Marketing to Gen Z | Come for the Authenticity, Stay for the Experiences

Marketing 2025


Marketers must always be evolving and adapting to markets and consumer trends, and digital marketing to Gen Z is no different. We’ve seen Generation Z coming for a while. But it’s still important to understand what makes them tick. Where do they hang out? Maybe most important: what do they value? Sure, it’s easier said than done, as many things are, but if you plan to market effectively to Gen Z it’s time to get to know your audience.

Who is Generation Z?

Generally speaking, these are the basic criteria and oversimplified stats for defining the iGeneration, or Generation Z:

  • Born between 1995 and the 2010s
  • Most raised by Gen X
  • Approximately 40 percent of all consumers
  • Eight-second attention span
  • A full 95 percent have access to a smartphone (Pew)
  • Value brands that feel authentic
  • Grew up during a recession
  • Saving money is a strong focus
  • Tend to be pragmatic, practical

According to Gartner, Gen Z is “ready to spend” with an estimated $143.2 billion in buying power. Access to and influence on their parents’ disposable income and spending decisions is also a consideration.

Understand the importance of digital marketing to Gen Z

Gen Z is a digital- and mobile-native generation. Life online and offline is intermingled. The notion of the internet merely isolating teens and destroying social interaction and social intelligence has been unfounded and misunderstood.

About 70 percent of Gen Zers say that they feel more connected when watching YouTube videos with others. Mobile and digital connection through social media, smartphones, and other digital media have facilitated another dimension of interaction and connectedness for much of Generation Z.

Pew Research Center findings show that about 45 percent of teens are online “almost constantly.”

A major function of social media and digital connection for Gen Z is to escape the stresses of teenage life. Sure, earlier generations had to find other pastimes and activities in what was available. Gen Z just happens to have the digital world interwoven into theirs.

As Nir Eyal discussed in his book, Indistractable, tweens, teens, and young adults turn to the world of social media, video games, and other digital activities for legitimate reasons other than simply to ignore and escape their parents, homelife, and responsibilities. The digital world in its many manifestations and offerings provides a space in which Gen Zers can find and inhabit a sense of agency, “autonomy, competence, and relatedness.”

Create meaningful, authentic marketing strategies

Yes, this is the best practice for successfully marketing to any of your customers, regardless of segment, demographic, or generation, and not only marketing to Gen Z. It’s pretty easy: Don’t fake it. Even so, many brands succumb to the temptation of buying random data and email lists and sad attempts at one-size-fits-all marketing and hoping for the best. If you know you don’t speak Gen Z’s language, learn it. Find someone who speaks it and does so authentically.

Use the power of social media. Meet your customers where they are. Gen Z has necessarily developed a strong marketing sleaze detector, so creating and delivering authentic marketing content is required and there are no shortcuts. Make it real. Make it practical. Make it meaningful.

Hone your message for speed, precision, and appeal

While Gen Z is said to have a shorter attention span than Millennials, it’s important to understand that trait in context. Don’t mistake a shorter attention span for an inability to focus.

When considering the highly practical mindset of Gen Zers, an apparently shorter attention span simply means that they are not willing to spend (i.e., waste) time and energy on experiences and content that doesn’t appeal to them or offer what they want or value.

With so much information constantly available and vying for attention, Gen Z has developed what some have called a “highly evolved eight-second filter” to sort and evaluate high volumes of info.

Creating your elevator pitch is a good start. Except with Gen Z you have until the doors close. And then all the doors close. Eight seconds is all you have. Make it count.

Engage your Gen Z customers on social media

It makes sense that the first digital-native generation spends a lot of time and seeks meaningful connections through social media. The most popular social media platforms among Gen Z include YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Demonstrate your understanding and respect for what Gen Z values in social media. Helping them manage their brand on social media is a prerequisite for Generation Z finding value in your brand.

Remember email marketing

Certainly, social media is a vitally important channel for Gen Z. But it’s not the only one. Leverage other relevant digital marketing channels for the generation who’s “almost constantly online.”

Email marketing still works. The majority of Gen Zers check their email at least daily if not multiple times a day, and email is among the most-preferred channels of communication. It should go without saying that delivering relevant, engaging, and personalized content (promos, discounts, recommendations) is paramount for creating effective marketing content.

Leverage the power of video content to build brand trust and engagement

When Gen Z takes time to unwind or needs a mood improvement or just to be entertained, video is the medium of choice with YouTube providing the go-to mental boost.

Gen Zers turn to YouTube for more than ASMR and cat videos. According to Pew Research Center, 85 percent of Gen Z teens say they use YouTube, and 80 percent do so to learn new skills and gain new knowledge.

Strike a balance between entertainment and practical considerations with your content.

Enable Gen Z customers to live their values by doing business with you

Your customer wants to be the hero, and how well you help them live out their values by doing business with your company carries enormous weight in whether they choose to do so. “Empower your customers with the feeling that investing in your products or services makes them a hero. Draw a clear, straight line from their point-of-purchase to the impact they’ll have on the world.”

This includes social issues, environmental initiatives, and other ways to see the impact of their buying power at work in the world.

Design great experiences into your offerings

As a practical and selective group, Gen Z does their research before buying. That includes reading the reviews and learning about your company and where you stand on social and environmental issues.

At least as important as the product is the experience designed into being your customer. From participating in your social initiatives to engaging with and participating in your brand on social media, the use and function of the product itself is outweighed three times by the feelings and experiences that come with it.

As with any customer segment, getting to know them takes time and effort. You have to listen and pay attention to what they say as well as what they do. Doing your research and applying empathy to your business approach and marketing to Gen Z strategies is bound to pay off.

And with Generation Z about to become the largest consumer group over the coming decades, understanding not only what they do and how they do it, but why they do what they do will enable you to create and deliver the right balance of products and experiences at the right prices.

Check out the 5-step visual blueprint to learn how you can combine creativity and intelligence in your organization to target Gen Z and other audiences. There is also a complete report that covers how marketing leaders deal with information overload, the intersection of EQ and AI, and an action plan to transform your organization.