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Gen Z Marketing: How Influencers Can Help Brands Reach A New Generation of Consumers

Josie Lekkas

The largest generation of consumers today are true digital natives: Gen Zers, also known as “Zoomers,” were born between 1995 and 2010, representing almost a third of the US population and accounting for $29 billion in direct spending. In addition, 93% of parents say their Gen Z children influence household purchases. That buying power is real, and that means making sure you’re marketing to Gen Z should now be at the top of your to-do list. 

Let’s start by looking at the behavior that differentiates Gen Z consumers from their often-used-interchangeably older cohort, millennials. These younger shoppers spend more time on social media than any generation: with 45% of Zoomers online “almost constantly,” social media is one of the most powerful ways brands can reach out to Gen Z consumers. Consequently, almost half (44%) of Gen Z consumers have made a purchase decision based on a recommendation from an influencer, compared to only 26% of the general population, making Gen Z an ideal demographic to reach via influencer marketing.

It’s imperative to better understand how Gen Z consumers are using digital media, what they want from companies, and who they trust most to recommend products and new brands. Here are four ways your brand can connect with, learn from, and better engage with the digitally-immersed and complex Gen-Z consumer.   

Marketing to Gen Z Means Prioritizing Authentic Digital Connection

Gen Z is a highly digitally-connected, knowledge-seeking generation with unprecedented access to information. They are the first group in history that has never known a world without the internet and are the most engaged in social media of any generation. They are constantly immersed in new information and are always hungry for more.

Gen Z behavior is rooted in connecting digitally:

The immense number of products and services that have been marketed to Gen Z consumers via various forms of digital media has made them true skeptics as brand advocates and, more importantly, as consumers. It’s no coincidence that Zoomers are the most resistant to advertisements relative to all other generations. Over half of Gen Z is believed to have ad-blocking software and less than a quarter, respond positively to the four major ad categories (online search, online display, desktop video, and mobile video), making it critical for brands to adapt. 

Influencer Marketing to Gen Z Builds Trust Between Your Brand & The Consumer

The good news for advertisers is that, despite being resistant to many forms of digital ads, Gen Zers are on board with influencers, with 50% reporting that they trust influencer recommendations. For example, about a quarter of Gen Z women say that influencers are where they most often learn about new products to buy. These digital creators can help your brand reach younger consumers effectively by establishing much needed social proof and building trust with your brand.

Gen Z prioritizes authentic recommendations and brand experiences:

That push for authenticity is key to success here: you need to partner with influencers who have active, relevant, and targeted Gen Z audiences. That means building a strategy to allocate resources to work with creative voices that can connect your brand with vetted Gen Z audiences. That’s why you need to prioritize data at each and every point in the influencer marketing campaign process, from influencer identification to measurement and reporting, to selecting the best channels and partners to re-engage for ongoing campaigns.

Millennials vs. Gen Z: Making Purchase Decisions Based on Brand Values 

Gen Z and millennials both want to buy from brands that are aligned with their values, but Gen Z takes it to another level. Gen Z is referred to as “True Gen” because they make decisions and relate to brands in a highly analytical and engaged way. A 2018 McKinsey study revealed that of the four core Gen Z behaviors, they are all anchored in one element: the generation’s search for truth: 

Core Gen Z values from McKinsey study

Gen Z individuals are more likely to advocate for brands that show a clear commitment to the causes they care about. For Gen Zers, shopping and connecting with their favorite brands is a way to assert their values. In a recent study, 75% of Gen Z respondents said being politically or socially engaged is very important to their identity. These consumers are more concerned with social activism than any group before them. Gen Z uses social media to address complex issues and do their part for the greater good while relying on their favorite brands to do the same. 

Gen Z’s buying power is inextricable from their values: 

Gen Z expects full transparency and social responsibility from the companies they engage with. They are highly tuned in, citing social media as their top influence channel to uncover information about new brands. To reach a generation so focused on charitable causes, sustainability, activism, and uncovering the truth, you need to align your brand with the causes and values that are important to this generation. Influencers are a great way to showcase that alignment, by shining a light on your brand’s unique values and providing necessary education from a trusted source through tailored storytelling and compelling content. 

Focus More on Community Building and Less on One-Way Messaging 

Gen Zers are radically inclusive and are inclined to engage with and purchase from brands that make them feel part of something bigger than themselves, online and offline. Because they are digital natives, they are drawn to digital communities, including those built around brands. But, as ever, the need for authenticity reigns supreme. 

Gen Z consumers prioritize community-oriented brands that align with their values:

  • A 2019 Spotify study found 62% of Gen Zers and millennials believe brands have the power to create communities based on common interests and passions. 
  • Gen Zers value online communities because they allow people of different economic, social, ethnic and political backgrounds to connect and mobilize around causes and interests. 
  • 66% percent of the Gen Zers in a 2018 McKinsey survey believe that communities are created by causes and interests, not by economic backgrounds or educational levels.
  • 52% of Gen Zers think it is natural for every individual to belong to different groups, and have no problem belonging to and engaging in many groups. 
  • 49% of young consumers want brands to have a social impact initiative they can be a part of.

Influencer partners with active Gen Z audiences can help share specific, targeted messaging to ignite the growth of your brand’s community and help create a space for Gen Zers to interact with each other and share their experiences with your brand. Building communities around Gen Z’s core values and beliefs through trusted influencers will help your brand inspire influential conversations, develop brand advocates and create a space for younger consumers to learn about and interact with your brand. 

Influencers should be a key part of your Gen Z marketing strategy if your brand wants to break through the digital noise, differentiate your brand from competitors, and authentically build connections and trust with Gen Z audiences where they are. For Gen Z, marketing really means earning their purchase through relationships, community, and shared values.

Building strong customer relationships means thinking outside the box when it comes to customer connection. Explore how brands need to evolve and expand their approach to “customer-first marketing” in our on demand event Rise to the Challenge of… the Customer.

Earned Media Influencer Marketing Social Media Marketing

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