The golden child of marketing – i.e. the most noticed generation at the moment – is Generation Z, also known as Gen Z, Generation Greta, iGeneration or just Zoomers. Quite astonishingly so, because quite a few zoomers still live on the pocket money given to them! Curious as to why this is? Read on to learn everything you need to know for your successful Generation Z marketing.
How did Generation Z grow up?
When the first of their generation were born, Microsoft just released its new operating system Win95, Nokia issued the first mass-produced smartphone and Amazon went online as an online book shop. Yes, that’s right – only books on Amazon back then.
As Gen Z grew up, they experienced a fully digitized and globalized world for as long as they can remember.
In the western hemisphere, this generation grew up in economically stable conditions. However, the world around them became increasingly extreme. Climate change unsettled this generation, as did the negative consequences of globalization and divisionism in politics.
Who belongs to Generation Z?
Generation Z follows Millennials (also known as Generation Y) and, depending on the definition, includes those born between 1995 and 2009.
How many of Generation Z are there in society?
Generation Z currently makes up around 22% of the US population. In just over a decade, they will account for more than a third of all consumers worldwide. The proportion of those earning and spending their own money is growing by the day.
Who are the parents of Generation Z?
Most Gen Zs are descended from Generation X. Their parents would have been born between 1965 and 1979, meaning that zoomers grew up in relative economic and political security – at least in the western hemisphere.
Psychologically, this generation is torn between a search for meaning and an exuberant mood, which can be seen by their strive for more sustainability, rising divorce rates and an increasing individualization of society.
While their parent Generation X were still on the road without seat belts and bike helmets, they offer their own Gen Z children a life full of convenience, safety, and individual support. Most of those born after 1995 grew up comparatively well-protected.
What went on politically between 2010 and 2020?
Arab Spring and War in Syria
The hopeful beginning of the “Arab Spring” in 2010 quickly turned into a civil war in Syria and then into a global proxy war that is still going on today. Bombed-out cities, desperate people and destroyed cultural assets, Generation Z knows no other picture of the once-glorious Syrian empire.
As of 2022, some 14 million people seeking protection have been displaced from Syria and emigrated abroad. In some countries this huge number – Turkey alone received close to 4 million refugees – caused social issues. This in turn has led to many Generation Z kids to take a clear stance against xenophobia, e.g. by wearing T-shirts with the inscription “Refugees Welcome“.
Paris, Brussels, Munich, Berlin… at the height of the refugee crisis, 2015 and 2016 saw an increase in Islamist-motivated terrorist attacks in the middle of Europe. The feeling of living in a safe geographical zone diminished.
Fridays for Future
It all started on August 20, 2018. Instead of going to school, Greta Thunberg went on strike for the climate. The rest is history. People between 14 and 29 worry about climate change more than anything else.
The Covid19 shock hit Generation Z particularly hard, as they couldn’t freely exercise what generations before them had taken for granted: the right to party, and the knock-on effects are still being felt today. It presented the generation with huge challenges to realign their lives, their relationships, and their educational and professional careers. “Lost” – youth word of the year in Germany in 2020 – sums up the general feeling of being lost in a world that has lost its appeal.
What were technological inventions between 2010 and 2020?
When the iPad was launched in 2010, some celebrated its minimalism, while others wished it had a USB port. In the end, Apple’s first tablet was a huge success and showed the world the future of portable electronics: ergonomic, lightweight, and super easy to use.
Internet of Things
We’ve been talking about the Internet of Things (IoT) since 1999. Since 2010 at the latest, we’ve been experiencing it in our everyday lives: blinds automatically rolling up and down at a certain minute of the day, smartphone-controlled lawn mowers, kids taking digi-pics with their drones that get posted online straight away. Every device is Internet-enabled, everything communicates with everything else.
Camera, analog TV, typewriter: most Gen Zs have just seen the pictures. Since 2010, most devices have been running digitally, images displayed on flat screens so rich in detail that you can zoom in to spots invisible to the naked eye. That’s why digital communication with Gen Z is based on speed.
Birth of social media
Their childhood was also the birth of social media giants like Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006) and Instagram (2010). No other generation is as active on social media as Gen Z. People under the age of 27 spend a large part of their social lives in chat rooms and on timelines. It’s over two hours per day.
Since 2018, Mars is no longer a no (hu)man’s land. Nasa’s InSight lander landed on the red planet on November 26 after a 500 million kilometer journey. Since then anything is conceivable: for example, that SpaceX founder Elon Musk is fully intend on putting a million people on Mars by 2074.
What children’s movies did Generation Z watch?
Shrek – The Daredevil Hero
The success of the DreamWorks film Shrek shows us that Eddy Murphy can sing, and monsters are only human.
Grumpy mammoths (Ice Age, 2002) anxious giraffes (Madagascar, 2005) and forgetful surgeon fish: in the 2000s, many quirky animals made their grand appearance in the cinema.
No other series of novels for young people shaped the noughties more than J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Magic, courage, and friendship – Harry’s adventures had millions of people in its thralls around the world.
Kung Fu Panda
How could you not love the friendly, dumpling-eating panda with the worried goose of a father? Eastern philosophy meets exciting adventure in three films (2008, 2011 and 2016).
What was the youth of Generation Z like?
Generation Z has more choices than any generation ever had: education, job, lifestyle, place of residence. At the same time, many suffer from the lack of certainties and are afraid of climate change, social injustice or even being manipulated online.
The lives of Gen Z take place online to a large degree. Love, friendship, shopping, work, leisure time – everything happens online. It’s clear that a lot of things there are “fake” or influenced by advertising. This generation is very much used to question things. They want to be addressed honestly, with clear words and in a language they understand.
How do you speak? Youth language of Generation Z
Boujee: Someone who tries to look boujee tries to come across better economically. A girl donning a purse that costs more than she can earn in a week comes across boujee.
Bop: A zoomer who likes a tune will call it bop. Sounds bop.
Drag: If someone’s dragging you, they’re disrespect you online, usually by poking fun at you.
Drip: Someone who impresses with their style and exudes coolness. Like the way Billie Eilish dresses, absolute drip.
Fire: “I went to see Imagine Dragons last night. Best band ever. That gig was just fire. Absolutely fire.”
Lit: If a Zoomer uses the word lit, something truly awesome must have happened. Use it instead of really or very, and you’re doing lit great.
Salty: If someone is salty, you’ve probably ruffled their feathers to make them feel a bit angry, usually caused by a little annoyance.
Tea: When you spill the tea, you share the latest gossip. So when you’re in the mood for tea, you’re invited for a good old chin-wag – but Gen Z style.
Thirst Trap: When you’re on a social-media channel and see a post intended to provide a sexual stimulus, it’s designed to quench the thirst of a lusty observer. The term has been around for a while and is well established.
Wig: If something is so awesome that it blows your mind uhum wig, you may as well just use this one word to express your amazement.
What is Generation Z dancing to?
The CD player was abolished long ago with the last Amy Winehouse CD. Since then, Gen Z has been discovering music digitally, e.g. on TikTok or Spotify. The music magazine “Billbord” attributes to TikTok an influence on the music industry similar to that of MTV in the 1990s.
In addition to electronic music and rap, Gen Z also celebrates bands from the 1980s, 90s and 2000s.
These 5 songs will drive (almost) every Gen Z kid to the dance floor:
- Billie Eilish – Bad Guy
- Drake – Dark Lane Demo Tapes
- Kayne West – Stronger
- Maclemore – Can’t hold us
- Michael Jackson – Smooth Criminal
What movies did Generation Z watch as teenagers?
The Hunger Games
4 films about Panem, based on the science fiction novel series of the same name by Suzanne Collins. It was quite the rage not too long ago.
The friendly Hobbit creatures penned by J. R. R. Tolkien were already a hit in the 1930s. The first movie was released in 2013, thrilling huge audiences on the big screen.
Gen Z kids couldn’t get enough of the cool cars that turn into action heroes. 7 movie instalments have hit the screens since 2007, and there are more to come.
Gen Z is probably most familiar with the newer editions of the science fiction series from 1999 onward. They continue to tell the story of the original trilogy of the 1980s.
In various films, Marvel brought its solo comic book heroes such as Iron Man, Captain America, and Spider Man to the big screen. “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) unites them in a grand finale and marks the end of an era.
Generation Z Fashion
Billie Eilish led the way and made the oversize sweater popular. The 2010s are marked by unisex fashion as a statement against sexualization and body-shaming. Fashion became a unique tool of individual expression of diversity, which is why Gen Z also loves retro pieces from thrift stores and fashion from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
Ladies It Pieces
- Jeans with high waist and ankle length, and never too tight. But please #noskinnyjeans
- Cycling shorts and leggings – first seen in the 1980s
- Flared pants – they are back again!
- Spaghetti top or crop top
- Mullet and perm – only the brave dare to do so
Men’s It Pieces
- Shirts from the thrift stores
- Sneakers, preferably from Nike, Vans, New Balance or Adidas
- Nail polish in different colors
- Statement t-shirts and hoodies
- Fanny packs or small handbags
- 1990s bucket hats
Brands, shopping, and trends among Generation Z
Like any other, Generation Z is not a homogeneous group, but consists of very different individuals. Nevertheless, a few trends can be identified:
What are the values of Generation Z?
- Online first – Gen Z doesn’t know a world without the Internet. It is the first stop for everything they need. This generation filters offers quickly and routinely according to their benefits. Anything that doesn’t match flies out the window straight away. The fast-moving, vertical world of TikTok is not considered overbearing, but a daily source of inspiration. An oversupply of input is quite normal.
- Re-commerce and organic – Many Gen Zs like to consume, but consciously, attaching importance to recycling, sustainable materials and natural ingredients. Sustainable skincare products are just as trendy as second-hand clothing. 52% of Instagram users follow accounts dedicated to social justice. 80% of Generation Z have already bought second-hand goods, while 32% sell used clothing themselves.
- Self-depricating humor – Life is serious enough as it is. Memes and jokes about the absurdities of everyday life in a visual form are ubiquitous on social media. This is also relevant for brands: with humor they have the best chance of being well perceived by Gen Z.
- Online dating – Getting to know someone online is no problem, but dating in real life or even approaching a stranger? Cringe. One popular alternative is a video chat. Tinder reports 52% more mentions of the term “video call” in profiles worldwide. Also interesting: one-fifth of Gen Z describe themselves as queer.
- Fear of the future – A Gallup study from 2022 shows that almost nine out of ten young people (86%) are afraid of the future. Only one in three of those surveyed trust politicians to get to grips with the challenges of the present by the year 2050.
Generation Z’s favorite brands
Big brand names still make an impression, but they are no longer enough. The ethical behavior of brands is becoming more important. When Gen Z gets excited about a brand, it’s because it stands for real values and trustworthiness. These three brands manage that:
Famous designers, limited-edition retros, collaborations with rappers, and simply good shoes and clothes. It works so well that Nike fans themselves pick up their cell phones and share their best Nike moments. There’s no better advertising.
The US brand seems to have the right pair of jeans for every figure. They stand for durability, and tell customers to wash their pants only every other week. Then pass them on to later generations when you’re done wearing them. Sick!
to last from generation to generation✨👖 #buybetterwearlonger #liveinlevis
The candy maker is doing a lot of things right, from its vegan product line to climate-neutral production goals to fun TikToks featuring real Katjes fans.
Generation Z Scene
Gen Z peeps grow up with the awareness that everyone is valuable and must stand up for their convictions. Against this background, communities are formed that fight for their cause. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about the rights of marginalized groups or the joint crashing of a stock market value, as in the case of GameStop shares by Reddit users in 2021.
Gen Z is often told (by older generations) that they can’t work under pressure. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen. The fact is that younger people are less and less likely to want to work full-time and are no longer looking for meaning in life through work, but in their own projects. According to a study, 25% of Zoomers strive to retire at the age of 55.
The movie stars, politicians, and Lady Dianas of old are now influencers or opinion leaders. 83% of 13 to 24-year-old Instagram users believe that influencers on Instagram have just as much influence as traditional celebrities. It’s no wonder that the majority of them also want to make a career online. Many successful influencers have a big disposable income.
Generation Z Influencer
Alongside a host of YouTube stars, TikTokers and Instagrammers, the top 3 people to leave their mark on GenZ are:
Billie Eilish (artist)
Billie was just 16 when her first album was released. Her music and her idiosyncratic look strikes a chord with her generation – she’s the ultimate style icon. With a brittle voice and minimalist sound, she captures the general feeling of insecurity and provides a soothing counterpart to the digital overload.
Greta Tunberg (Activist)
Delicate, pigtailed rebel, Joan of Arc of the youth, a “young generation’s concern embodied by a single person”. Greta Thunberg speaks from the soul of an entire generation and manages to activate millions with her Fridays for Future movement.
Dixie and Charli D’Amelio are the daughters of Heidi D’Amelio and politician Marc D’Amelio. They achieved international success with their dance videos on TikTok. Dixie alone managed to reach out to 57 million followers on the video platform, garnering 3.3 billion likes and making her one of the most subscribed TikTok celebrities worldwide.
What’s Generation Z’s consumer behavior like?
Zetts attach great importance to sustainability. When it comes to enjoyment, however, they are often rather pleasure-oriented. The attitude-behavior gap doesn’t stop there. What do they get at the corner store? Maybe a coffee with oat milk or an energy drink, a vegan dish or burger and chocolate. Organic quality, please.
What purchasing power does Generation Z have?
In 2022, a Business Insider estimate puts the spending power at over $140 billion with $360 billion in disposable income. It is estimated that this will further increase once Corona and inflation will decrease again. Experts expect most countries to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2025.
With the baby boomers retiring from the workforce, the battle for the younger generation’s share in the labor market has already begun. Despite all the crises and uncertainties, the chances of Generation Z earning a regular income are good.
Marketing for Generation Z
Scanning through Timelines and TikTok has also produced new skills: Generation Z is extremely good at classifying content at lightning speed. Anything that doesn’t add value or seems inauthentic is wiped away. Content that is entertaining and tailored precisely to the needs of users works well.
Generation Z Dos and Don’ts
|Green washing||Be honest. If your offer is not very sustainable, be open about it and show what you want to do better in the future.|
|Fake purpose and values||Communicate 100% authentically. Gen Z senses exaggeration and dishonesty immediately.|
|Push marketing with product-heavy advertising messages||Take the needs of your target group into account: What added value does your product offer? Show it concretely with examples.|
|Too little or no video content||Video content first! If you don’t have much of it yet, build some up now. It’s not about perfection, but authenticity.|
|Address only the mind||Bring emotion into your messages! Every purchase decision is made on an emotional level. Especially with Gen Z!|
|Long text blocks||Gen Z doesn’t read, they scan for information. Provide meaningfully organized content in easy-to-consume bits.|
|Official sounding written language||Write as you speak. Use natural language and simple sentences, as if you were talking to a good friend.|
|Fake youth language||Fake is never an option. If you’re unsure, pay more attention to making sure your content is well-structured and uses simple, clear language. That always works.|
|Telephone and e-mail as the only means of contact||Be reachable, even on online channels and via Messenger. Gen Z doesn’t like to pick up the phone and wait for an answer. Communication must be fast and uncomplicated.|
How do Generation Z folks communicate?
- Chat – Gen Z communicates daily via messengers such as WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram. Because writing takes longer, they also like to use voice messages, GIFs and emojis. On websites, Gen Z folks prefer chatbots to the classic telephone hotline.
- Video call – Zoomers really don’t like using the telephone to make calls. Many have developed a kind of telephone phobia when it comes to making a call with the physician or a service hotline. For private calls, the video call always wins. Since lockdown, home schooling and the like, video calls have become the norm.
- Social media – most people under the age of 27 use social media apps every day. What could be more natural than to communicate directly throgh them? That’s why many companies now also handle their service via social media channels.
How does Generation Z use media?
- Books – Yes, Generation Z still reads books. And they prefer printed books (12 minutes) to e-readers (1 minute). The most popular genres are fantasy and romance novels as well as mangas.
- Newspapers and magazines – On average, 14 to 29-year-olds read newspapers and magazines for just 2 minutes a day. They spend another 32 minutes reading online media.
- Television – TV is no longer relevant for Gen Z. According to an online study, people watch under two hours of TV a days, which is much less than the average three hours of the entire population. In contrast, Gen Z spent 81 minutes streaming online programs (compared to 36 minutes in the overall population).
- Streaming – In 2019, streaming overtook TV among 14- to 29-year-olds. Corona has since seen streaming services gain further ground. Interesting: For 16 to 25-year-olds, the smartphone is the most important device for streaming. Over 40% of this age group uses it to watch series and movies, while only 20% use a smart TV, 16% a TV set or a streaming stick.
- Internet – 14 to 29 year-olds spend exactly seven hours a day online – that’s 429 minutes, according to this online study. At the forefront of media use: video (142 minutes) and audio (105 minutes).
- Podcast – Young people especially are drivers of this market. YPulse’s TV and Entertainment report found that over 64% of Gen Z listen to podcasts, while 32% listen at least once a week or more.
How does Generation Z use social media?
Top 3: Apps used daily
- Instagram – 73% daily use
- Snapchat – 44% daily usage
- Tiktok – 32% daily usage
Top 3: Motivation for social media use
- Entertainment, fun and diversion
- Learning and personal development
- Getting inspired (fashion, music, etc.)
Top 3: Most popular content formats
- Video formats like TikToks and Reels – no longer than 90 seconds
- Social photo formats like Snapchat and Stories
- Gamified content – content enriched with playful elements
Facts about shopping
- 82% of all Internet users have already made a purchase online, with clothing and shoes being the most popular.
- Influencers drive purchasing decisions of the younger generations, even if they have a rather small numbers of followers (micro-influencers).
- Gen Z people like to buy in-app, without having to switch channels.
Running ads to target Generation Z
First, find out which social media apps your target audience uses. You don’t have to be present on all of them. Choose the two apps with the greatest potential and start using the trial and error principle. Try out something, evaluate and optimize the results, and keep trying until you achieve the desired success.
Here you’ll find an overview of the 12 most important online channels and learn all about placing online ads with practical step-by-step instructions.
Tips for your online advertising
- Post regularly on relevant social media channels. For TikTok, post several times a day.
- Adapt your advertising to the style of the platform. It’s more work, but also brings more gains.
- Capture the attention of your target audience in 8 seconds or less. Show immediately what your product is about, what added value it brings and how it can entertain.
- Show the people behind your shop. Real people create trust, which is why influencers are so popular.
- Bring emotion into your posts. This is how you build closeness to people
- Talk to your target group. For example, via posts and comments or surveys. This way you get honest feedback and find out what you can do better.
How loyal is Generation Z?
Reaching Gen Z with advertising messages is not so easy. Those who are confronted with advertising from all directions from an early age will eventually develop a merciless filter. So try to stand out from the crowd with entertaining and compelling content.
How to inspire Generation Z with your brand
- Clearly show what your brand stands for (your purpose).
- Dare to stand out from the crowd (experiment with themes).
- Work with influencers or put yourself in front of the camera.
- Create lots of video content. Preferably short, emotional, and authentic.
- Communicate at eye level – you instead of we, friendly instead of businesslike, honest instead of hackneyed phrases.
- Be present on the channels where your target group is present.
- Also offer customer service through these channels.
- Choose products for your shop that Gen Z loves.