So you’re looking to connect with Generation Z… without seeming like an uncool parent trying to get their teen to participate in family game night. First of all, welcome! You’ve joined a mission so many brands have embarked on.
We know what you’re probably thinking. Why am I doing this? What even is a “Gen Z?”
Gen Z is the new kid in town. They are the post-Nintendo 64 generation. Chances are, they’ve only watched Fresh Prince through reruns… or more likely… streaming.
Gen Z was born between the years 1997 and 2012. They grew up in a world of technology, meaning they’re probably better than you at navigating social media, the internet, and content creation. They can recognize an ad in half the time it takes YouTubers to say “sponsored by.”
We know talking to Gen Z seems intimidating. But they are the newest generation of adults; their opinions, spending habits, and values determine the zeitgeist. They’re also pretty cool. Generation Z does not just want to be a generation of consumers and they’re throwing the entire rule book out the window.
Lucky for us, Gen Z has made it clear how they want to communicate with brands. So, without further ado, let’s break it down.
The 7 Ways to Speak to Gen-Z While Marketing Your Brand
- Find Their Watering Holes
- Entertain, Entertain, Entertain
- Embrace That You’re a Person
- Know Your Values
- Establish Strong Partnerships
- Create Opportunities for Personalization
- Forget About Selling
We know it seems easier to stick with those conventional marketing tactics that have worked for you. But, turns out, speaking to Gen Z can be quite fun and creative.
1. Find Their Watering Holes
No matter who you’re marketing to, this is always one of the first places you’re going to start. In order to reach your target audience, you need to find where they hang out.
For reaching Gen Xers, you’re likely used to marketing on Facebook, banner ads, email campaigns, etc. Well, that’s not going to work for Generation Z.
You probably already know the basics of where Gen Z hangs out online: Instagram, TikTok, and Spotify. But Gen Z is also gravitating toward other social media networks.
These social networks cater to their niche interests, allowing them to build a strong community of people with similar passions. For starters, there’s Letterboxd for film fans, Strava for avid runners, and Goodreads for obsessed book buyers.
There’s no end to the places you can go to find Gen Z. Now, where you pick is going to depend on the type of content you’re going to make…
2. Entertain, Entertain, Entertain
We shouldn’t have to tell you that content is king. To put it bluntly: Gen Z does not want to see your ads. In fact, they’ll definitely judge you for the worse if one of your ads pops up on their page.
But, it’s not the end of the world! In fact, what Generation Z does want is to be entertained. They want to laugh, they want to cry, and they want to see something they can text to their friends.
Put simply, become one of the content creators they love. Whether it’s funny TikTok video content or engaging Instagram stories, make content that adds value to their page rather than distracts.
So what content should you make? Think about your brand’s niche. Explore content that is aimed toward’s specific communities that fit your brand. Also, don’t get tripped up on making everything “perfect.” Gen Z tends to gravitate toward gritty, more authentic content.
3. Embrace That You’re a Person
At the end of the day, Gen Z knows that you’re a person behind a computer. They don’t want to pretend that you’re not. In fact, many of them want to become the people in the chair!
If anything, interacting as just a “brand” will lose credibility points in the mind of Gen Z. They want to interact with real people, not objects. So, don’t be afraid to let your own voice seep into the content you make!
The most successful brands with Gen Z have authentic, familiar personalities. They don’t shy away from sarcasm, banter, and even annoyance.
Many brands have even gained impressive followings by drawing attention to the faces creating their content. The Washington Post’s TikTok (@washingtonpost) has gained a lot of attention (and 80 million followers) by using reporter Dave Jorgenson as the face of the account. He lets his own personality seep into videos, creating funny and informational TikToks for Gen Z looking for a place to get their news.
4. Know Your Values
Generation Z takes their digital activism seriously. They are looking to support brands with values that align with their own.
It is important to note that this does not mean putting on an appearance of activism. Just posting rainbows in June is not going to get Gen Z on your side. Gen Z not only expects that your brand demonstrates social responsibility but also takes action to back it.
To make sure your activism isn’t “performative,” take a look at what your brand’s values are. If that’s sustainability, introduce sustainable products or donate to climate initiatives. If you post about supporting BIPOC, make sure that who you hire reflects that.
When Gen Z sees that you are actively doing the work to show up for the communities you care about, they are going to support you.
5. Create Strong Partnerships
Above loyalty to any brand, Gen Z is loyal to the creators and online figures they trust. They are dedicated followers of creators they love and take their recommendations and advice seriously.
You’ve probably heard of influencer marketing. Using influencers to promote your brand can be an extremely influential tool. It helps you reach a larger base of potential customers and builds excitement for your brand.
However, Gen Z has become desensitized to influencers advertising products to them. On social platforms, #deinfluencing has become a popular trend where creators tell followers why they should not buy a viral product.
Just as Gen Z doesn’t like ads, they don’t like when the people they follow are paid to tell them to buy something. As a brand, who you partner with and what kind of partnership you form is extremely important.
Who you partner with, whether that’s a micro-influencer or a traditional celebrity, should align with your brand values. They should be an advocate and avid user of your brand, not just paid endorsements.
6. Create Opportunities for Personalization
Gen Z loves opportunities for self-expression, be that a customized Spotify playlist or a pair of Crocs decorated just for their tastes. Members of Gen Z want to stand out from the crowd. If your brand gives Gen Z an opportunity to express their individuality, you’re golden.
Not every brand is like Spotify and can offer easy opportunities for consumer personalization. Just because your product doesn’t allow for customization, however, doesn’t mean that your content can’t!
Think outside of the box: is there interactive content you can create? Don’t be afraid to be funny and weird. Who knows, maybe your “What Your Laundry Detergent Says About You” video will go viral.
7. Forget About Selling
For our final point, we’re going to leave you with some advice: forget about selling. We know, it’s easier said than done. But if anything, Gen Z does not want to be “sold” a product. They want to be told to believe in your brand.
Don’t go for the sale right from the beginning. Let yourself form a relationship with your audience and build their trust. You’ll find that, in the end, you’ll have a much more loyal base.