Understanding Generation Z & 10 Ways to Win Gen Z Over


Every business, college, and university needs to figure out how to engage better, and market to Gen Z. Gen Zers are bold and creative, which is especially evident in the trends they’re driving on TikTok, Instagram Reels, and other social media platforms. 

This generation is 60 million strong. Oh, and they have a spending power of over $140 billion

Gen Z has more information available to them than any generation before and they know how to access this info — quickly! But here’s the thing: they don’t want to be sold to. 

This makes it tricky to market to Gen Z. They want to decide what is best for them, making it challenging for businesses and colleges to break through the clutter and make a meaningful connection.  

Table of Contents

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10 Ways You Can Engage and Connect with Gen Z: 

  1. Reach them on mobile 
  2. Join all relevant social media 
  3. Be transparent and accountable
  4. Focus on value 
  5. Be entertaining
  6. Support health and wellness 
  7. Boost your digital capabilities 
  8. Show that you care 
  9. Build community with your students or customers 
  10.  Establish your brand’s personality 

But before we jump into winning over Gen Z, let’s first talk about who exactly Gen Z is and why you need to understand them. 

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Who is Gen Z?

Gen Zers were born between 1995 and 2005, and the oldest Gen Zer is 26! To date, they are the most ethnically diverse generation, valuing creativity and diversity. Gen Zers are digital natives and are highly accessible, if you have the right marketing approach. 

Why should you care about understanding and marketing to Gen Z? Well, with a spending power of over $140 billion, they’re one of the largest driving forces in the economy. Millennials and Gen Z combined accounted for 46% of the global population in 2019! 

They’re also driving significant cultural and behavioral shifts in society, making it crucial for you to understand their motivations and what they want. (Which we’re about to get into!) 

Gen Z Habits 

It’s probably no surprise that Gen Zers are the most wired into technology. Here’s exactly how in touch they are

  • 70% of 1,000 Gen Z respondents watch 2+ hours of YouTube a day. 
  • 30% use Instagram daily
  • 25% check Snapchat daily 
  • 84% browse the Internet while watching TV
  • 93% of parents say their kids influence their household purchases 
  • 70% of people would rather choose a ‘Message Us’ button over ‘Call us’ button when looking for customer support. -LivePerson

Gen Z and Smartphones

Gen Zers are never more than an arm’s length away from their smartphones. In fact, most of the time, they are exactly an arm’s length away from their phones — always engaged, looking for new content to consume. 

They’re pretty much always on their phones, meaning that you know where to find them. You just need to get their attention. 

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Gen Z Mobile and Social Media Usage Habits 

  • 55% of Gen-Z uses their smartphones for five or more hours a day.
  • 26% of Gen-Z uses their smartphones for 10 or more hours a day
  • 75% of Gen-Z regularly uses a smartphone over a computer or tablet. 
  • 73% of Gen-Z uses internet-connected devices to communicate with friends and family
  • 95% of Gen-Z uses another device while watching TV, most commonly for social media or to chat with friends
  • 29% of Gen-Z is on their phone after midnight every day of the week. 
  • 72% of Gen-Z has purchased a product online in the last month on any device. 
  • 61% of Gen-Z has purchased a product via mobile in the last month.
  • 41% of Gen-Z has paid for an item using their phone. – Global Web Index

Gen Z’s Preferences 

This generation is value-conscious and they are drawn to brands that “keep it real.” But they are also clambering to get into an Ivy League university with brand appeal. 

It’s almost impossible to stereotype this generation. Even though they may spend hours on TikTok, this generation also has a strong desire for social justice and align themselves with brands who support social causes. 

Here’s What Matters to Gen Z

  • 58% of Gen-Z is willing to pay more for products that are targeted to their individual personalities.
  • 71% of Gen-Z wants to see more diversity in advertising
  • 88% of Gen-Z prefers omnichannel branded experiences

Gen Z and COVID-19

Before we get into the ways you can win over Gen Z, it’s important to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted this generation. Although Gen Z is considered more low-risk, they’ve experienced many challenges during the pandemic. The pandemic struck at a crucial time for many Gen Zers, greatly affecting them both educationally and professionally. 

Who is GenZ and How to Market to Gen Z with Tips

One of the biggest challenges this generation faces is experiencing mental health crisis stemming from: 

  • Isolation
  • Losing loved ones 
  • Loneliness 
  • Uncertainty 

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Many high school and college seniors missed out on special senior year activities, including graduation. And all students had to pivot from in-person classes to adhoc online learning, turning school as we know it upside down.  

Gen Z also suffered professionally. Many Gen Zers lost their jobs amidst the economic hardships caused by the pandemic. And, for college seniors just entering the workforce, many struggled to find jobs. 

The pandemic further magnified Gen Z’s unique characteristics. Since Gen Zers spent more time inside, they spent more time online, doing everything in true Gen Z fashion: 

  • Creating and participating in online trends, predominantly on TikTok 
  • Forming mental health support communities 
  • Participating in social justice movements, like BLM 

It’s important to understand that the pandemic could be one of the most formative experiences of this generation’s lives. And it’s also important to understand that you keep it real and meet them where they’re at.

They want to be seen and understood, especially while they’re struggling to find their place in an increasingly unpredictable world.  

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10 Ways to Win Over Gen Z

So, here’s how to win over Gen Z. Spoiler alert: it can pretty much be boiled down to be real, be accessible, be socially responsible, and have fun

Let’s jump in! 

1. Reach them on Mobile 

Meet Gen Zers where they’re at: on their phones. Sending SMS and MMS can be a great way to keep them engaged, especially if they need to be reminded about upcoming appointments or commitments. 

And guess what: SMS has a 99% open rate and an average response time of 90 seconds. Who wouldn’t want to get in on that? 

2. Join All Relevant Social Media

Who is GenZ and How to Market to Gen Z with Tips

Having a good presence on social media is a surefire way to guarantee that Gen Z will see your content. The top 5 most relevant social media platforms for Gen Zers are: 

  • Youtube
  • TikTok 
  • Instagram 
  • Twitter 
  • Snapchat 

If you don’t already have a presence on these mighty 5, you’ll need to sign up as soon as possible! Since Gen Zers are digital natives, you can establish your credibility with them if you not only have an account on one of these platforms, but if you also know how to use it like a native. Invest time in researching trends and make yourself stand out by putting your own spin on them! Need some inspiration? check out these Universities that are killing it on TikTok!

If you need any help with advertising on social media, be sure to check out our blog post on How to Advertise on Facebook and Instagram.

3. Be Transparent and Accountable 

Gen Zers want to know that they can trust your message and get behind it. That’s why you need to make sure that you can back up your claims.

“Cancel culture” (where a person, company, or institution is publicly shamed for its misdeeds) is becoming increasingly common. Someone or something often gets “canceled” because someone (more often than not, a Gen Zer or Millennial) has done research, found dirty laundry, and exposed it. 

Gen Zers want to know that what they see with you is what they get. They value transparency and you can earn their loyalty if you make efforts to be transparent. 

4. Focus on Value

Because younger people are generally more wary of the money they’re spending, they’re looking to see if a product or service has true value. Brands should review their pricing strategies or find ways to add value to existing products. 

You should also consider if you’re not marketing the true value of your products are services to their highest potential. Don’t assume that Gen Zers will perceive the value just as you do — market why it’s specifically valuable for them!

5. Be Entertaining

Gen Zers want to see that you can have a little fun too! With as much entertainment as they’re consuming on a daily basis, you need to make sure your content is up to par. If it doesn’t engage them in a matter of seconds, they’re going to scroll right past.

Who is GenZ and How to Market to Gen Z with Tips

You can do this by: 

  • Hopping on TikTok trends, using the most popular songs 
  • Staying on top of current pop culture memes, and applying them to your company
  • Stepping out of your “corporate role” — showing that you’re just people too 
  • Not being afraid to genuinely interact with your audience in the comment section 

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If Gen Zers perceive you’re putting up a front, they’ll immediately be turned off. On the flip side, activity that “keeps it real” on corporate social media accounts can win the affection and loyalty of Gen Zers just as quickly. 

6. Support Health and Wellness

Health and wellness trends are popular among Gen Zers, especially when it comes to mental health. This generation strongly advocates for improving mental health, especially considering the devastating effects the pandemic has had. 

You can attract Gen Zers by making it clear that you want to partner with them and support their health and wellbeing. You can do this by providing helpful resources or even simply by acknowledging that their wellbeing matters to you. 

7. Boost your Digital Capabilities

The pandemic moved life online. Even after the pandemic, brands should consider new ways of engaging with Gen Z consumers digitally, such as offering live streaming services. 

Do the research for your market to see how you can be taking full advantage of the digital resources available to you. 

Video is a big one — read about 5 Powerful Reasons Why Your Brand Needs To Use Video Marketing.

8. Show that You Care (establish a clear mission)

Understanding Gen Z and Purpose Driven Companies. What does Gen Z care about?

It’s clear that Gen Z places a high value on social and environmental concerns. And during the pandemic, their expectations for brands have only increased. 

Make sure that you first establish a clear mission that Gen Zers can get behind, and that you take the time to actively show that you care. 

You can do this by: 

  • Helping those in need (e.g. clothing companies that create and donate face masks) 
  • Donating proceeds to relevant social causes 
  • Taking the time to publicly address social issues 

Gen Z will care about you if you care about what matters to them. 

9. Build a Community with Your Students or Customers

One of your priorities should be to feel accessible to your consumers. Your brand should feel approachable and inclusive. 

Who is GenZ and How to Market to Gen Z with Tips

Take the time to build community with your consumers by: 

  • Encouraging interaction social media 
  • Actively inviting feedback
  • Creating spaces where consumers can bond over your product/service

Make your brand be something that Gen Z can get excited about being a part of. 

10. Establish your Brand’s Personality

Make yourself memorable! Don’t be afraid to ditch corporate norms. Gen Z is consuming so much content, so you want to make sure that your content is distinctive and will stick out when they come across it. 

And don’t forget to have some fun with it, too. Try to come up with a few “inside jokes” or traditions specific to your brand that can be spread across all of your platforms.  

Now What?

As one of the most diverse generations, Gen Z can be really hard to market to. But, once you understand what motivates them, you can then figure out how your brand fits into it. 

Like we said earlier, you can win Gen Z over by: 

  • Being real
  • Being accessible
  • Being socially responsible 
  • Having fun 

Although it might be hard at first to find your sweet spot with Gen Z, it’s worth it. Win their loyalty and they’ll keep coming back for more. 

Some of these great tips came from this outstanding article written by Sarah Schmidt.

Stats from this Forbes article about Gen Z

Who is Gen Z? How to Understand Gen Z and Market to Them

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Renee Seltzer

Renee Seltzer is founder and CEO of Ellison Ellery Marketing & Growth Agency and has spent over 20 years helping companies grow their revenue. As a cross-functional marketing executive with extensive experience crafting messaging that compels and campaigns that convert, Renee understands marketing at its core and can deliver actionable solutions for every marketing or sales hang-up.

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