Gen Z Profile

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Gen Z Profile

Key Takeaways

  • 44% of Gen Z made a purchase based on a recommendation from an influencer, while 82% prefer if brands use real customers in their advertising, and 50% consider if a brand is trustworthy before making a purchase, which shows that marketing to this generation requires authenticity.
  • 67% of Gen Z volunteered in the past year, 55% participated in online or offline efforts related to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, while 32% donate their money.
  • Poverty and hunger, access to education and healthcare, climate change, access to water, and mental health are some of the top concerns for Gen Z.
  • Snapchat, Vans, and Apple are three of the brands that are popular with Gen Z, based on industry reports. All three brands employ marketing strategies that speak to the generation's preferences for authenticity, shareable experiences, and community-building.


Introduction

The report includes five insights into effective marketing to Generation Z, which include prioritizing authenticity, using influencer marketing, leveraging emerging channels such as gaming or music streaming platforms, personalization, and creating a community around a brand. It also provides five ways in which the generation is involved or wants to be involved in the community and social causes, which are volunteering, donating, online activism, in-person activism, and starting or working for a nonprofit organization. Additionally, it provides a digital platform (Snapchat) and two brands (Apple and Vans) that are popular with Gen Z, and describes how they achieved it. It also presents five causes that are important for Gen Z, which are healthcare, education, human services, poverty, and the environment.


Marketing to Generation Z

Authenticity

  • Gen Z wants for marketing messages to be authentic. They are looking for content that could have been created by their friends, which is unedited and looks natural in their social media feeds.
  • CEO Today believes that placing such importance on authenticity stems from the need for trust in an environment that is flooded by different products and information.
  • Matt Voda, CEO of OptiMine, believes that for Gen Z, an authentic brand is one that cares about more than making a profit, helps to improve the world, is transparent about its operations, and uses real people in communications and advertising. He emphasizes that authenticity is much more important for Gen Z than for previous generations.
  • According to a study by MediaComm, 50% of Gen Zers consider how trustworthy a brand is before making a purchase.
  • For example, 82% of them say they trust brands that use images of real customers in their marketing.
  • One of the elements that constitute authenticity to the members of this generation is taking in their voice and feedback.
  • Michell Brisson, a consultant for US Monitor at Kantar, emphasizes that "Gen Z is looking for brands who walk the walk and not just talk the talk." To truly reach its members, it is crucial to gain trust by displaying authentic ethics and supporting social causes. However, faking social responsibility will only drive members of this generation away.

Influencer Marketing and Endorsements

  • Multiple sources state that influencer marketing is particularly important for reaching Gen Z because they prioritize authenticity and are unlikely to be reached through traditional advertising.
  • Linkfluence lists four best practices for reaching Gen Z with influencer marketing:
    • Since Gen Z are "digital natives," it advises not only focusing on the most popular digital platforms (as explained below, they are Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat), but also emerging ones such as TikTok and Twitch.
    • Content by influencers should be raw, honest, and visual. A model teen influencer is Emma Chamberlain. Her posts are relatable and laid-back, which contributed to her channels growing to millions of subscribers.
    • Micro-influencers from particular online "tribes," which are groups around a specific passion or social cause, are especially likely to reach this audience. Florence Given, a feminist with a 192k organic following, is an example of a successful influencer representing this type.
    • Since members of Gen Z are entrepreneurial and like to closely interact with brands, turning them into brand advocates may also bring good results. 42% of Gen Zers would participate in an online game as a brand ambassador, and 36% would create branded digital content.
  • According to Kantar, 44% of Gen Zers made a purchase based on the recommendation from an influencer, compared to 26% of the general population.
  • Additionally, 87% of them follow at least one influencer of a different race of ethnicity, which suggests that they are more open-minded compared to the general population.
  • It is worth noting that members of this generation are more likely to trust micro- and nano-influencers. Only 34% made a purchase decision based on a celebrity endorsement, while 70% did so after a recommendation from a nano-influencer.
  • MarketingDive believes that Gen Z influences the growth of influencer marketing, which will keep moving away from one-off partnerships between content creators and brands into long-term brand ambassadorship and reaching customers to recruit them as nano-influencers.

Leveraging the Right Channels

  • According to research by Deloitte, Gen Z differs from other generations in terms of preferred forms of entertainment. Playing video games (named by 26%), listening to music (chosen by 14%), browsing the internet (12%), and social media activity (11%) are the most popular activities.
  • Furthermore, 87% of Gen Z play games on their smartphones, consoles, or computers at least weekly.
  • Deloitte states that these findings show that advertisers need to adjust their strategies and find appropriate ways to reach Generation Z through gaming and music streaming platforms, taking into account the unique requirements and opportunities of each channel.
  • For instance, while playing video games is a major interest for Gen Z, 48% of them would like to avoid ads. However, 55% think paid ads on social media are influential. They tend to consider them more acceptable on social media platforms.
  • Still, while 40% of Gen Zers would accept a $12 fee for a free-ad gaming experience, around 60% would be fine with some ads for a lower fee.
  • For music streaming, 55% would accept ads for a free service or a lower fee.
  • According to Glacier, out of all music streaming platforms, Spotify is best for reaching Gen Z, as it has the largest, and the most youthful audience. It also offers solid audience targeting capabilities based on demographic and behavioral parameters. At the same time, audio ads increase ad recall by 23%.
  • Harvard Business Review observes that gaming platforms, including Fortnite, Roblox, Discord, and Twitch, have become an important way for marketers to reach Gen Zers. They are no longer reserved for people who identify as gamers, as multiple groups use them to interact online.
  • When choosing to advertise on a gaming platform, it is important to realize that not all of them support ads. For example, brands that want to interact with Gen Z or other audiences on Discord tend to create dedicated servers.

Personalization

  • Since Gen Z has been immersed in technology and social media for most of their lives, they tend to believe that technology will continue to make their lives easier. They are also less concerned about giving their data.
  • One of their expectations in relation to brands and technology is "a degree of personalization that amounts to mind-reading."
  • For example, according to MarketingDive, 75% of Gen Zers expect that a website will know what they are looking for before they specify it.
  • 41% of Gen Z would provide their data for a personalized ad experience.
  • With high expectations around personalization, it is not enough for brands to collect the data. According to IBM, they may need to use tools such as data management platforms, customer data platforms, customer journey management, AI/machine-learning analytics, and identity resolution platforms.

Creating a Community

  • According to MarketingDive, creating a community is an extremely effective marketing strategy for reaching Gen Z. It has become even more important during and after social isolation caused by the pandemic.
  • While Gen Z appears to be the most connected generation, they are also the loneliest. They have little time for meaningful relationships, especially since technology has impacted their ability to make true connections.
  • A 2018 study by Cigna Health confirmed that Gen Z demonstrates the highest levels of loneliness among all the demographic groups.
  • At the same time, Gen Zers have a strong need for belonging. Brands can feel this void by creating communities around their products and services, which has already been a reason for the success of several ones, including SoulCycle, CrossFit, and Peleton.
  • In a study by Spotify, 62% of Gen Z and Millennials declared that they believe that brands have the power to create communities.
  • Three best practices for creating communities to reach Gen Z are uniting people behind a cause, including members of Gen Z in shaping the brand and providing opportunities for fostering the connection.
  • Out of the three, providing opportunities requires the highest levels of creativity and investment. Some ideas are digital concerts, virtual hangouts, and communities such as Lego Ideas, through which users can submit ideas for future kits.

Gen Z's Community Involvement

Donating

  • Gen Z is most likely to donate to disaster relief. 42.6% donated to disaster relief through a crowdfunding site, and 36% donated to a celebrity fundraiser in 2018.
  • They like to connect to social causes and donate money through social media, and post about it since it enhances their social media brand and garners "likes."
  • It also means that they are most likely to donate to causes that are marketed digitally, preferably through social media. Nonprofits are likely to attract this generation with a compelling impact story, which is narrative-based but backed by data and testimonies.
  • According to JPS Nonprofit, the best ways to inspire Gen Z to donate the money include events around campaigns, using crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising platforms, using text-to-give technology, and branded merchandise.
  • 32% of Gen Z are donating their own money.
  • Based on a survey by Walton Family Foundation, among Millennials and Gen Z, 49% think that donating money to charitable causes is extremely or very effective for making a change.
  • Additionally, Millennials and Gen Z account for around 50% of donors on GoFundMe, though it is a global data point.

Volunteering

  • Volunteering is one of the major ways in which Gen Z contributes since it doesn't require substantial financial contributions.
  • Additionally, members of this generation are interested in formal volunteering, because it is community-based. It is also an experience that can be shared on social media.
  • They also expect their employers to provide volunteering opportunities, including volunteer time-off programs.
  • 67% of volunteers have volunteered in the last year, while 26% of 16-19-year-olds volunteer regularly.
  • According to a survey by Walton Family Foundation, 24% of Gen Z think volunteering for charitable causes is "very effective," 35% believe it's "effective," while 27% consider it "somewhat effective." To compare, among Millennials, 21% say it's "very effective," "29% - "effective," 31% - "somewhat effective."
  • However, it is also important to note that 70% contribute fewer than 100 hours a year, which is considered episodic volunteering.

In-Person Activism

  • Being able to speak their mind is one of the core values for Gen Z. However, they often feel that older people are not listening to them, which inspires them to them participate in protests and demonstrations. They are not only eager but also not afraid to stand up to institutions and governments.
  • Additionally, they are action-oriented and they feel that the change needs to come rapidly, which is why they are willing to go out on the streets to fight for a cause "even during a deadly pandemic."
  • An example of a Gen Z-led activist effort is The Parkland Student Activist’s March For Our Lives Movement (#NeverAgain) that tackles gun violence in high schools. High school students are protesting for change, visiting affected communities, and demanding policy changes from NRA and the government.
  • Caleb Lee, an 18-year-old activist who was involved in #BlackLivesMatter and talked with CBS News, said, "Our generation is a generation of activists. We really care about the future of this country, we care about equality."
  • Martin Luther King III, who is now 62, believes that Gen Z has a natural talent to fight for a change they want to see. With members of this generation, it is much easier for him to organize activist efforts and continue the legacy of his dad compared to before.
  • According to a previously cited survey by WFF, 34% of Gen Z and Millennials believe that participating in protests is an effective way of making a change.
  • At the same time, 55% of 13-18-year-olds have participated in the #BlackLivesMatter movement in some way, claiming that the pandemic doesn't mean that they shouldn't go out, because racism is still an important issue to address.

Online Activism

  • Still, while Gen Zers are likely to participate in-person in protests and demonstrations, they are equally eager to attempt making a change through digital efforts. According to several sources, including CBS News and YPulse, it has revolutionized activism in the US (and globally).
  • According to YPulse, 60% of young people believe that their voice is more likely to be heard online than offline.
  • At the same time, based on the survey by WFF, 34% of Millennials and Gen Z think that posting about important issues on social media is effective for making a change.
  • Furthermore, 72% of 13-39 year-olds (which includes Gen Z and Millennials) think that hashtags can make a difference in the world.
  • CBS News provides several examples of situations, in which members of Gen Z around the globe have risen awareness around important issues because they have posted about them online. In the US, George Floyd's death was filmed and posted online by a 17-year-old. If not for her, it might have gained much less or no attention.
  • Beyond posting about important issues, one other strategy Gen Z uses to make a difference online is "trolling its enemies." Having the highest internet and social media skills, they frequently pull pranks on politicians and institutions.
  • For example, young TikTokers trolled Donald Trump's campaign by fakely registering to the Tulsa rally, which affected unreasonable attendance expectations. After the event, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York tweeted "Actually you just got rocked by teens on TikTok."

Starting or Working for a Nonprofit Organization

  • 10% of Gen Z members want to start a nonprofit organization of their own someday. 50% of them are looking for a job in volunteering.
  • According to WFF, 48% of Millennials and Gen Z consider starting or working for a nonprofit focused on solving a problem as an effective way to make a change.
  • Gen Zers want to work for companies that have a purpose, which has proven to be a challenge to their employers. At the same time, they appear to primarily care about making a change in the world. They believe that they "can't afford not to." For these reasons, working in a nonprofit environment is particularly appealing to them.

Digital Platforms and Brands that Are Doing Well with Gen Z

Snapchat

  • According to a survey by Business Insider, 51% of Gen Zers check Snapchat daily.
  • Business Insider believes that part of Snapchat's appeal (as well as Instagram's and YouTube's) comes from the fact that it's the most convenient to check on the smartphone, which is commonly used by Gen Zers.
  • Additionally, Snapchat is the third coolest brand among Gen Z according to YPulse.
  • Snapchat itself says that it reaches 90% of Americans aged 13-24.
  • Part of the reason why Snapchat is a digital platform of choice lies simply in its features, which are tailored for Generation Z. They favor fast, raw, and authentic communication in real-time.
  • At the same time, Snap Inc.'s study discovered that Gen Zers perceive themselves as more creative compared to other generations. 35% of respondents of a survey by Marketing Charts believe that Snapchat offers the best tools for getting creative with videos and photos.
  • However, Snapchat is capitalizing on its appeal to Gen Z. It embraces being a platform of choice for Generation Z and focuses its marketing messages on them, even calling Gen Z "the Snapchat Generation."
  • Furthermore, Snapchat markets itself as an integral part of the Generation Z culture. However, it also takes time to celebrate other elements of this culture. For instance, recently, it published a comprehensive report on the generation, which includes the constitutive elements of its culture, such as taking social responsibility, building community, celebrating individuality, nurturing friendships, and communicating in new ways.
  • Additionally, since Snapchat conducts comprehensive research on Gen Z, it is well-positioned to tailor its offerings to this generation's needs.

Apple

  • Apple iPhone ranked eighth, while Apple ranked 12th on Morning Consult's list of brands that are the most trusted by Gen Z.
  • It also ranked 11th on YPulse's list of the coolest brands according to Gen Z.
  • According to Consuunt, it is so popular with Gen Z, because it provides them with a continuous experience. It has a constant product development process and frequently releases new products that keep creating new expectations and desires.
  • It also doesn't release the products together and doesn't reveal all the features of its products right away, which makes people eager to follow the brand, and makes experiences around its products more appealing.
  • Entrepreneur believes that Apple has managed to inspire brand loyalty and trust among Gen Z. They are able to track and identify their needs, and repeatedly offer new products that appear exciting to the most tech-savvy generation. At the same time, they don't engage in false marketing, e.g., they don't try to sell the Apple Watch as something indispensable.
  • As a result, Gen Zers care about the brand more than about its specific products, and they are likely to keep purchasing from it.
  • Still, it is important to note that some of Gen Z's loyalty to Apple comes from the alignment of Apple's products' capabilities and Gen Z's interests. For example, iPhone encourages multitasking, which fits with the generation's tendencies.

Vans

  • Vans is among the top five coolest brands for Gen Z according to YPulse.
  • It is also one of the fastest-growing brands among Gen Z according to Morning Consult.
  • Additionally, it was named as the three most mentioned footwear brands among Gen Z consumers by The Robin Report, while Vans Old School has been named "the sneaker of Gen Z."
  • According to My Total Retail, Vans is successful among Gen Z, because it is perceived as authentic and "walks its marketing talk." It also speaks to Gen Z's creative side, emphasizing that "creative expression is at the core of streetwear."
  • Its marketing efforts to reach Gen Z are multichannel and resonate well with the audience. For example, a viral Snapchat post of a high school student in white vans significantly increased its popularity among young women, who embrace the brand's authenticity and its nostalgic vibe.
  • However, Vans is particularly well-known for its event marketing. Instead of simply sponsoring the events, it organizes them, which helps build a community around the brand and provides Gen Z with memorable experiences. Before the pandemic, it collaborated with a Grammy-winning artist, Anderson Paak, as well as held many other Vans Off the Wall skate/music events, a skatepark tour, and BMX Pro Cup.
  • It also invites young, emerging designers to participate in creating the brand and gives them opportunities to design shoes.
  • Vans took such efforts to attract young customers, because it needed to stay relevant to Gen Z, despite not being a new brand (it was founded in 1966).


Social Causes Gen Z is Passionate About

Poverty

  • According to Cone's Gen Z CSR Study, poverty and hunger are the most important issues for Gen Z, while older generations prioritize economic development.
  • It is also one of the major issues they want large companies to address. It took second place (with 19% votes), after the environment, which got 26%.
  • It is worth noting that members of Gen Z who come from households with income below $30,000 are more likely to name poverty as a major issue. According to Pew Research, 55% of teens from households at this income level named poverty as their top concern, compared to 29% of teens from households with income above $75,000.
  • Around 18% of kids in the US live in poverty.
  • There is little information available on how the generation feels about poverty. However, AECF provides information on how Gen Z perceive their financial security. They are primarily concerned with getting stable, well-paid jobs to avoid debt. Additionally, they are worried about how the pandemic impacted their finances.
  • At the same time, 54% have managed to keep saving money during the pandemic.
  • One example of a Gen Z-led effort to tackle poverty is The Elevator Project, founded by a Virginia teen, Sejal Makheja. It provides job training to people in poverty.

Education

  • Education is one of the core values for the generation, according to NonProfitPro. Even though they believe that it doesn't have to happen in the classroom, and recognize the way technology is transforming it, they care about access to education and obtaining formal education.
  • Based on a survey by AdAge and Unidays, among Gen Zers in the US, UK, New Zealand, and Australia, the cost of their college education is a concern for 71%. Only access to healthcare ranked higher.
  • Still, in the US, more Gen Zers are getting higher education compared to previous generations. PEW Research found that the number of them enrolled in college is 5% higher compared to Millennials at the same age, and 14% higher compared to Generation X at the same age.
  • Similarly, they are less likely not to have a high school education.
  • It is worth noting that while Gen Zers care about their education, including career skills and creative learning experiences but also formal education, the pandemic has made access to it more problematic. 41% said that the pandemic has impacted their plans to graduate on time.
  • Importantly, while higher education is important to them, 75% believe that college is not the only available path to good education.
  • According to the survey by WFF, one other concern related to education is the quality of K12 education. Gen Z believes that teachers and principals from their generation, experts in the field of education, teachers and principals from other generations, and people who are elected in the future are the most likely to transform it.

Healthcare

  • Access to healthcare is a major issue to Gen Z since the oldest of them are growing out of their parents' plans and starting to make their own healthcare investments. Many can only afford insuring themselves through the Affordable Cares Act and Medicaid expansion.
  • They want healthcare services that are convenient, efficient, and transparent, expecting healthcare providers to offer technologies such as self-monitoring solutions.
  • Another potential issue with their access to healthcare is that they are likely to have non-conventional work arrangements. Yet, they still need healthcare coverage.
  • Compared to older generations, they are less likely to have a primary care physician. They prefer telemedicine to in-person visits, though they aren't satisfied with its current level. For example, while 8% of Baby Boomers and 21% of Gen X think that virtual care is not yet mainstream, 38% of Gen Z state the same.
  • Additionally, health and disease was named by 13% of Gen Z as an issue that needs to be addressed by large companies.
  • Among Gen Z in the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand, 75% name access to healthcare as their top concern.

Human Services

  • According to a survey by Tallo, health and human services and human rights are causes Gen Z is the most passionate about. At the same time, 68% of them expect their employers to support these causes.
  • Mental health is a top concern for Gen Z. 37% are getting treatment for mental health issues, which is the highest among all generations.
  • Still, only 50% think they are doing enough to manage their stress and 75% could use more emotional support.
  • At the same time, according to Pew Research, 70% of teens across various income levels and ethnicities reported that their peers struggle with depression or anxiety. The number is higher compared to other generations at a similar age.
  • While 56% of Millennials describe their mental health as good or excellent, only 45% of Gen Z do the same.
  • Currently, the pandemic and excessive use of technology are both contributing to worsening their mental health. 35% admitted that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.
  • Gen Zers participate in raising awareness about mental health issues, which encourages more members of the generation to seek professional help. However, there are still major disparities that need to be addressed, including lack of support for adolescents from racial and ethnic minorities.
  • Since members of Gen Z have grown up with more mental health awareness compared to other generations, they are more openly talking about it. Sharing their stories online inspires others to do the same. At the same time, opening up makes it easier to move past the issues.
  • Members of this generation don't want their lives to be defined by mental health issues, which is why they would rather seek treatment and help others do the same.
  • The information on other topics related to Gen Z and human services is not available. On a global level, a 2018 article by Forbes states that human services are among the top three issues for which members of this generation are likely to make donations.

Environment

  • Gen Zers perceive environmental issues as ones they "can't afford not to address," because climate change, water shortages, and related issues can have a significant impact on their personal lives in the coming years. They don't want to "inherit" the world that is impossible to live in.
  • According to PEW Research, Gen Z and Millennials are leading the climate change activism in the US. 67% of Gen Z believe that "climate should be top priority to ensure sustainable planet for future generations," 37% say "addressing climate change is their top personal concern," and 32% "have personally taken action to help address climate change within the last year."
  • The same survey found that compared to other generations, Gen Z is more likely to talk online about climate change in the context of being anxious about the future. Additionally, 69% felt anxious after they have seen content related to climate change on social media.
  • While members of Gen Z tend to be positive about the future, the environment is the issue they are the most pessimistic about. According to the survey by WFF, 61% believe that the US is on the wrong track, 18% are unsure, and 21% think the country is on the right track.
  • For the quality of lakes, rivers, and the ocean, 55% believe the US is on the wrong track, 22% are unsure, and 24% think the country is on the right track.
  • They expect environmental activists, scientists from their generation, scientists from other generations, and fishers and farmers to have the most significant impact on the quality of lakes, rivers, and the ocean.
  • Apart from online and offline activism, they address environmental concerns by choosing sustainable brands and paying more for sustainable products.


Research Strategy

The information was collected from reports, surveys, and articles by nonprofit and research organizations, articles in business, nonprofit and marketing media, and similar. All the data is specific to US Gen Z unless specified otherwise (we included a few additional data points for more context).

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