Gen Z Marketing 101: How to market to Gen Z from a Zoomer

A group of young girls hanging out while on their phones to demonstrate how to market to Gen Z.

A new generation is officially starting to enter the market, which means it’s time to learn how to market to Gen Z.

If you don’t already know, anyone who was born between 1997 and 2012 is generally considered to be a part of “Generation Z.” Also referred to as “Zoomers,” they are the first generation to begin life with immediate access to handheld computing technology.

Of course, there are some older Zoomers — myself included — who just barely missed having technology and social media during their formative years. (Thanks Mom and Dad!)

Aside from our obvious differences from older generations (age), this extreme role of tech and social media in our lives has never been seen before. Sure, millennials experience this to an extent, but not to the same degree.

Millennials vs Gen Z: They’re totally the same, right?

Wrong. Over the years — especially when I was a pre-teen — I have been called a millennial more times than I can count. We’re often lumped into the same category by older generations, which has led to a good amount of disgusted Zoomers and offended millennials. (Ahh yes, the classic age-wars).

Despite the overwhelming amount of unnecessary teenage angst that it brought on, “Grandma, I am not a millennial!” It honestly is quite true. I’m not!

Millennials and Gen Z are digitally savvy generations — but we couldn’t be more different. They grew up with MySpace, and we grew up with Instagram and Snapchat. They say things like “doggo”, “shook”, and “swag,” and we say things like “wig,” “bet,” and “no cap.” All cringey, but still different (more on cringe later).

It’s easy to lump us together, but for an effective marketing strategy, one must understand the nuances of each generation. There is nothing more obvious than when an out-of-touch marketer or writer attempts to pander to our generation. (And of course, I would likely be terrible at marketing to baby boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964.)

Four Main Differences Between Marketing to Millennials vs. Zoomers, According to Forbes

  1. Influencer marketing. As younger generations turn towards content creators for their entertainment, influencer marketing grows. A report from Google found that a whopping 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers find their favorite content creators to be more relatable than traditional celebrities. Although millennials are fairly receptive to influencer marketing, it is most effective with Gen Z.
  2. Platform Usage. According to Forbes, millennials, on average, flip between three different screens at a time. Although this might seem incredible enough, Gen Z has them beat with an average of five screens. It is almost impossible to get our attention, especially with our increasingly short attention span of eight seconds. (I tend to refer to it as “goldfish brain,” because our average attention span is one second shorter than a goldfish’s).
  3. Authenticity. Much like the angsty Holden Caulfield (yes, that book is still widely taught in school), we hate anything that’s “phony.” Although this obsession with authenticity was started by Gen X, Gen Z takes it even further. It’s part of the reason why we are so hard to market to, we hate feeling like we’re being marketed to.
  4. Loyalty programs. Many brands offer loyalty programs for their customers, but according to a study by Ernst & Young, a mere 30% of Gen Z consumers view loyalty programs as a good thing, compared to 45% of millennials.

Digital Natives: Ad-Blockers and Skippers

Because we are so immersed in our digital networks, we are experts at seeing through marketing BS — if we even see it.

Research shows that Gen Z is well-versed in downloading and using ad-blocking software.

Hell, I’ve had AdBlock downloaded for years! And to top it all off, we skip ads like crazy. I will almost never watch an entire ad, even if it’s unskippable. All I have to do is mute it and pull out my phone. Ahh, ad-less bliss.

According to CNBC, teenagers are more likely to avoid online advertising and are less tolerant of it than older generations. On average, they skip ads three seconds earlier than Gen X (born 1965-1980). And, 69% of Gen Z respondents claim they like ads they can skip, compared to 56% of Gen X.

You may be thinking, “Well, there’s an obvious solution: invest in unskippable ads!” Although effective in theory, you are likely to receive backlash when more frustrated teens turn to ad-blocking software.

Okay, so to recap:

  • Ads need to be skippable or you’ll anger the beast
  • Ads need to be interesting enough that they don’t want to skip
  • Ads need to feel like they’re not ads

So, how do you market to Gen Z, anyway?

Best Practices: The Interesting and the Outrageous

I have two main pieces of advice when it comes to marketing to Gen Z: make it interesting and make it outrageous. Anything that will make a Zoomer laugh or say “WTF lol” is doing the right thing. Oftentimes the outrageous is what gets the most engagement.

One of my favorite examples of outrageous content from a big brand is Duolingo’s TikTok. Most of us know the helpful language learning app for its semi-pushy mascot, Duo the owl. (Yes, I know that I haven’t practiced my Spanish today!) However, if you aren’t on TikTok, you probably haven’t seen their latest marketing efforts.

With 3.1 million followers and 57.6 million likes, the account combines the interesting and outrageous in the best way. (This is pretty obvious from the crazy amount of likes that they get.)

So, what do they do? They sh*tpost (some classic Zoomer lingo for ya).

In the linked video you can see someone in a Duo costume showing its feet and asking if anyone wants pictures. Yep, you heard me right. A company that is valued at $4 billion is making feet pic jokes on their official TikTok account. The video has 204,900 likes, almost 6,000 comments, and 1.5 million views.

Now you may not be comfortable with going that far (understandably) but something along those lines truly is the best way to capture the attention of my generation. We’re foul-mouthed meme-lovers with a short attention span who spend way too much time on the internet.

Creating content that excites, especially video content, is a much more effective way to market to Generation Z. Gen Zers tend to prefer short-form video marketing campaigns from our favorite influencers over more traditional marketing strategies such as commercials.

Webfor: Content Marketing, Social Media Management, and More!

I have some good news: You don’t have to figure out how to market to Gen Z on your own! With Webfor’s help, we can create an effective marketing strategy for your product or service that specifically targets Gen Z (or whomever you’d like!).

We offer a number of award-winning strategies for your various digital marking needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have. We look forward to working with you.