3 Things You Have to Know to Reach Generation Z

Just figured out millennials?

Well, now it’s time for Generation Z! Born in the mid-’90s, these kids grew up with smartphones in their hands, and marketing to them is a totally different game. And since they’ll account for 40% of the market by 2020, you’ve got to learn to play by their rules. So what does Gen Z want? How can you reach them?

It’s simple… kind of. You can learn a lot just from understanding how they view the world.

They want authenticity

The #1 thing that young people in Gen Z are looking for is authenticity.

They’re not interested in traditional advertising. Anything that seems too slick, processed or pushy is going to put them off. A recent study found that 67% of Gen Z prefers narratives or content with realistic endings, and 63% would rather see “real people” (or at least a YouTube or Vine star) than mainstream celebrities in ads.

Your social media has to sound like it’s coming from someone with similar interests and voice as the people you’re addressing. Use their language, pay attention to trends and come with a sense of humor. Your marketing should sound like a dialogue, not a shout for attention.

Above all, don’t try too hard. The last thing you want is to show up on their scene like a weird uncle trying to be cool. Sticking a bunch of “LOL”s and emojis into your tweets is not going to impress them. Offering content that’s genuinely interesting to them will.

Generation Z wants to participate

This generation is not passive consumers. Many of them create their own content online and share it with friends, and they’re always connected. They grew up in a world where instant communication was already the norm. With this mindset, Gen Z responds best to marketing that they can take part in. Give them something fun to do and they’ll become your best brand ambassadors!

They’re looking to build their own personal brand. Most of all, they’re looking for ways to express themselves and connect. The best campaigns for Gen Z ask them to interact, to be participants rather than an audience. For example, check out how Pandora promoted Thumbprint Radio. To promote their new feature, they asked Instagram, YouTube and Vine users to share their “personal ‘that’s my jam!’” moment.

Their case study describes the campaign as “all about capturing that #nofilter reaction when your favorite jam comes on, and our collaborators did just that with humor and amazing dance moves.” It’s funny, creative and puts the spotlight on real people. If you look past the fuss about technology and crazy pop culture, this is what Generation Z is all about.

They decide immediately whether something is worth their attention

The average Gen Z kid has seen 200,000 marketing messages by the time he or she is 15. They know better than anyone whether something is interesting and relevant – and in the blink of an eye. We’ve all heard about their 8-second attention span. It doesn’t mean that teens these days are like goldfish and they’ll forget the beginning of your video by the time they get to the end.

It does mean that they are extremely good at choosing what gets their attention. Mimi Turner, marketing director at the Lad Bible, explains that this short attention span actually reflects their lightning-fast ability to process information. “This audience are extreme navigators of superior efficiency,” she says. “They are machines at knowing what they want. They are highly sophisticated decision-makers.”

That’s why it’s been called an “eight-second filter” instead. If they think they’re being sold on something, they’ll screen it out. But if they decide it’s worth their time, they’ll give it intense focus. They value their time and want to commit it fully to the things they care about.


In some ways, Generation Z is profoundly different. They’re the first digital natives, more connected and fluent in technology than any of us old fogies will ever be.

On the other hand, what they want is very simple. They’re looking for humor, authenticity and ways to get involved. Reach them on their level and you’re opening up a world of new opportunities.


Intango Ventures partners with Plug and Play

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