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3 ways marketers can connect with Gen Z consumers


Generation Z, or Gen Z, is quickly becoming one of the largest online consumer groups. If marketers aren’t paying attention, they could end up failing to secure their buy-in.

“I want to start by acknowledging that generational labels are based on theory, and they’re not a factor of life, no matter how often we use them in marketing,” said Purna Virji, senior consultant of content solutions at LinkedIn, at SMX Next. “Would everyone in the same age range behave the same? No, of course not, even though there are commonalities.”

She added, “Yet these commonalities are even more pronounced with Generation Z based on who they are and how they grew up.”

Pew Research Center defines Gen Z as those born between 1997 and 2012. And, given the environment they’ve grown up in and their life experiences, this group looks much different than previous generations, which makes their consumer behavior unique as well.

“They are the youngest, most ethnically diverse, and largest generation in American history, comprising about 27% of the US population,” Virji said. “They’re also the first digitally-native generation, and their point of view has been shaped by the screen side view they’ve had of this tumultuous, rapidly changing world around all of us.”

Building connections with Gen Z is imperative for marketers. The number of digital buyers in this group is projected to surpass 41 million this year, with no signs of decreasing in years to come.

Here are some tactics Virji recommends marketers use to increase engagement with this influential group.

Appeal to Gen Z values

“Gen Z considers itself more accepting and open-minded than any generation before it — they have a clearly defined value set,” Virji said. “In fact, Gen Z is altruistic and eco-conscious. Why? Their digital-first upbringing has made them a lot more conscious about the world around them — and more frustrated.”

She added, “They want change and they want to be a part of something bigger and as a result, they are drawn to brands that believe in values like sustainability, authenticity, and giving back.”

Gen Z consumer brand values
Source: Purna Virji

Gen Z consumers gravitate toward brands that share their values, one of the most important being sustainability. For instance, 75% of Gen Z prefer sustainability over brand names of products, according to a consumer survey conducted by First Insight and the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. They seem to be willing to pay more for environmentally-friendly products than consumers in other generation groups.

“It’s really important to think about not just posting the post or you know putting out that ad,” Virji said. “You want to make sure that you can share how you walk the walk. Gen Z appreciates when the content is genuine and you can demonstrate how sustainability is an integral part of your organization’s core values and vision.”

Whether it’s a commitment to sustainability, diversity and inclusion, or educational opportunities, marketers who highlight the values Gen Z cares most about will have a better chance of connecting with them.

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Focus on Gen Z life and career goals

“Gen Z is ambitious and looking to grow,” said Virji. “They want to learn new skills. They want to find career success and financial security.”

Having grown up in midst of recessions and a global pandemic, Gen Z consumers saw their parents struggle with financial insecurity and other life issues. These experiences have helped create a strong desire for job stability.

But, Gen Z wants more than basic employment security. They want to thrive in their careers.

Gen Z life and career goals
Source: Purna Virji

Virji recommends marketers create engaging learning resources for Gen Z consumers that can help support their career growth. Then, they can leverage that content on digital channels those groups frequent.

“The same [learning] content can be here on social,” she said. “It can be an email campaign, or it can be used for upper-funnel display or search ads.”

Market to Gen Z preferences

“You want to appeal to that content consumption preferences,” said Virji. “Digital platforms have blurred the boundaries between commerce and connection, between consumption and production.”

Adding features such as humor to your marketing campaigns can help you engage with Gen Z audiences, as more consumers re-envision the digital marketplace. Brands from virtually any sector can connect with this market by adding some personality to their campaigns.

humor in Lemonade Insurance's marketing campaigns
Source: Purna Virji

“A good example is Lemonade Insurance — they consistently use humor in all of their content,” said Virji. “They would share posts asking, ‘How many actuaries does it take to screw in a lightbulb?’ Or they would ask, ‘What if insurance terms were blockbuster movies?’ They do this to help make insurance accessible and relevant for a whole new audience set. And it is that power of personality that enables them to grab the mindshare of younger consumers in the crowded and confusing insurance space.”

Above all, marketers should seek to speak the digital language of Gen Z, using engaging memes, social trends, and interactive elements in their content to capture attention. This can help show them your brand cares about this group’s values, goals, and preferences — all of which foster engagement.

“Keep playing into their interests,” Virji said. “Look at what they’re into and find a way to align your brand with that.”

Watch the full SMX Next presentation here (registration required).

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About The Author

Corey Patterson is an Editor for MarTech and Search Engine Land. With a background in SEO, content marketing, and journalism, he covers SEO and PPC industry news to help marketers improve their campaigns.

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