April 25, 2019

How to Innovate for Gen Z: A Marketer’s Guide to Today’s Youth

Gen Z  – the generation born between 1995 and 2015 – is perhaps the most elusive generation, mainly because much of the information out there about this group of people contradicts itself.

A quick Google search pulls up the following Gen Z stereotypes:


They’re entitled”
“They’re job hoppers”
“They’re easily distracted by technology”
“They’re lazy because everything has always comes so easily to them”
“They expect all hard work to be richly rewarded”
“They can’t take criticism”
“They find communicating without emojis difficult

Of the stereotypes listed above, how many are familiar to you? And how many of the above are conscious (or perhaps subconscious) perceptions that might influence any of your decisions as a marketing or insights professional?

We think you’d be hard-pressed to find any consumer brand that hasn’t allowed stereotypes like the above to seep into their business strategies. Which means that if the above resonated, you’re not alone – far from it!

To counteract these stereotypes, many of which have now been debunked, more and more research into how Gen Z behaves, thinks, feels, and engages with the world is underway every day. There are entire marketing festivals dedicated to understanding the youth of today, one of which our team went to last week. And for anyone who wasn’t able to attend our speaker session on Gen Z at YMS London, we wanted to share the outputs.

All of this data comes from our Generational Trends Report, based on a nationally representative survey carried out with 1000 UK consumers. It’s a look at the key differences between, and drivers of, specific generations of consumers.

Here are some of the key feelings, behaviours, and motivations that epitomise today’s youth culture – it’s not all emojis and hot new streetwear and dating apps!

1. They’re addicted to social media, but comfortable owning it.

This stereotype rings true, although it isn’t the whole story.

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While, across all demographics, 43.8% admitted to being addicted to social media either strongly or slightly, almost two thirds (61.3%) of Gen Z feel the same way. That’s almost three times as many as Boomers (20.9%).

But this generation is also more open to brand marketing or communications on social media than other generations, and looking at how much this generation over-indexes on the ‘slightly agree’ answer option, they’re comfortable admitting to their addiction.

2. They’re happy and optimistic, but more stressed than other generations.

Two thirds of Gen Z either strongly or slightly agree that they’re happy, over-indexing compared to the average results. However, they also over-index when it comes to feeling stressed.

While it’s not a surprise that Generation Z are the most stressed (dealing with college and university exams, joining the workforce, social media-based peer pressure, the weight of inheriting a world riddled by prejudices, and climate change all spring to mind), it is interesting that their stress isn’t linked to their overall happiness.

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3. They’re the most brand loyal generation.

The majority of Gen Z agree that they’re loyal to just a handful of brands, and actively avoid shopping elsewhere.

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This loyalty isn’t reserved solely for the brands that mirror their social issues, though. They’re only the second-most likely generation to actively try to buy from businesses that reflect their stance on social issues, after Millennials.

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4. A significant minority of Gen Z do not feel accepted by society.

As with Millennials, the majority of people surveyed within Gen Z feel accepted by society. But unlike their Millennial or Gen X counterparts, there is a significant minority of Gen Zers that do not feel empowered, or accepted, by the world around them.

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5. Their preferred place to receive marketing and promotions is still via email.

Segmenting your marketing efforts based on demographics, psychographics, and previous learnings is always smart. But, you can rest assured that email is still preferred by the majority of people across age groups; 60% of Gen Z agree that email would be their preferred channel to receive marketing and promotional materials.

When it comes to customer service or support queries, Gen Z prefer to receive support via email, but also over-index when it comes to Chatbots or SMS – it’s best to focus your efforts on these three channels.

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6. When it comes to hearing from brands on social media, Facebook wins out.

But that’s not the whole story. Gen Z massively over-index when it comes to hearing from brands on YouTube and Snapchat. If your business is looking to pique the interest of this generation, Facebook is a tried and tested option, but YouTube and Snapchat might be the place you see the most cut through.

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7. Gen Z welcomes personalisation.

Personalisation won’t go amiss with this generation – they resoundingly agree that it is helpful rather than creepy when it comes to marketing and customer service. The only generation that appreciates personalisation more is Millennials, and it’s a marginal preference.

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8. Gen Z are more willing than most to pay for a seamless online experience.

While many people might view Gen Z as an age group that is unwilling to part with disposable income, they’re actually more willing than older generations – even Boomers – to pay for an ad-blocker that doesn’t disrupt their online viewing or reading experience. Gen Z have grown up with online subscriptions, and this coupled with their expectations around convenience means they prioritise experience over saving some cash.

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9. They feel more connected to brands that they shop with than other generations do.

As an absolute, the majority of consumers do not feel consulted by businesses they buy from when it comes to their future product and service plans. However, Gen Z consistently over-indexes when it comes to the regularity with which they feel brands connect with them. This is particularly obvious when we look at the difference between Gen Z and Gen X or Boomers.

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Key Takeaways

  • Gen Z are happy and optimistic, but they’re also pretty stressed out. If your brand can relieve some of  that stress, in a way that aligns with your product and service offering, you’ll be tapping into a key sentiment across the age group.
  • This generation is driven by convenience, whether in their communications with brands they care about, their social media habits, or their attitudes towards personalisation.
  • Gen Z are more willing to exchange personal data and communicate with your brand if it means that they’re getting a better, more seamless, online experience from doing so.
  • This generation feels more of an affinity to the brands they care about than any other generation. When they feel connected to a brand, they stick with it, follow it, and often personally identify with it. This means that your brand has a real chance to influence how this group of consumers interacts with the world.

One final note to leave you with: this generation spans 20 years worth of consumers, which means that this research provides a useful and credible foundation on which to base future learnings, but there is a lot more to discover! There are psychographic and behavioural markers to consider for pockets of people across this generation, alongside trend forecasting within the sector at large. Lucky for you, our platform and in-house research consultants are on hand to help you profile consumer groups to continue learning.

Download the full report now:

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