igital natives. Social influencers. Generation We. You’ve probably heard these phrases used to describe Generation Z. But what do all of these terms really mean and how can marketers win over Gen Z and influence a generation that’s inundated with information and media 24/7?
Before you can win over Gen Z, you first need to understand them.
If the last few months have proven anything it’s that Gen Z is a force to be reckoned with. From organizing protests in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement to actively promoting voting in the upcoming presidential election, Gen Z members are confident in who they are and what they’re passionate about.
Who is Gen Z?
Gen Zers, born post-1996, are known for their tech-savvy nature, acceptance of individuality, and search for truth.
For a more in-depth look at the newest generation, check out our other articles: “Millennials vs. Gen Z, What’s the Difference?,” “Who is Gen Z?,” and “15 Stats Your Business Needs to Know About Gen Z.”
Here are a few highlights to get you started:
- There are about 90 million Gen Zers in the U.S. today
- Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation
- 68% of Gen Z expects brands to positively impact society
- Gen Z has an estimated $143 billion in buying power in the U.S. alone
- Gen Z makes up 40% of all consumers in 2020
But, how can marketers harness this information to better position their brand?
Keep reading to find out how your brand can not only win over Gen Z but influence them, too.
How to Win Over Gen Z
Marketers need to know more about Gen Z than just a conglomeration of statistics. Successful brands have used this information as a starting point to build out their marketing campaigns.
Coming up with a strategy on how to reach them is another big obstacle and brands that can tap into what Gen Z cares about will see better engagement, more support, and increased sales.
Understand What Gen Z Cares About
The first thing your brand can do is understand what Gen Z is passionate about and tailor your advertising content to match their interests. 58% of Gen Zers are more willing to pay more if a product is targeted to their individual personality.
Inclusivity and Social Justice
As the most racially and ethnically diverse generation the world has ever seen, Gen Z is passionate about making sure everyone feels accepted for who they are no matter their ethnicity, religion, gender, or socioeconomic status. In fact, the majority of Gen Z believes communities are formed by shared interests and causes.
This wide-spread attitude of acceptance among the generation has also manifested itself in advocating for social justice and reform. Gen Z is at the frontlines of change and is quick to call out brands that have racist, homophobic, or tone-deaf campaigns.
Brands need to not only get behind social justice initiatives and organizations but actively promote and partner with them, as well.
In 2017, Pepsi pulled a highly controversial ad that showed reality TV star and model Kendall Jenner leaving a photoshoot to join a vague protest and then offering a can of Pepsi to a police officer before getting a photo taken with him. Critics called out the company for appropriating a racial protest movement to sell its product and Pepsi quickly responded with a statement apologizing for missing the mark and saying they were halting the campaign.
On the other side, brands like Nike have launched campaigns that speak to the generation’s activism and social awareness and break down stereotypes.
Nike received some backlash for its 2018 campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. The ex-NFL player rose to notoriety for kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police violence against the Black community. Instead of hurting the company, it led to a 31% increase in sales and drove social engagement.
In the months following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Nike also showed that it put its money behind its statements, announcing a $40 million commitment over the next four years to “organizations that put social justice, education, and addressing racial inequality in America at the center of its work.”
Authenticity is key, so brands need to make sure they’re following through on any statements or initiatives they began (like Nike is doing).
One way in which Gen Z aligns with Millennials is being environmentally conscious and advocating for sustainability. While some may be tempted to believe it’s just a trend, studies have shown that 54% of Gen Z say they would pay more for sustainable products.
This environmental consciousness in the younger generation sends a clear message to companies that those that incorporate sustainability and ethically-sourced products into their model reap the support of Gen Z.
ASOS, the online fashion, and cosmetic retailer made big changes in 2017 and is now one of the industry’s leaders in sustainability. In addition to joining the 2025 Sustainable Sourcing Challenge, it also introduced online filters for its website so users can easily search for products that positively impact the environment and the ASOS Marketplace which sells vintage and pre-worn items.
It also uses its social media channels to promote sustainable fashion and share information concerning ethical sourcing practices.
Even if your brand isn’t in the fashion industry, you can choose to follow similar sustainability initiatives and partner with local nonprofits to spread awareness of issues facing the environment. Making these changes will not only make you more attractive to Gen Z, but its members are more likely to pay a premium for the more ethical products you produce and promote.
Wellness and Mental Health Advocacy
Long gone are the days when jokes about mental health were funny and Gen Z certainly isn’t laughing. Recent studies show that the younger generation is more likely to report mental health concerns. Its members are shaking off the stigmas surrounding mental health and advocating for more open discussions surrounding it.
One brand that’s engaging in the conversation is JanSport, the popular backpack and apparel company.
It launched a campaign back in May 2020 in honor of Mental Health Awareness month and continued it throughout the summer. JanSport’s #LightenTheLoad campaign was created to help connect members of Gen Z with mental health experts through Instagram Live sessions on the company’s page. It also encouraged young people to use the hashtag #ShareItChallenge and record short videos to share their stories and even pledged to donate up to $10,000 to nonprofit Active Minds.
Brands that continue to not only join in similar discussions surrounding mental health but genuinely commit to helping raise awareness about such topics will see more engagement and support from Gen Z.
Be Relatable, but Authentic
One of the most important steps in winning over Gen Z is knowing how to communicate with them — fr.
Understanding popular internet terms can give you a leg up on any competitors in understanding your target demographic. Our Gen Z Dictionary is a great way to familiarize yourself with words and phrases that might have you scratching your head like canceled, periodt, and stan.
Our previous Gen Z Language post goes much more in-depth on if, when, and how companies should use Gen Z language in any marketing strategy. A good rule of thumb is always to stay true to your brand and not use words just because you want to sound woke as Gen Zers can spot a poser from a mile away ... which brings us to our second point: be authentic.
Authenticity and transparency are the measuring tools by which Gen Z assesses brands. Unlike Millennials, Gen Z grew up with a sense of uncertainty and are warier of the world. The oldest members of the generation grew up in the wake of 9/11 and the era of school shootings, all the while watching their parents struggle through the Great Recession. Most recently, these Gen Zers graduated college amid the coronavirus pandemic to a dismal job market.
Gen Z wants to understand the company and what its values are, who and what they support, and what they allow. Its members will cancel companies whose values don’t align with their own social or political views and won’t give them their support.
Earlier this year, social media users and members of the LatinX community took to the internet to boycott Goya Foods after its CEO Robert Unanue praised former President Donald Trump.
Support a Good Cause
What brands should do is support a good cause by promoting it on their social media channels or integrating it into a marketing campaign. A 2019 study found that 68% of Gen Z expects brands to support a good cause.
Brands such as Patagonia and Warby Parker have been recognized for supporting nonprofits and other causes through campaigns, monetary donations, and partnerships.
Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company, features a prominent activism page on its website and advocates for the environment through its self-imposed Earth tax. Through the tax, the company donates 1% of annual sales to grassroots environmental groups and nonprofits. Patagonia also publishes activism-centered stories and works with climbing, running, and surfing ambassadors to underline its mission.
Warby Parker’s Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program is another way brands are using their business to do good. The online prescription and sunglasses retailer’s initiative has since responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. All of its resources are now focused on supporting frontline medical workers by providing personal protective equipment both in the U.S. and with its long-time partner, VisionSpring.
These cause-driven initiatives only scratch the surface of ways companies can partner with and support nonprofits. Brands that can align their brand and product or service with the mission they support — be the environment, better access to vision care, or other causes — see better support and engagement from customers.
How to Influence Gen Z
So, now you’re all caught up on how to connect and win over with Gen Z. But, how do you convert interest and engagement into leads, CTRs, and sales?
Reach Them through Mobile
As digital natives, the majority of Gen Z grew up with access to the internet. Now, 95% have access to a smartphone and spend an average of over four hours on it every day. Reaching them through mobile is also important as Gen Zers are two times more likely to convert on mobile than any other demographic.
Making sure your website or app is optimized for mobile screens and easy to navigate is only the beginning of having a strong online presence. Keeping web pages and apps up to date is another important factor as 60% of Gen Z won’t use them if they’re too slow.
However, stay away from traditional mobile ads, as over half of Gen Z finds them disruptive. Instead look to native advertising and influencer or meme marketing through YouTube, Twitch, TikTok, and Instagram.
Micro-Influencers over Celebrity Influencers
Everyone knows that finding influencers to promote your brand is one of the most important and things your company needs to do if capturing Gen Z’s attention is your goal. Studies show that 52% of Gen Z trust influencers about product and brand advice. However, finding the right influencer can pose an even bigger challenge.
If you’re considering finding a big name celebrity to sponsor or partner with your brand — think again. While not a bad idea, it’s certainly not the best if you want to reach Gen Z because unlike Millennials, 64% of the generation prefer to follow micro-influencers.
Micro-influencers, those with social media followings under 50,000, usually exist in niche spaces and are regarded as experts. They usually see more engagement from their audiences and are more trusted, as well.
Virtual influencers are another highly innovative and rapidly transforming sphere marketers can use to influence Gen Z. These completely computer-generated humans post Instagram photos and stories, engage with followers, and work with brands and other organizations to promote products or important messages.
Winning over Gen Z isn’t as simple as finding an influencer or a simple marketing campaign. It takes a deep understanding of not only who makes up Gen Z, but what they care about.
Brands that see success with Gen Z are also genuine, authentic, and transparent. More than just vocally supporting causes, brands that win and influence Gen Z usually partner with nonprofits, activists, and micro-influencers to truly make the world a better place.