Gen Z – The Future of Marketing

Gen Z, born between the years 1997 and 2010, are known as the most digitally-naive generation to date. Growing up with social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube has kept them constantly connected.

Add to that the rise in reality TV during the early 2000s, and you’ll see it’s no wonder that Gen Z humour often features pop culture references, such as memes, TV shows, and movies.

Bringing brands back to life with online shopping

If we have learnt anything in the past few years, it’s that Gen Z are queens at bringing back old, dying brands thanks to social media trends.

Eurostat (2023) revealed that Gen Z (ages 16-24 years old) are the age group most likely to buy something online, with 78% of Gen Z-ers making a purchase online this year compared to only 50% of boomers (born 1946-1954).

We have the emergence of online shopping platforms such as TikTok Shop to thank for this.

Let’s take a look at some examples…

In 2008, Crocs saw their stock plummet after multiple fashion publishers made it popular to hate the brand, labelling them as ‘ugly.’ As a result, 2000 jobs were cut and they lost over $185 million in that year alone.

However, Crocs began to boom in 2021, when they were seen on the feet of supermodels like Kendall Jenner, rappers like Post Malone, and collaborating with high fashion brands like Balenciaga. 

These smart moves by Crocs proved to be a hit with pop-culture-obsessed Gen Z and increased their stock by 140% in 2021. It was a major comeback moment for the brand and, as of 2023, Crocs continue to be highly popular among Gen Z.

Another recent comeback brand we can look at is Barbie.

Back in 2014, Richard Dickson, President and Chief Operating Officer of Mattel reported, “We hit a low and it was a moment to reflect in the context of, ‘Why did Barbie lose relevance?’…She didn’t reflect the physicality, the look, if you will, of the world around us. And so we then set a course to truly transform the brand with a playbook around reigniting our purpose.”

Barbie saw a slight increase in interest through the pandemic, but we really saw the brand take off after the announcement of The Barbie Movie.

With a $150 million marketing budget, Mattel didn’t hold back with their marketing efforts. We had collabs with global brands such as Crocs, Vans and NYX. And we were even spoilt with music from Billie Eilish (a Gen Z icon). It’s fair to say the movie was a success, a $162-million-in-the-release-weekend kind of success.

Aside from large-scale campaigns and insane budgets, marketing to Gen Z is something every brand can do. With a little bit of personality and pizazz, we have seen many companies grow a hefty following on social media.

Brands such as Ryanair, McDonald’s, Monzo Bank and Innocent Smoothies all use their comment sections to humour and regularly engage with their Gen Z audiences, and the consumers LOVE it.

So, how do I target Gen Z?

Now you are familiar with how Gen Z think and perceive information, here are some top tips when it comes to targeting Gen Zers (written by a real-life Gen Z).

Create like a creator – create short, attention-grabbing content, look for a niche and aim for authentic engagement. Gen Zers are known for their short attention span, you need to catch it quick! Entertain! Keep experimenting with different types of content, eventually you will find what is best for you and your audience.

Avoid going straight for the sell – SELL SELL SELL doesn’t work on social anymore. Establish yourself as educational, entertaining and relatable. Building a recognised and trusted brand on social media won’t happen overnight, start with a core foundation of educational content.

Make use of your comment section – become a part of your audience, many customers engage in the comments — meet them there! And keep them coming back for more. Gen Zers love brands that have a strong voice and a large personality, don’t be afraid to cause a few waves.

Be transparent – ensure you take accountability for any missteps. We are all human and we all make mistakes, but Gen Z have no problem doing their research and will do a deep dive into a brand’s history. Company culture means a lot to Gen Z — your brand should hold the same values privately and publically.