Marketing to Gen Z: What Marketers Need to Know to Connect with Young Consumers

Marketing to Gen Z is a task that’s leaving many businesses scratching their heads. It’s a task that will be vital to the immediate future of digital marketing.

It is hard for some of us older (I mean mature) generations to believe, but Generation Z is growing up – and becoming an extremely significant consumer segment. This age group alone outnumbers Millennials and will soon make up 40% of global consumers with a buying power of $4 billion.

This group is also quite unique when it comes to consumer behavior. They are the first generation to grow up with technology fully at their fingertips and they have never known a time without social media, smart phones, or WIFI. They have also revolutionized the way that people interact with brands and discover products – particularly online.

Now that this generation is coming to an age where they are making purchasing decisions of their own, marketers are scrambling to find ways to connect.

The issue is that many marketers simply misunderstand this generation. They are often lumped in with Millennials, but Generation Z is quite different from their predecessors. Furthermore, Generation Z is generally skeptical of businesses and marketing ploys – as 83% do not trust the intentions of most businesses.

So, if you thought marketing to Baby Boomers and Millennials was a challenge, you might be wondering just how brands today are supposed to market to this skeptical and untrusting generation?

Let’s discuss.

1. Understand Their Priorities

Knowing your audience through and through is always the best strategy for marketing to any generation – and Gen Z is obviously no exception.

However, marketers cannot just assume that they understand what these young consumers want. The tried-and-true marketing tricks do not necessarily influence their behavior in the same way that they do with older generations.

Many companies have conducted in-depth research reports to help businesses and marketers understand what makes Gen Z tick. One report from McKinsey & Company found that Gen Z is focused on communication and realism. They prefer to make purchases that emphasize their uniqueness while also being ethically sourced.


Furthermore, Generation Z is quite a caring generation who prefers to support businesses that are making a positive impact to society or the planet. This same report found that the overwhelming majority of Gen Z consumers would stop buying from brands that were overly offensive. They prefer to buy from companies that supported causes like sustainability, equality, or that gave back to the community in some way.

For this reason, Gen Z lists brands like Fenty Beauty, LUSH, and Patagonia as some of their favorites because of important social causes they support through branding and marketing.


Therefore, it is extremely important for brands to be transparent with their audiences on the stances they take on certain issues. This can be as simple as focusing on diversity in your advertising.

For instance, many clothing brands have now opted to use non-professional models with varying body types – as opposed to the traditional stick-thin supermodel. This is to promote body positivity and inclusion.


 2. Focus on Aesthetics and Experiences over Promoting Products

Authenticity is a big deal with young consumers. Since they are so notoriously skeptical (particularly of large corporations), transparency goes a long way in marketing to Gen Z. So, it is best to focus on making your advertising believable and realistic, instead of purely promotional.

According to one study, 77% of Gen Z consumers preferred ads that showed real-life situations over highly curated photos. Gen Z is not necessarily interested in detailed product descriptions and posts – instead they want to know how the product makes them feel and how it actually looks (especially on social media).

Clearly, appearances matter to Generation Z – and brands need to know how to bring this into their advertising strategies.A great example of this is the clothing company Brandy Melville, which primarily markets towards this younger generation of consumers. Their social media specifically focuses on conveying aesthetically pleasing images that show real-life situations. This resonates quite will with Gen Z.


While this content is certainly promoting their clothing items, they are not quite so obvious as traditional ads. They fit right in with their customer’s feeds and appear to be quite genuine and realistic – and therefore authentic.

3. They Trust Influencers

The Influencer Report” from Morning Consult found that over half of Gen Z consumers considered influencers to be trustworthy. Nearly three-fourths of this generation follow several influencer accounts on social media. Moreover, 56% have purchased something as a direct result of an influencer’s recommendation.

However, Generation Z is still picky about what types of influencers they trust.

Authenticity is (once again) the most important factor, along with humor, expertise, and overall style.


So, it is extremely important for brands to be careful about which influencers they partner with in marketing to Gen Z. Micro-influencers can often be a good option here, since they tend to speak to more niche focused audiences.

But what is also interesting here is that Generation Z aspires to be and considers themselves to be influencers – in a sense. “The Influencer Report” also found that 86% of Gen Z consumers wanted to receive compensation for posting branded content.

One of the best ways for brands to capitalize on this fact is to set up referral systems to boost UGC (user generated content) and allow their customers to earn rewards for word of mouth marketing.

For example, Tarte Cosmetics allows customers to earn reward points for sharing their purchases on social media.



Other companies, like Hum Nutrition, provide unique referral codes for every follower to give new customers a discount from their personal social media pages. This allows customers to become “influencers” of their own – while helping your brand reach new audiences.


Savvy marketers know that influencer marketing can be beneficial for brand promotion and audience expansion. The reason why this works so well is because it breaks down that barrier between a company and its customers – and Generation Z responds well to this type of marketing.

4. They Expect Immediate Engagement

Gen Z is used to a fast-paced environment – and often expects instant gratification. After all, they have never had to wait for their dial-up to get on the internet or wait until their local Blockbuster had the movie they wanted to rent.

In addition to ensuring that your website runs at lightning speed, you need to be sure that your marketing team is on top of engagement and interaction data. Gen Z tends to use social media as their main mode of communication with businesses when they have a question or an issue.  They expect a nearly instantaneous response.

Engagement is crucial in marketing to Gen Z. An NRF survey found that nearly 75% of Gen Z consumers expected brands to respond to their comments or questions on social media particularly. However, over 50% stated they did not receive responses or were unsatisfied with how the brand answered them.


Therefore, you need to really be on top of engagement on social channels by using listening tools to alert your marketing team when engagement is occurring.

You may also want to incorporate chatbots on your website or Facebook pages so users can receive instant interactions to answer common questions. For example, look at Sephora’s chatbot. It allows users to book services, ask questions, or be instantly connected with customer service.


5. Don’t Forget About Email Marketing

Marketers often mistakenly associate email marketing with older generations.

However, studies show that Gen Z checks their email multiple times a day. Next to social media, it is their preferred method of engagement with their favorite brands. Plus, many Gen Z consumers have made multiple purchases because of this type of marketing.


The trick here is to understand how to use email to truly connect with this generation. One way is to use psychological “tricks” to urge a response. For instance, Urban Outfitters sends out alerts for flash sales to their email lists.

Personalization is key when marketing to Gen Z – they expect it at this point.  The goal is to prioritize their own “uniqueness” – and email marketing is a perfect platform for offering customized experiences.

Again, Sephora takes the cake with their highly personalized email marketing. They offer product suggestions based around the individual’s eye color and skin type.



Marketing to Gen Z isn’t that daunting or perplexing as you may think. They are a unique set of consumers. But just like every other generation, they are responsive to brands who understand their needs, interests, and desires. They just respond to it in a different way.

By making these slight adjustments within your own marketing strategy, you will surely connect with this young and powerful generation.

About Joanna

Joanna Besley is a Content Marketing Writer for E2M Solutions Inc., whose primary writing focus is on marketing topics and SEO. Outside of work, she enjoys exploring the San Diego area hikes, traveling outside of the country, and trying out new vegan restaurants.