry, this means being more careful in the sensitivity of their marketing campaigns. H&M made this mistake earlier this year, infamously showing a black child in a jumper captioned ‘Coolest Monkey In The Jungle’. This PR disaster lead to fall in sales and store closures. An example of a positive social marketing is Alway’s #likeagirl campaign, with their purpose being to prove that women are just as able as men, the hashtag became viral on Twitter. 

Behaving ethically is an investment to winning over Gen-Z.


2. Zers Are Constantly Online 

As computers were in 50% of UK homes by 2001, a large proportion of this generation doesn’t even remember a time offline. The younger Zers began using tablets before they learnt to talk, so in a way, technology is their first language. Born device-in-hand, Zers are the first generation of, digital-natives in most western countries. It is therefore hardly surprising that Zers are more virtually present and well networked than any generation prior. One UK survey found that Gen-Z spends 10.6 hours online every day, compared to the 6.9-hour national average. In Australia, the average is 7.1 hours amongst Zers, also higher than their national average.

For the future of marketing, this means moving promotions online. Evidence suggests that social media is a particularly effective way of promotion. One study from Retail Dive found that more than 80% of Zers are influenced by social media in their shopping, compared to 74% of millennials 58% of Generation X, and 14% of Baby Boomers. Furthermore, Marketing Charts show that 77% of Zers browse what to buy on social media, 69% have visited a store after seeing a social media post, and 80% have been to shops they’ve never been before after seeing it on social media.


3. Short Attention Span

Zers are found to have an attention span of eight seconds, that’s four seconds shorter than Millennials. In a world where we’re constantly being bombarded on several platforms and several methods at once, pediatrician Michael Rich, executive director of Harvard’s Centre of Media and Child Health has found young people’s short attention span to be an, ‘adaptive reflex’, allowing for, ‘faster switching and more active working memories.’ What may seem like absent-minded teenagers could actually be the next stage of the human evolution whereby for efficiency the brain is rewarded for filtering out unnecessary information.

A short attention span, of course, makes it harder for marketers to capture their attention. What makes it harder is that in the UK, 54% of Zers use multiple devices at any one time. Although other generations may multitask this way too, Zers are the most productive generation when it comes to completing multiple tasks simultaneously.

For marketers to capture Gen-Z’s attention, they can no longer afford to use traditional forms of advertisement alone. What Zers really want is resources, channels, and profiles that give them what they’re looking for. YouTube is 59% of Gen-Z’s preferred mode of learning, and poses a great opportunity for entertainment, knowledge or tutorials. For instance, the official UK McDonald’s YouTube features the likes of, ‘Secret Skills with Rio Ferdinand’.


4. Zers Don’t Care About Brands

With the exception of those obsessed with socially conscious brands or hyped up streetwear names, brand loyalty is not so common among today's teens. "They're less brand-conscious and they are not spending as much as millennials do" Kyle Andrew, chief marketing officer of American Eagle Outfitters for Business Insider. Simply bragging that they're able to afford a certain brand isn't enough to attract today's teens, instead, they prioritise the price and quality. Zers are more realistic and mindful of financial issues and careers from a younger age. One 20-year-old, Eryn McIntyre was interviewed by Mic on this subject in America, she says "When it came to deciding on college, I purposely chose a school that would not leave me in debt when I graduated," commenting on seeing close ones suffering during the financial crash Eryn also says, "I never want to be in that position, I am already very aware of how I save and spend money."

For marketers, this means shedding a light on the quality of a brand rather than just the prestige, it also means making the most of any CSR or ethical behaviour a company participates in.

More businesses are now also looking to behavioural economics during their marketing campaigns, one related subject is Nudge Theory, this is a subtle shift in pricing/ placing etc that encourages people to make decisions that are in their broad self-interest, even the British Government are using this. Psychological tactics could help consumers make decisions your business wants that branding no longer could. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness, a book by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler discusses this in detail. One tactic of how nudge theory could be applied is by removing the currency sign from prices, this will result in Zers subconsciously disassociating that number with how much money they will spend.


Final thoughts:

Like marketing to any segment, generalisation is useful to understand how to differently target a group of people, but gen Z require more attention and than other segments because they stay on top of the moving technological, social and political trends. Investment in research and development is highly recommended to avoid any social faux pas. This audience is constantly changing, constantly learning, so their adverts must change and learn with them.

In terms of innovation, the best way of marketing to them is not letting them know you’re marketing at all.

As a rule of thumb, give them what they want: entertainment, information, and ethically conscious behaviour, and if possible, become what they want. incorporate ethics into your model, this is a worthwhile investment for attracting and retaining the next generation of customers.

Finally, don’t be afraid to try new things! It’s all about experimenting, keep it fun, interesting and keep it short to keep their short attention engaged.