Tips For Marketing To Gen Z

Written by: Brady Drake

When someone thinks of Gen Z, they might be intimidated. The children and young adults born after 1995 are technologically advanced, misunderstood and their spending power is increasing.

Jimmy Slagle, 22, is a Gen Z’er himself and his entrepreneurial pursuits have interesting roots. The Fargo native got his start in high school when he and a friend purchased a sports Instagram account with 40,000 followers. They then worked to grow the account to 80,000 before being acquired and merged into another account. Out of this little endeavor, a love for sharing content was born.

Now, Slagle has his focus set on his company, Trend Z Team, a marketing company focused on targeting Gen Z’ers, making him a perfect interview to learn a little more about how to target the newest generation.

Why target Gen Z? Do you see it as an untapped market?

Most Gen Z’ers have never experienced life without social media or smartphones, which is just crazy. Here’s a little math for everyone. If you follow the saying of “it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something,” here’s how quick teens become masters of their phones. By age 12, 70 percent of 12-year-olds have a smartphone. On average, teens spend seven hours a day on leisure and entertainment. That means by age 19 they are well past 10,000 hours or 416 days spent on their phone. We market to Gen Z because we are the target market. We understand pop culture, the music your kids listen to, the random dances they do at home and the tv shows they watch. These can be difficult things for older people to grasp. Effective marketing establishes trust and a sense of, “you understand me so I trust you,” what better way to do that than to literally be a Gen Z’er. So yes, it is an untapped market. 

What do most marketers misunderstand about marketing to Gen Z? 

I think the bigger issue is that people don’t market to Gen Z. They aren’t even on their radar, which is quite interesting. When thinking about the lifetime value of a customer, which is a vastly underrated marketing metric, imagine if you were able to secure a customer at age 18 and have them through life? That’s an amazing return on your investment. But when companies do market to Gen Z, they can’t be cringy. Being cringy is the easiest way for Gen Z’ers to lose you right away, and probably not come back. A good way to describe cringy is when parents try to use popular words that their kids use, but use it in the wrong way.

How do they differ from the prior generations:?

Good question. Here are the most prominent ways that we differ:

  1.  We are the most informed generation at our age. Again, most kids are introduced to the internet/YouTube/social media from the time they can read. By the time we are eight, we can find out anything on the internet, at any place and any time. We also are the generation with the highest percentage of college-educated parents, which adds to us being quite educated at an early age.
  2. We are the most diverse generation. By 2026 we are expected to become a majority nonwhite generation, which is interesting to think about. 
  3.  Lastly, our attention span is so short. If we aren’t interested in something within the first six seconds, you’ve completely lost us. This is one aspect of why TikTok will become the next mega social media platform.

Five tips to effectively market to Gen Z:

  1.  Create an authentic brand. You’ve heard this before, but with Gen Z it matters more than any other generation. What authentic means is that your business has a unique voice. You’re not afraid to speak up on what you believe in, you can poke fun at customers online, you aren’t always super professional with your language or marketing. The brands that do this well are the ones that will win.
  2. Influencer marketing. And we don’t mean professional athletes or movie stars. Social media influencers are huge, especially with the rise of TikTok. We want relatability, and everyday people that created a following on YouTube or TikTok are quite relatable. Odds are your kids have probably talked about wanting to create a YouTube or TikTok channel instead of becoming a professional athlete or movie star. When we see people we trust promoting a product, we become more interested in that product. If you find the right influencers, that can be huge for your brand.
  3. Get on TikTok. I might be a little biased here, but TikTok is an insane platform – way different than any other out there. Gen Z spends a ton of time on the platform each day, and it is becoming a platform where we get our news, see sports highlights, and learn new random tricks. Remember, it’s much better to be “early” on a platform, than too late when your competitors are already established. As Ricky Bobby would say, “If you’re not first, you’re last.” S/O Talladega Nights 
  4. Follow current trends. To capture Gen Z, you have to understand what’s popular. Pop culture plays such an important role in our day-to-day lives and it is essential for marketers to know what is going on with us constantly. Trends can live and die within a couple of weeks. New artists can drop a song and within a month it becomes overplayed, new words are being used every couple of months. It honestly takes someone within the Gen Z space to really understand it, and that’s why it is essential that you consult with your interns/young employees on what is popular.
  5. Have a social mission. A great way to capture the attention of Gen Z is to make it seem like your company is actually making a difference in the world, not just the community. Become carbon neutral, donate X% of your earnings to a notable cause, offer heavy discounts to military or health care customers, and don’t be afraid to showcase that. Gen Z truly wants to make a difference in the world, so show us that you do too.
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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.