Building Authentic Relationships: The Key to Marketing to Gen Z

As Gen Z ages up, their impact on the economy and society continues to increase. As of 2023, their spending power in the US alone was estimated to be over $360 billion, more than double what it was in 2019. As this trend seems likely to continue, understanding Gen Z consumer behavior is more important than ever.

However, despite thriving financially, marketing to Gen Z can be difficult. They are considered thrifty consumers who save on average a third of their income. But of course, there are ways to reach this younger generation. But as CMOs everywhere are discovering, new tools and strategies are needed to embrace the ever-eclectic Generation Z.

Influencer marketing matters

Gen Z is the most digitally savvy generation, spending an average of 4 hours daily on social media apps. So, it makes sense that its members trust recommendations from people they know, or people who seem like peers. That’s why utilizing influencers is important when marketing to Gen Z. Influencer marketing is the practice of having individuals on social media advocate for a brand or product in posts aimed at their peers.

Influencer and peer marketing is key to understanding Gen Z marketing trends. Nearly two-thirds of Gen Z follow influencers on social media, and half of them report trusting the recommendations of the influencers they follow. In fact, influencers and content creators are 3.5 times more influential on Gen Z than traditional social media marketing methods.

Visual and interactive content reign supreme

With all the time that Gen Zers spend on social media, they are accustomed to consuming visual and interactive content like polls, challenges, and User Generated Content (UGC) campaigns such as Apple’s “Shot on iPhone.” Gen Z also uses more channels of communication than any other generation, so reaching them means using as many of them as possible.

The rise of interactive marketing and its success with Gen Z tells us the younger generations expect more from their marketing than a sales pitch pasted over an image. No doubt, this makes more work for marketers. But the upside is that the deeper interaction that Gen Z expects can actually strengthen loyalty and attachment to your brand.

Trust and authenticity are key

More than anything else, Gen Z favors authentic messages delivered by sources they trust. This is partially why influencer marketing is so successful with Gen Z, and why traditional marketing methods are having less of an impact.

It’s probably also why global ad spending is set to double over 2024. Gen Z has likely consumed the most marketing messages per day of any generation yet to date. These people are inundated with ads on social media, websites, TV, and of course, in the real world. This level of intense content consumption has led many members of their generation to develop what Gen Z authority advocate Cheyenne Hunt refers to as an “internal filter to disregard promotional materials that feel gimmicky, polished, or inauthentic.”

This generational skepticism renders many of the popular forms of marketing ineffective against one of the most important segments of the population. To truly reach Gen Z, you must communicate with them honestly and authentically, and likely through a medium or spokesperson they are familiar with or can relate to.

Social issues remain important

A recent study found that roughly half of Gen Z workers would be likely to quit a job if they perceived a lack of equity in the workplace. Gen Zers see diversity as essential for a healthy growing business and are looking for employers and brands that reflect their social politics.

This actually points to a way in which these Gen Z marketing approaches can offer benefits across multiple demographics. Across generations and political lines, it was found that 87% of consumers in the US are more likely to purchase a product if the company behind it advocated for an issue they care about.

The truth about Gen Z

The fact is, Gen Z is looking for more authentic, more interactive, and more socially diverse brands than any generation before them has. And while marketing to Gen Z is more involved than marketing to other generations, brands that do it right will be rewarded by loyal followers with ample amounts of disposable income who genuinely enjoy interacting with the products and are likely to spread the word with their numerous peers.