Blog Digital Marketing Marketing to Gen Z: Everything You Need to Know (+ Examples)

Marketing to Gen Z: Everything You Need to Know (+ Examples)

Marketing to Gen Z: Everything You Need to Know (+ Examples)
Joe Tobin
Editor
Marketing to Gen Z: Everything You Need to Know (+ Examples)
Joe Tobin
Editor

After bouncing around tech start-ups and university literature programs, Joe has finally settled down as Billo’s Head of Content. Joe now spends his days writing ads about ads, teaching clients how to craft killer content, and combing through our web copy with a bold red Sharpie.

Tom Slipkus
Tom Slipkus
Writer
Tom Slipkus
Tom Slipkus
Writer

Tom Slipkus is an email strategist helping SaaS companies onboard users, reduce churn, and drive sales in the process. When he’s not digging through customer research or coming up with the perfect subject line, Tom also pens insightful articles about marketing and building lasting relationships with customers.

marketing to gen z

There are around two billion Gen Zers in the world today. That’s 30% of the global population that will soon account for 27% of the workforce.

With Gen Z becoming a key demographic with money to spend, businesses need to figure out how to cater to this huge audience if they want to stay competitive. However, marketing to Gen Z is different compared to generations in the past. Today’s young consumers have different habits, priorities, and needs, so some strategies simply may not work anymore.

But while some may look at that as a disadvantage, it can also be a huge opportunity. When done right, Gen Z marketing can help your brand stand out, opening new growth opportunities in even the most competitive markets.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How Gen Z differs from Millennials
  • What good Gen Z marketing looks like
  • The best practices you should consider
  • How to engage Gen Z audiences on social media
  • The marketing strategies you can start using today

Ready to get started? Then read on below.

marketing to gen z stats

Generation Z vs. Millennials

Marketing to different generations comes with unique challenges. And while it’s hard to put an entire generation in a single bracket, there are distinct differences in marketing to various generations which you need to be aware of to maximize results.

A while ago, businesses had to adjust from selling to Gen X buyers to appealing to Millennials, which required a shift from more price-based marketing strategies to focusing on values, purpose, and authenticity.

With marketing to Generation Z, the shifts become even more pronounced, and messaging that works well with Millennials may end up appearing tone-deaf when seen by Generation Z audiences.

But how is marketing to Gen Z vs. Millennials different, exactly?

Here’s how buying habits and preferences have shifted between the two generations.

  • Values. Both Gen Z and Millennials are similar in that they prefer brands that are authentic, prioritize social responsibility, and are transparent with their audiences. Brands that want to succeed with marketing to Millennial and Gen Z branding must prioritize building a connection that extends beyond the products and their features.
  • Messaging. While Millennials are more reserved when it comes to traditional advertising, they still respond well to ads that cater to their values, experiences, and aspirations. Meanwhile, Gen Z is much more skeptical of marketing in general, so the advertising must be driven by user-generated content, entertainment, humor, and authenticity.
  • Ad Length. Millennials are typically more patient when watching ads, paying attention for an average of 12 seconds. Meanwhile, Gen Z buyers only focus on ads for eight seconds, which means your ads will need to be snappier and more to the point. You will also need to make them more engaging, focusing more on the immediate payoff for the viewer.
  • Channels. Millennials are the first digital natives, so they’re prominent on a variety of social media platforms, especially the more established ones like Facebook and Instagram. Gen Z, however, mostly uses newer platforms like TikTok and Snapchat, which means you will also need to create content and ads that match expectations.
  • Finances. Gen Z grew up in a volatile economic climate, which has made them arguably the most financially savvy generation. While Millennials can make buying decisions based on the brand and the customer experience, Gen Z will do their research on whether your product is really valuable and useful in improving their lives.
difference between gen z and millennial marketing

Examples of the Best Gen Z Marketing

The best way to discover how to reach Generation Z is to explore examples from companies that do it exceptionally well. While there’s no single formula you can use, getting inspired by success and adapting it to your brand and goals is the fastest way to achieve results.

Let’s look at some examples below.

Levi’s: Buy Better, Wear Longer

Levi’s has been a powerhouse brand for generations, and one of the reasons it manages to stay relevant is its ability to evolve together with the times and find new ways to connect with people of all ages.

The Buy Better, Wear Longer is the latest major campaign that helped redefine what the brand stands for.

The premise behind the idea is simple: if you buy better-quality clothes, you can wear them for longer. And if you wear them for longer, you can waste less and do less harm to the environment.

The brand makes a conscious decision to feature people from Gen Z in their ads, curating an image of a brand catering to the younger generations.

On top of that, Levi’s was able to connect with the values that young people find important, such as becoming more environmentally conscious and having less of an impact. As a less-obvious benefit, the message gets people to accept Levi’s as a high-quality brand, which the practical Gen Z audiences find crucial as well.

The campaign was a huge success, generating millions of views on social media and getting its message to resonate with Gen Z and turn many young buyers into new fans of the brand.

Aerie: #AerieREAL

Generation Z audiences also place a lot of importance on inclusivity. They want to work with brands that make an effort to promote inclusiveness, body positivity, and a sense of community, and that’s exactly what Aerie’s REAL campaign is all about.

The REAL campaign has become the foundation of all Aerie marketing, allowing the brand to showcase its values of inclusivity through the diverse range of unretouched models showcasing its products. Aerie also encourages users to share their own photos using the same #AerieREAL hashtag, which keeps the brand experience authentic and relatable.

Aerie even created a foundation that supports communities across the company, issuing over one million dollars in grants that empower low-income communities, providing economic opportunity and inspiration to thousands of people.

While the brand does not cater exclusively to Gen Z audiences, the values that are put at the forefront of all marketing help it stand out and create a connection with otherwise skeptical young audiences.

Duolingo: Duo the Owl

@duolingo

#duet with @ 😫Imagine after 10 mins

♬ original sound – Hen

If you want proof that marketing to Gen Z can get weird, look no further than the generation’s obsession with Duolingo’s Duo the Owl. The language learning platform’s TikTok profile has almost 10 million followers, and a big reason for its popularity is the bizarre and sometimes hilariously unhinged personality of the brand’s mascot.

Duolingo has leaned into the trend and has made it a central part of its marketing, even going as far as doing elaborate and hilarious skits that poke fun at pop culture.

Instead of promoting the value of its services, Duolingo mostly uses social media to engage young audiences through humor. The brand can get away with it because its audience already knows the key value proposition behind the learning platform, and the viral content helps get more people familiar with the brand and interested in its products.

Spotify: Wrapped

Gen Z users streamed a staggering 560 billion songs and more than 3 billion podcast episodes on Spotify in the first half of 2023 alone. With Generation Z becoming one of the main age groups on the platform, it’s no surprise that Spotify has experimented with different ways to engage young listeners and keep them coming back.

@spotifyph

Get ready to feel things. SpotifyWrapped is coming.

♬ original sound – SpotifyPH – SpotifyPH

One campaign that’s been a resounding success is Spotify Wrapped. Started in 2016, it has since become one of the most popular annual social media campaigns, generating millions of shares and likes throughout TikTok, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and other platforms.

For example, the release of Spotify Wrapped resulted in a staggering 425 million Tweets in just three days at the end of 2022. The gamification of user listening habits resonated with Gen Z audiences, encouraging people to share their stats, such as for which artists they were in the top 1%, 0.5%, and even 0.05% of all listeners.

This helped create a stronger connection with the artists but also reinforced the user’s desire to stay on the platform and learn interesting facts about their listening habits next year. At the same time, sharing Spotify Wrapped on social media has become a way to connect with others through shared interests and unique listening habits, which Gen Z audiences care about.

Best Practices for Marketing to Gen Z

When planning Gen Z advertising campaigns, it’s important to take a holistic approach that encompasses your brand, values, marketing, and product. This generation will quickly recognize any efforts to deceive them, so you need to have a solid understanding of who you are and follow the best practices of Gen Z marketing.

Let’s explore some of these best practices below.

Lead with Values

Even though Gen Z audiences are usually very practical in their purchases, they also want to know that the company they’re buying from is making an effort to make a positive impact. That means brands that are only focused on profits will have a hard time advertising to Gen Z audiences, even if the products and prices are good.

Almost half of Gen Z consumers only buy from brands that they deem to be trustworthy and transparent, so you need to build a brand that encompasses those qualities and clearly shows the values that are important to you.

What It Means:

  • Showcase Values in Your Marketing. Make sure to make those values a part of your marketing, weaving in the themes of how your product serves others when marketing to Gen Z.
  • Go Beyond the Product. Focus on being ethical, inclusive, and environmentally conscious. Gen Z audiences care not just about the product’s quality but where it comes from and what impact it has.
marketing to gen z values

Be Genuine

One of the worst things you can do as a brand is try to portray yourself as something you are not. This is something Gen Z audiences hate and will never want to associate with, which can even result in a lot of negative publicity if you don’t align what you say with your brand’s actions and policies.

Woke washing is something that many large corporations try to leverage, but Gen Z audiences see right through fake activism or efforts to use social or environmental movements to increase sales without actually addressing the factors that make the business complicit in the same issues.

What It Means:

  • Be Consistent. If you want your brand to stand for something, make sure you actually follow through on that ideal in everything you do. For example, if your brand takes a stance on worker’s rights, make sure your products are manufactured ethically.
  • Prioritize Real Impact. Focus on participating in initiatives that have a positive impact, while also looking for ways to make your company better aligned with those values. Then, you can make that a central part of your brand and build rapport with Gen Z buyers.
be genuine with gen z

Be Entertaining

People in the Gen Z generation have completely changed the internet entertainment landscape. From their preference for fast-paced content to the obscure meme culture, Gen Zers are very different in what they find funny or entertaining compared to other generations. And they also like ads that manage to be funny and creative in how they present the products.

That’s especially true on social media, where boring old-school ads will drown in a sea of entertaining content. So, if you want to make your ad spend count, take the time to figure out what messaging to use that will be on-brand, aligned with your goals, and suitable for the platform you want to market on.

What It Means:

  • Grab Attention Instantly. Gen Zers have shorter attention spans, which makes entertainment an excellent way to cut through the noise and get noticed.
  • Break Down Barriers. When you use entertainment and humor, you can break down skepticism and form more genuine connections with Gen Z viewers.
grab gen z attention

Choose the Right Platforms

The majority of Gen Zers love to spend time on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat and not Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), or Reddit. When marketing to Gen Z, you need to be deliberate about which social media platforms you focus on if you want to actually reach this generation of users.

In some ways that can even be an advantage; you can focus on a few social media platforms for building a presence and running ads instead of spreading yourself too thin.

What It Means:

  • Explore New Platforms. Gen Z remains the generation that is the most tech-savvy, so it’s the most likely to implement new emerging social media platforms. Keep an eye out for new platforms where having a presence early may give you a huge competitive advantage.
  • Repurpose Content. The great thing about catering to Gen Z and its preference for shorter content so that you can reuse it across platforms. For example, if you create engaging UGC video ads for TikTok, you can often repurpose them to Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts, increasing your reach and getting the most value from your efforts.
gen z marketing platforms

Encourage Conversations

Creating a sense of community can go a long way to building brand loyalty and getting people to come back for more. And since Gen Z audiences value authenticity, feeling like your brand brings like-minded people together is a great way to create appeal beyond the products and solutions you offer.

You can do that by encouraging conversations with your audience through live events, Q&As, and even UGC contests. Over time, you’ll create a social media presence that’s supported by a loyal and engaged fanbase that likes to participate in conversations rather than just observe them.

What It Means:

  • Listen to Your Audience. A key part of authentic conversations with your audience is not just getting them to respond. It’s just as much about actually listening to what they have to say and embracing both the positives and the negatives. Gen Z audiences value brands that strive to be better and value the opinions of their buyers.
  • Leverage User-Generated Content. A great way to inject a ton of authenticity into your social media presence is to make user-generated content a central part of your marketing. It allows you to showcase products in a way that’s much more genuine while also encouraging even more people to participate and engage with your brand.
gathering feedback from gen z

Personalize the Experience

Gen Z grew up in a time when technology started to allow more personalized online experiences based on preferences and actions. This has made developing Generation Z marketing strategies more difficult, as companies couldn’t expect to rely on cookie-cutter campaigns if they want to get the attention of younger audiences.

Just as social media or content platforms, businesses now need to leverage customer data to provide personal experiences through timely, accurate, and relevant recommendations. By looking at demographics and online behaviors, you can create ads and marketing materials that speak to the people you want to reach and make them feel like you understand them.

What It Means:

  • AI-Enhanced Personalization. Scaling personalization can be a big challenge, especially if you’re marketing to large audiences and have a ton of data to analyze. AI marketing solutions can streamline the process, helping you analyze data, identify useful insights, and use them to create personalized messaging.
  • Collect Data. While you can collect quite a lot of data from user behaviors, you should be proactive and get people to tell you their preferences when possible. You can use quizzes, polls, questionnaires, and even live interviews to tailor future content, offers, and experiences based on your Gen Z audience preferences.
personalize gen z marketing

Social Media Tips for Gen Z

At this point, everybody knows to post consistently and use the right hashtags. But if you want to figure out how to market to Gen Z and get their attention on social media, you will need to go further and find ways to stand out in their already crowded feeds.

To help you get on the right track with your social media marketing to Gen Z, here are a few tips to consider.

Embrace Meme Culture

Memes have become an integral part of online culture. And nowhere is that more prominent than on social media platforms dominated by Gen Z, such as TikTok or Instagram.

Many of the world’s biggest brands have seen great results in embracing memes as part of their Generation Z marketing strategies, and it has become an almost mandatory part of being relevant on social media.

As a brand, you need to stay on top of the current trends and leverage them to create engaging social media content that’s authentic, funny, and informative. The key word here is authenticity – anything that feels forced or as if a corporation is trying to be “hip” will not only be rejected but may get outright ridiculed.

gen z meme culture

A good place to start when trying to go viral on TikTok and other social media platforms is to leverage trends that are already on the rise. If you can add your own twist and make it relevant to your product or brand, you can get a positive response and potentially see your engagement numbers go through the roof.

When utilizing memes, don’t be afraid to poke fun at your brand or the way your customers perceive it. Brands like Ryanair have seen a lot of success with using humor that revolves around not just the brand but also common complaints from the airline’s customers.

Showcase User-Generated Content

Gen Z is all about community and authenticity. And no type of social media content can match user-generated content for attaining both. By putting your best customers at the forefront of your Gen Z marketing, you can build trust in a way that also shows your products in action.

User-generated content is easy to relate to, while also being a great way to get more people from your audience involved in becoming brand ambassadors. If you run UGC contests or simply encourage people to share how they use your products, you can turn regular customers into fans who spread your message and help you reach more people.

Another reason why UGC is so important with Gen Z audiences is that it will help prevent your brand from becoming one-dimensional. Your customers are a diverse group with a broad range of perspectives, so having them be the face of your social media marketing will ensure your brand projects diversity and inclusivity, both of which are crucial for Gen Z buyers.

gen z user-generated content

Introduce the People Behind the Brand

Another group of people who can make your brand relatable and likable are your employees. Brands like Vessi regularly post content from the office, showing the daily lives of their employees while also highlighting the positive work culture and sense of community that the company has created.

Whether you allow your employees to create content themselves, show moments from office life, or have your team participate in challenges, these types of videos can work great as ads or social media content that go beyond your products and show buyers the values your company stands by.

Employee-driven content doesn’t have to be perfect and polished. In fact, it can often benefit from being down to earth and made to show the imperfections and vulnerabilities that make your company about its people rather than a faceless brand image.

As a bonus, these types of posts on social media work great for showing why your company is a great place to work. Which, in turn, can make attracting top talent from Generation Z much easier as well.

Experiment with Formats

One of the reasons why brand marketing on social media often feels forced is that they’re too careful about being safe and not trying something different. While you should be deliberate about what you post and follow the latest Gen Z marketing trends, it’s also important to be bold and willing to experiment, as long as it aligns with your brand and its values.

As you get more comfortable with posting content based on social media trends and memes, you could lean into it further and come up with your own twist on various themes, injecting your brand’s personality and voice to make it unique.

At the same time, experimenting can also mean being willing to try out different things to see what works with your Gen Z marketing. Just because something is working for another brand, doesn’t mean it will work for you. But at the same time, you need to be open to trying new formats and content types to see what your audience responds to best.

Gen Z Marketing Strategies to Consider

Creating a comprehensive marketing strategy goes beyond understanding the habits of one generation or group of people. That being said, if your main audience is Generation Z buyers, looking at your marketing from their perspective can help you narrow down your focus and avoid mistakes that could cost your marketing budget or even your reputation.

Let’s look at how to reach Generation Z with your marketing below.

Use Influencer Marketing

57% of Gen Zers want to become influencers. And while not everyone can build a following, Gen Z social media users still love to consume content from influencers they like, making it the perfect opportunity to get in front of younger audiences.

However, Gen Z audiences are too sophisticated to fall for scripted endorsements or forced brand integrations. You need to partner with influencers who can create authentic experiences, using humor and showcasing your product’s value in a way that Gen Zers can relate to.

The best way to achieve this is to 1) choose the right influencers and 2) work with them to create content that matches their voice while also staying consistent with the brand image you want to nurture.

When choosing influencers, it’s usually better to focus on fit instead of potential reach. Influencers with a smaller following will usually have a more loyal fanbase and be easier to work with. You can then craft an authentic campaign focused on providing value and not just driving sales.

gen z influencer marketing

Prioritize Video

96% of Gen Z users have a YouTube account, and 60% of the TikTok user base is from this generation as well. In other words, Gen Z loves consuming content in video format, which is why brands that want to reach young audiences must adapt and prioritize creating videos over any other type of content.

And that’s great news for companies that want to maximize their marketing efforts. Videos are inherently more engaging, allow conveying a ton of information in just a few seconds, and are very versatile and adaptable to various social media platforms.

When creating videos for Gen Z audiences, here are a few things to prioritize:

  • Start with your brand and develop a voice Gen Z audiences can relate to. Strive for authenticity above all else, as the videos need to be not only engaging but also relatable to be successful.
  • Leverage memes and humor to create content that’s not only informative but entertaining as well. If you can tell your brand’s story and showcase products in a way that’s engaging, you’ll have a much easier time making fans and converting them into sales.
  • Social media is built on interaction, so boost your engagement numbers by encouraging people to participate by commenting, sharing, or even creating their own content in response to your videos.
gen z video marketing

Become the Authority

Gen Z is more skeptical than any generation before. They don’t easily trust institutions or corporations, which makes it harder for brands to create messaging that young people pay attention to.

The good news is that because Generation Z is also very practical, they do prioritize the value that a brand or its products can offer, which serves as a great opportunity to break down barriers and get through to younger generations and create trust in the process.

Simply saying that you can be a trusted source for information won’t work, so you’ll have to show that you can help solve the problems your audience is facing through informative, engaging, and useful content.

By consistently answering questions your customers have, you can earn their trust and become an authority in your field. You can challenge conventions, debunk myths, simplify complex topics, and partner with educators and key figures to show a path your Gen Z audience can follow.

If you position your products as the ultimate solution to the most prominent obstacles in your audience’s lives, that will allow you to lead a new prospect from not knowing anything about your brand to becoming a loyal customer, all while getting them to see you as someone they can rely on and not just another corporation trying to turn a quick profit.

Bottom Line

Many brands struggle with marketing to Gen Z because they’re unable to create content that’s authentic and relatable. However, just because younger audiences have different habits and are more skeptical doesn’t mean you can’t reach them.

If you take the time to understand what matters to them and focus on providing value, Generation Z can be an amazing audience to market to, showing loyalty and spreading your message to their peers.

By being entertaining, tapping into the meme culture, and nurturing a sense of community, you can stand out in your market and become the hip brand young people choose over everyone else.

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