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Generation Z is a diverse and complex generation, even in Australia. They have different values, beliefs, and behaviours than the generations before them. And that means Gen Z is a challenge for any company to market to because they don’t want to be branded as kids, and they tend to hold very different values to their older Millennial siblings or Generation X parents. Yet, Gen Z is an important market in Australia as they are far wealthier than Millennials were at the same age. According to a new study by MMGY Global Research, nearly one in three Gen Zers have more money in their savings account than their parents do! Let’s explore some different ways that your marketing strategies need to change for Generation Z.

Understanding Generation Z

It’s fair to say that Generation Z is different from the generations before them. They have different values, beliefs, and behaviours than the generations before them. As a result, it’s hard for marketers to target Gen Z without incorporating some of their values into their marketing strategy.

In order to succeed in marketing to this generation, you need to understand what makes this generation different.

This is the true digitally native generation

They spend more time on their devices than others consuming and interacting at a greater rate than Millennials. We’re not just talking about the consumption of video on YouTube and TikTok, but also chatting on SnapChat, WhatsApp and more fringe apps like Kik and Telegram. Up to 50% of money spent happens on mobile, which is dramatically higher than any other generation.

They know when they are being patronised

They’re less likely to be impressed with traditional advertising. In fact, traditional advertising makes them cringe. The appropriation of meme culture and trends by advertising agencies, major brands and government departments does not reach this generation because the moment they see it, hear it or are told about it, they have already judged the whole campaign as exactly the patronizing drivel that it is. Think of an old man walking up to a group of 20-year-olds, giving the two-finger peace sign and opening with, “Hey young people, let me tell you what’s lit right now in the hood.” It’s fake, cringeworthy and totally misses the mark.

Don’t tell them what to do

This generation claims they don’t want a brand telling them what they should do. And while Gen Z is just as responsive to influencers and popular stars on YouTube and TikTok, they also know that life isn’t really like that. Just as the previous point made when you try to tell this generation what to do and you do it in such a way that patronises them as stupid kids, you’ll not just be ignored, you’ll be attacked. And rightly so. When you make no attempt to listen to people because they are not of voting age or are just “idealistic young kids” you can’t then be shocked when they won’t do what you want them to do. However, clearly laying out the benefits to themselves, their communities and their planet can motivate this generation far beyond the usual “Jedi mind tricks” that advertising throws at Generations X and their Baby Boomer parents. And while Millennials may look upon bad advertising with vague amusement, Gen Z will form a lifelong opinion of a brand based on the missteps they made with underestimating or patronizing them when they were in their early twenties.

Mapping the Gen Z Consumer Mindset

As Gen Z arrives at the doorstep of being major economic drivers or consumption, small businesses have to adapt their marketing strategies and tactics or risk losing them altogether. The members of Generation Z are a highly diverse group of youth that are not content with being marketed to as kids. They desire brands that are more thoughtful and considerate of their needs. They don’t want to be referred to as a “generation” because they don’t see the relevance of their age when it comes to their interests. They are more likely to segment themselves as consumers into their interests, fandoms and tribes. And these are just as likely to be lived out online as they are in the real world.

With Generation Z just starting to enter the workforce, they have very different priorities than previous generations had when they were young adults. For instance, Gen Z is more likely to prioritize experiences over material goods. In fact, 71 percent of this generation agree with the statement “I’m pretty sure I’ll feel better about my life if I have experiences rather than things” compared to only 37 percent of Millennials who agreed with this statement! This focus on experiences over possessions terrifies the retail economy because the bling and clutter of the Baby Boomers, the showy and conspicuous consumerism of Generation Z and the conspicuous promotion of value-aligned brands in Millennials just isn’t working with this new generation.

The shift in values and priorities from Materialism has major implications for marketing strategies and small businesses in Australia: Younger adults want experiences and brands that match those desires. If a company is not able to provide unique, meaningful experiences for people then there’s no point in staying connected with the brand at all. Or to the point — even noticing that brand at all in the first place.

How do I market to Generation Z?

It’s difficult to answer this since Gen Z is so diverse. They’re not just younger than previous generations, they’re also more technologically savvy and often use social media (but not Facebook) as their main source of information. Unlike the generations before them, they don’t want to be branded as “youth” because they don’t see themselves as “youth.” They are educated, informed and aware, whereas the Millennials before them were educated, but arrogant and woke.

When it comes to buying something that they normally wouldn’t, they want a real experience that helps them learn about your product or service and make an informed decision. And that real experience is as much about your values matching theirs as it is about the usefulness of your product. Remember, this is a generation that has known about climate change, plastic pollution, green energy, values-based decision making and critical thinking since they first hit primary school. These are not the factory-fodder drones of the 1950s or the university-or-bust kids of the 1990s. This generation has laughed at the hypocrisy of millennials and their turmeric lattes. They have shaken their heads at the need for Generation X to buy homes that are three times the size that they need to be. And they have trouble even comprehending how Baby Boomers had no idea that their consumption patterns would destroy the planet.

In order to have a successful marketing strategy with Gen Z, it’s important to know what they value in their lives. For instance, if your company makes a personal care product or has an environmental focus, show Gen Zers how you can help them live healthy lifestyles while also having a positive impact on their planet. If your company sells technology products or services that allow people to stay connected with one another, put a focus on building relationships with people online and staying safely and privately connected with others in their generation. Other ways to market successfully with Gen Z include:

1. Create videos and content that are tailored for this generation, showing them in all their diversity. Not just picking out the most beautiful, most thin and most unattainable genetically blessed versions of their generation. Be diverse. Reflect what your consumer looks like, feels like and values

2. Using social media marketing effectively with visuals that present facts that matter to them. Be honest and transparent about your own impact on the planet. Share your values about female empowerment, racial equality, knowledge of gender fluidity and other things that represent what they see in their world

3. Employing mobile marketing strategies, because they are not watching television or listening to radio, despite what the paid-for surveys are saying. You only have to ask 20 people in their early twenties what radio station they listen to in order to find out that there is no way that a survey result showing that 90% of young people listen to radio could be anywhere near accurate. Reach them on their mobiles in the apps they are using and within their fandoms with something relevant to them when they are in those arenas. Don’t try to sell them gummi vitamins while they’re playing Fortnite.

Reach out and ask them

Generation Z is a difficult generation to market to in Australia because they have been exposed to a variety of content and technology than we all were. They are not growing into television watchers. They are not growing into radio listeners. And they don’t believe a word of what is written on a billboard. Advertising is seen as a lie to them because they can and do research what’s true and what’s not. To better understand Generation Z and reach them, you must look at the way they consume media and the tools they use. Then ask one of them to help you understand what they love and what gets their attention. You’ll be surprised at just how little of what is advertised at them ever reaches their eyes or ears.

Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, a Meta Blueprint Certified Lead Trainer, a Community Trainer with Meta Australia, a digital advisor with Business Station, an accredited Digital Solutions advisor and presenter, an Entrepreneur Facilitator, and the editor at The Small Marketer. You can watch free 1-hour webinars and grow your digital skills at Dante’s YouTube Channel.