How Brands Can Forge Stronger Connections With Gen Z Consumers


Generation Z consumers are emerging as valuable audiences for brands. However, forging stronger connections with them requires changes in the marketing strategy. In this article published by Toolbox, Owen Frivold, EVP of strategy and co-founder at Hero Digital, discusses how brands can build stronger connections with these audiences.

Events like the Super Bowl present a rare opportunity for marketers to reach an audience of more than 90 million people instantly. While past Super Bowl ads may have primarily targeted older generations like baby boomers and Generation X, there’s invariably one group whose spending power marketers will address in coming years: Generation Z. 

Gen Z is emerging as one of the most valuable audiences for marketers—its disposable income reached $360 billion in the U.S. last year, according to Bloomberg. With the proliferation of new technologies and products, reaching them presents a unique set of challenges. However, a deliberate strategy centered around authenticity and innovation can help you forge stronger connections with this emerging generation of consumers.  

Reaching a Brand-critical Audience 

Gen Z is a group of progressive and financially responsible digital natives born between 1997 and 2012. Their disposable income reached an all-time high last year as more Gen Zers entered the labor market, working full-time jobs and side hustles. They also have a significant influence on their family’s spending, as 87% of parents, according to the National Retail Federation, said their Gen Z children influenced their purchases. 

Although this young generation has money to spend, the marketing playbook that worked with past generations may not fly with Gen Z. The group typically takes a more pragmatic approach to spending, and they won’t spend with just any brand. Gen Z holds companies to a much higher standard than previous generations, requiring the brands they support to provide quality products, authenticity, and trustworthiness. 

The group also expects to be able to interact with brands on social platforms. According to SurveyMonkey (now Momentive), more than 40% of Gen Zers say they are more likely to purchase products from brands they follow on social media. Finally, the generation ranks empowerment and disruption as their top customer experience attributes when recommending a brand. This means they want innovative ways of doing things and want to feel inspired by their favorite brands. 

Before long, Gen Z will make up the majority of the U.S. workforce, and their spending power will continue to grow. And that makes reaching this generation a top priority in the coming years. But to turn Gen Zers into true brand ambassadors, you need a forward-thinking approach. Unless you take the time to understand this unique generation, you will miss out on revenue-driving opportunities. 

Redefine Your Marketing Playbook To Reach Gen Z

It may sound overwhelming, but marketing to Gen Z is not as complex as it may seem. You don’t need an entirely new strategy; you just need to adapt your current strategy by becoming more thoughtful, intentional, and authentic. With this in mind, let’s look at several ways you can uplevel your marketing playbook to reach Generation Z: 

1. Provide value and relevance

Gen Z grew up with constant noise, from YouTube commercials to podcast ads. But just because they are used to an information barrage doesn’t mean they’re actually listening. To catch the attention of Gen Zers, you need a marketing plan that’s tailored to their interests and priorities.  Take a more customer-centric approach that considers what would add value to the lives of your Gen Z customers. This can be anything from marketing relevant products to showcasing relevant brand attributes. For example, in Hero Digital’s Truth & Beauty Index, Gen Z prioritizes quality products, seamless shopping experiences, and brand trustworthiness. Identify what your audience wants and give it to them. 

2. Embrace authenticity 

Gen Z can sniff out insincerity from a mile away. The group prioritizes brand authenticity, and they want their favorite companies to be more transparent and take a stand on social matters. To truly showcase your brand’s authenticity, you need to show, not simply tell. Don’t just say you support a cause; take action supporting it.  

3. Challenge the status quo

Gen Z is seeking more innovative ways of doing things. For example, buy now pay later (BNPL) brands like AfterPay are effectively tapping into this younger market by providing a new method of payment. Many Gen Zers grew up watching their parents struggle with credit card debt, so paying for purchases in installments through BNPL has become increasingly popular among the generation. Stirring things up doesn’t just apply to a product or service; it can also mean reaching your audience in new ways.  

More Gen Zers are entering the workforce, and their disposable income is growing. You need to start paying attention now to earn their attention and, ultimately, their loyalty. Consider the generation’s shopping habits, the factors most relevant to them, and how your brand can add value to their lives. With a clear understanding of what younger consumers want, you can successfully convert your Gen Z customers into brand ambassadors.

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