Marketing to Gen Z: The Complete Marketing Strategy Guide

Marketing is most impactful when you segment your market and personalize your messaging to fit your audience in a language they understand and resonate with. Advertising to customers in Asia, for example, the same way you do in the US is a sure way to lose their interest and business — or worse, make a huge mistake and attract a scandal. 

Global food chain KFC experienced this when entering China. The company translated its famous slogan "finger-licking good" into Chinese characters without double-checking the meaning. In Chinese, "finger-licking good" means "eat your fingers off," which is not what KFC intended. This costly mistake impacted and delayed the company's entry into the Chinese market by almost a decade. 

Just as cultural differences are inevitable, so are generational differences. The different generations today speak and understand things differently, even when using the same words. Thus, marketing to Generation Z (the generation after millennials) takes a special kind of savvy. As the first generation to grow up with smartphones and the Internet, Gen Z has a unique relationship with digital technology and communication that the generations before them do not. 

This article discusses all you need to know about marketing to Generation Z. We'll talk about the defining characteristics of Gen Z, how to market to them, and share the most important Gen Z marketing trends and platforms you should know.

Who is Gen Z?

Generation Z (Gen Z) is the generation after Millennials. Known as the iGeneration or Zoomers, they are the latest entrants into the workforce. Born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s, the oldest among them are now finishing college, getting married, and starting families. 

Gen Z is accumulating a considerable share of the global consumer market, which can only keep growing. A 2021 report by Google shares that the younger generation is expected to overtake Millennials in the next few years. They currently account for 32% of the world's population and 40% of global consumers.

Gen Z is the most educated generation yet. They are progressive digital natives with little to no memory of a world before the Internet. The average Gen Zer has been using smartphones since before becoming a teenager. They are comfortable communicating through instant messaging and social media and spend more time on their mobile devices than watching television. Gen Zers are social-minded and driven.

When does Gen Z start and end?

Generation Z starts from the late 1990s to the early 2000s — 1997 to 2012, to be precise. As of 2022, the oldest among them are in their mid-twenties, and the youngest will soon become teenagers. The generation being born after Gen Z is referred to as Generation Alpha

How to market to Gen Z

Successful marketing requires a deep understanding of your customers: what they do, what they like, and what they expect of you. 

When marketing to Gen Z, having a distinct brand and engaging personality is a significant advantage. They support and buy from those that are inclusive and stand for something (besides profit). 

Actionable tips for marketing to Generation Z include:

1. Make eye-catching content

To market to Gen Z, creating eye-catching visual content is essential. Gen Z has a very short attention span — an estimated eight seconds only. This means that brands must create attractive and engaging content that grabs their attention in less than eight seconds or lose them forever. 

Gen Z notices and engages with content that sends a message succinctly — think memes and short-form videos. They're more likely to consume information in a visual format with less text. When marketing to Generation Z, always use bite-sized content, whether it's in video, text, or image form. The faster you can get your message across, the better. 

Optimize for mobile viewing and interactions, keeping in mind that the majority of Generation Z use their smartphones over laptops, desktops, and tablets. Skip lengthy, unnecessary introductions in your videos and blog posts and get straight to the point of your message. You have eight seconds to convince them your content is worth paying attention to. 

2. Go interactive with your marketing

Interaction is crucial for Generation Z. They don't only want to be sold to; they want to engage with your content and feel like part of a community. Create content with useful information they can learn from and use in real life. You can share marketing content that takes them behind the scenes to show how your product is created and how it works. 

Encourage participation and spark conversations with interactive content such as polls and competitions. Come up with ways to make your audience and followers a part of your product development and marketing. Ideas that encourage creativity and engagement have more chances of success with Gen Z. 

Make it easy for your audience to actually interact with your content. Remove any hurdles to participating, emphasize inclusion, and ensure your website and social pages are optimized.

3. Leverage the right tags

Using the right tags plays a vital role in marketing to Gen Z. Tags have many uses, including: 

  • Gathering all related posts under one hashtag
  • Encouraging your audience to participate in creating specific content
  • Raising and spreading awareness about a cause
  • Enabling customers to share photos and videos of themselves

Creating a brand hashtag expands your reach while also carving an exclusive space for your content and inviting your audience to participate. Coca-Cola did this marvelously well with its #ShareACoke campaign

Apart from creating, you can join hashtags that already exist and share relevant content to show you're aware of cultural happenings and stand for issues your organization supports. This shows that your brand is not all about itself but truly cares about societal issues and doing what's right. 

4. Invest in video

Investing in video content is one of the most beneficial Generation Z marketing strategies. Gen Z loves video content, whether short-form videos on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok or longer ones on YouTube. If you're marketing to Gen Z, conduct your research before deciding on the best length and platform for your videos, and invest in quality and value for the best chances of success. 

Use overlays, visual effects, and music to make your content engaging. Make the first few seconds of your video attention-grabbing and valuable to keep your Gen Z audience watching to the end. Captions and thumbnails are critical. 

Authenticity is a crucial motivator for Gen Z, so create videos that portray real people with real lives to keep them interested. Working with influencers is an excellent strategy to amplify your video reach. Figure out the essential psychographics of your audience and work with influencers with these qualities. Gen Zers are drawn to videos where the actor is similar to them. 

5. Amplify beliefs and values

Generation Z is attuned to today's environmental, political, and socio-economic problems. They care about and act on these issues online and in real life and support brands that do so too. When spending money, they prefer to patronize socially responsible brands.

To market to Gen Z, communicate your core values and share how you help to improve society. You can increase your chances of success by connecting your product and marketing to the causes you support. A compelling example is Nike. In 2020, the global footwear brand showed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. They called their audience to join in the fight against racism, saying, "For once, don't do it. Don't pretend there's not a problem in America. Don't turn your back on racism."

This type of genuine and timely content endears a brand to the Gen Z market. Gen Z wants to know that their purchases support businesses that are helping to build a better world. They expect brands to embody and live by their words. From raising awareness to championing diversity and saving the planet, Gen Zers are eager to put their money where their interests lie.

6. Invest in your community

Investing in your community, whether online or in real life, shows that your brand values are more than words or a slogan on the wall. When a brand supports its community — employees, followers, customers, advocates, locales, etc. — it shows that it cares about more than profits. It cares about people.

Put some marketing spend and resources toward fostering relationships and encouraging meaningful interactions. Over the long term, this brings goodwill and many benefits to your brand. Genuinely supporting members of your community creates honest, impactful, and unique stories and experiences that add to your brand value. What's more? Gen Z takes note. 

7. Be accountable for mistakes

No one can achieve anything without making mistakes. Gen Z knows this and appreciates brands that are forthright with how they are progressing. Instead of covering up and denying your brand's mistakes, especially the big ones, it's better to own up to them and take accountability. 

Generation Z is more likely to forgive and even support brands that are honest about where they failed and how they plan to correct the mistakes than those that portray a picture of perfection but hide injustices and failures behind closed doors. In a world that is rapidly changing, the young generation craves honest and pragmatic responses that show what brands are doing to make things better, not pretend that everything is okay.

Marketing to Gen Z: The Complete Marketing Strategy Guide 2
Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

Gen Z social media marketing: which platforms do they use?

Gen Z loves brands that use social media the right way. They use different social media platforms uniquely and expect brands to do the same. For instance, the average Gen Z social media behavior is: 

  • Sharing their aspirational sides on Instagram
  • Sharing everyday moments on Snapchat
  • Having fun on TikTok
  • Getting news on Twitter
  • Spending minimal time on Facebook and LinkedIn

Brands that understand what Gen Z expects from them on different social media platforms will gain a winning edge over those that don't. Let's take a look at the top three Gen Z social media platforms: Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram.

Snapchat 

An estimated 71% of Gen Z use Snapchat every day, with 51% of this group opening the app at least 11 times per day. Gen Z appreciates the privacy the app provides. Though they are bold and not afraid to share their opinions online, they're most aware of the need to be safe and protect their information. 

This makes Snapchat a top social media network for this generation. Snapchat is a social media platform based on the idea that social media content and messaging don't have to be permanent. Content and messages on the app, "Snaps," are made to self-delete after viewing. 

Gen Z uses Snapchat to communicate on the go and express themselves creatively. The app's unique filters and overlays are easy to use, encouraging creativity for the young generation. When marketing to Gen Z on Snapchat, strive to be open, authentic, and light-hearted. Bring your audience behind the scenes and invite them to engage with your content in creative ways. 

TikTok 

TikTok is currently one of the most popular social media platforms. Downloads exploded in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, increasing its user base by 30.1% between January and March 2020 alone.

TikTok is all about fun, unpolished content, which Gen Z loves. They make up a whopping 60% of its user base. Think fun, creativity, and authenticity when marketing to Gen Z on TikTok. Pranks, skits, and tips do very well. 

Keep an eye on the trends of the day or season and leverage hashtags and dance challenges to market your brand. If done well, your brand content can go viral and inspire similar content. Working with influencers is another excellent strategy to grow on this platform. Work with those who have loyal and engaged audiences and have fun with the creative process. 

Instagram

Gen Z uses Instagram uniquely. While they enjoy looking at and sharing aspirational posts like other generations, they spend a lot of time in their DMs and looking at close friends' Stories, which are more personal than their algorithmic feeds. 

Here are a few things to remember to gain the attention and loyalty of Gen Z on Instagram:

  • Create realistic, lifelike content
  • Work with influencers Gen Z can relate to
  • Invest in your Instagram Stories
  • Encourage user-generated content
  • Prioritize short-form video content 

Marketing to Generation Z: Trends to remember

Relevant Gen Z marketing trends to follow are:

Gen Z is all for diversity

Diversity is a driving principle for Gen Z. This reflects in the brands they choose to support. Gen Z cares deeply about how brands approach diversity and inclusion. To reach them, brands must show an authentic commitment to including people from different social and ethnic backgrounds, genders, and sexual orientations. 

According to a Pew Research Center report, Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet. It's only natural that they want to see diversity in the brands they patronize. Protests such as Black Lives Matter in 2020 relied heavily on social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok to organize and spread the message. For Gen Z, who have grown up using these platforms, social media continues to be the most logical way to create, learn, and spread messages about the causes they support. 

When marketing to Generation Z, it's crucial to show real diversity and include minority groups. Ensure your brand takes action and connects with the groups you're selling to before distributing any diversity messaging. Gen Z can see when brands are fake and only act like they care. 

Influencers lead the way 

Influencer marketing, a strategy in which brands partner with popular niche personalities to promote their products and services and reach a wider audience, is highly effective when marketing to Generation Z. 

Influencers can help brands spread their message and increase sales in their target demographic. They know what their audience likes and share their knowledge and experience to help them decide what to buy. 

Influencer marketing is one of the most successful and widespread marketing strategies and trends for engaging with Gen Z. The digitally-savvy generation relates more to influencers than traditional celebrities. They're more likely to try influencers' recommendations than a product endorsed by a celebrity. This is great news for brands because influencers are more accessible and affordable than celebrities. 

Partner with influencers in your niche. Look for those who support causes that align with your brand, products, and social interests. You can promote your product in a video or social media post, or better yet, give away free samples or start a competition with influencers' followers. Working with influencers helps you increase your reach and get more targeted content that appeals to your customers. 

Communication through memes is the norm

Memes are captioned images and videos. They are a significant part of Gen Z's language and are funny and culturally relevant. They spread easily across social media platforms, bringing life to nostalgic characters (like Kermit the Frog and SpongeBob) and celebrities (like Keanu Reeves and Leonardo Di Caprio).

Memes share relatable yet unexpected takes on everyday activities and world events. The most popular memes even go on to find a life away from social media, e.g., on merch — shirts, mugs, bags, phone covers, etc. Brands that use memes in marketing messaging are recognized as speaking the Gen Z language. Memes show a more engaging and trendy side to brand interactions that doesn't look formal or scripted.

Increase your appeal to this young generation by incorporating humor, trends, and relevant takes on culture in your marketing using memes. Memes are sometimes more profitable than influencers. When done right, they have the potential to go viral and gain a massive return on investment to the creators.

Why use Wrike to plan a Gen Z marketing campaign?

Creating a Gen Z marketing strategy that connects with the audience and produces good results takes time and effort. Wrike provides a seamless marketing management tool for marketing teams and agencies to plan, execute, and track their marketing activities. You can gather market research, develop a solid plan, and detail all aspects of your strategy on one platform. 

Planning and executing your Gen Z marketing campaigns in Wrike increases your chances of success. You can easily track your execution against the market plan and make changes. These changes are automatically communicated to your team members and collaborators using Wrike.

Wrike makes it easy to break your marketing campaign projects into tasks on a synchronized timeline. Other benefits of using Wrike to plan your Gen Z marketing strategies include:

  • Easily categorize different types of content: You can organize and group different content types using folders and subfolders in Wrike for clarity, e.g., one folder for Instagram marketing with subfolders in it for Posts, Reels, and Stories.
  • Enable effective channels of collaboration: You can invite your team members and collaborators to work in Wrike and enable different levels of access and visibility to enable them to complete their tasks. 
  • Use free marketing and creative templates: Wrike provides templates to help you reduce planning and work time and help you maintain a structure and process for executing your marketing campaigns
  • Create roadmaps: Wrike simplifies building your content creation and distribution roadmaps and helps you break big projects into tasks with clear timelines. This helps you align your marketing goals with day-to-day operational activities. 
  • Automate simple tasks: Easily automate repetitive tasks like creating and sending marketing reports and reminding team members of upcoming tasks with Wrike.
  • Monitor deadlines: You can automatically keep track of priorities, deadlines, and timelines by using Wrike to assign tasks and set clear deadlines and notifications. 
  • Track results: Wrike makes it easy to assess your ongoing campaigns against set metrics and track results to gain actionable insights and deliver successful marketing projects. 

Are you ready to begin planning and executing marketing strategies and campaigns that resonate with Generation Z? Get started with a free two-week trial of Wrike's marketing project management software.

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