For many marketers, grappling with the nuances of a Millennial marketing strategy has been challenging enough. However, as the oldest members of the Generation Z cohort enter the job market, marketers will soon be faced with the need to win over an entirely new generation of potential consumers whose characteristics and proclivities are perhaps even more alien than the generation that preceded them.
In this issue of The Seed, we outline Gen Z’s key characteristics and explain how marketers might start to engage with them as their buying power begins to accelerate.
Who is Generation Z and why do they matter?
Members of Gen Z, sometimes referred to as Post-Millennials or iGen, are commonly defined as those born between 1995 and 2010. Those at the upper end of this bracket are now entering the job market, thus beginning their foray into financial independence and decision-marking. According to Bloomberg, Gen Z will overtake Millennials in 2019, making up 32% of the global population and rendering them an increasingly important target for marketers.1
In so doing, however, markets must remember the backdrop against which this generation has grown up. They are the first generation who won’t remember where they were when the Twin Towers collapsed; most of them have grown up under post-GFC austerity; and none will remember dial-up internet or the pre-Smartphone era. This backdrop has had a direct impact on the views that define them.
What makes Gen Z so different from their predecessors?
As mentioned above, Gen Z is likely to be familiar with financial struggle, having grown up in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis. As a consequence, many have found Gen Z to be more frugal, more risk-averse and more motivated by security than previous generations.2 They see the appeal of a steady pay-check and home ownership; many will actively save for a home as it offers more security than short-term rental arrangements.3
Of course, Gen Z is the first to be comprised of true digital natives. This technological ‘dependence’, purportedly responsible for the creation of a generation of entitled individuals with no experience or preparedness for the real world, has been widely-criticised by members of the “political-correctness-gone-mad”-generations, who have coined the term ‘snowflake’ to refer to a generation that is easily offended by the actions of others and requires a ‘safe space’ away from the ‘harsh realities’ of the world.4
Marketers would be wise to take this view with a pinch of salt and instead seek to understand Gen Z by looking at its visible response to climate change, ‘risky’ behaviours (smoking, drinking alcohol) and gun violence.5 Gen Z grew up with a black man in the White House and are the most ethnically diverse generation in history. This means their attitudes towards race, sex, sexuality and religion are so progressive as to be coined ‘radically inclusive’.6 There’s a good reason why the Nike ads that older generations have found so problematic have rendered the manufacturer one of the Gen Z’s most popular and respected brands.
How should marketers approach Generation Z?
There are some key things marketers need to bear in mind when attempting to talk to Gen Z:
1.Gen Z do not want to be talked at, they want to be engaged with. Theirs is a generation that has grown up in two-way dialogue, they are skilled in communication and keen to interact. As such, marketers must put engagement at the heart of any Gen Z marketing strategy.
2.89% of Gen Z believe companies should speak out about social and political issues.7 Brands unwilling to do this will undoubtedly lose out among the diverse, ecologically-astute and ethically-driven youth.
3.Gen Z is the Amazon generation whose purchasing decisions are informed by user recommendations, YouTube influencers and Instagram stars. Anything perceived as inauthentic, ‘touched up’, or contrived will not be well-received. Marketers should opt for YouTube influencers over traditional celebrity endorsement, to generate ‘real-world’ authenticity and credibility.
4.Interestingly, while Gen Z tends to use Instagram for brand discovery, YouTube for reviews and Snapchat for post-buy sharing, when it comes to the actual buy, many are still wedded to bricks-and-mortar retailers. Advertisers should bear this in mind before assuming that Gen Z are online-only purchasers.8
References and further reading:
1 Miller, L. and Lu, W., Aug 2018, Bloomberg, ‘Gen Z Is Set to Outnumber Millennials Within a Year’, available at:
2 Patel, D., Sep, 2017, Forbes, ‘8 Ways Generation Z Will Differ From Millennials In The Workplace’, available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/09/21/8-ways-generation-z-will-differ-from-millennials-in-the-workplace/#2a50ac5576e5
3 Loudenback, T., Apr 2019, Business Insider, ‘Gen Z is ambitious about homeownership’, available at: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/gen-z-already-saving-planning-for-homeownership-2019-4?r=US&IR=T
4 Katz, R., Apr 2019, Pacific Standard, ‘How Gen Z is Different’, available at:
5 Parker-Pope, T., Mar 2018, The New York Times, ‘Are Today’s Teenagers Smarter and Better Than We Think?’, available at:
6 Barenberg, O. and Cotzo, S., Apr 2019, Harvard Political Review, ‘Generation Z Is Not Afraid’, available at: https://harvardpolitics.com/united-states/hpop-gen-z/
7 Forbes Agency Council, Apr 2019, Forbes, ‘Catch the Eyes of Gen-Z Consumers with these 13 Marketing Tips’, available at:
8 Holman, J., Apr 2019, Bloomberg Businessweek, ‘Millennials Tried to Kill the American Mall, but Gen Z Might Save It’, available at: