Why Gen Z matters in media
Who is Gen Z?
Those who belong to Generation Z were born between the mid-90s and the early 2010s and have been described as the most socially and politically conscious, agile, and digitally literate generation to date. Gen Z are value-driven as consumers and seek to hold brands to greater accountability. More importantly, they are set to become a significant source of consumer spending in the years to come.
How does Gen Z behave?
Gen Z consumes 53% more content than the national average yet pay far less attention to it (they spend 50% less time with content than millennials). They may appear easier to reach because they occupy many media spaces—Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram for example—yet it’s much harder to grab their attention. Why is this?
Gen Z are digital natives after all, born in the age of dial-up and raised during the growth of the internet, and they spend their lives navigating through a jungle of hyper-connected networks that are constantly competing for their money, attention, and time. As such, you could say that Gen Z has become somewhat immune to the efforts of advertisers and marketing/ PR departments who seem to them to be insincere (just look at cancel culture for an example of how they treat brands that they see in this way).
Why Gen Z?
This begs the question— if they don’t pay attention to marketing, why target Gen Z as consumers? Well…
- With a current purchasing power of $44 billion annually, they are a financial engine that can’t be ignored
- Gen Z has the fastest growing economic power globally, with their earnings set to hit $33 trillion by 2030 and account for more than a quarter of all global income by 20311
- Gen Z employment is forecast to more than treble by 2030, with this group accounting for 30% of total jobs, compared to just 10% in 2019
- As digital natives, they have the highest level of digital competence when compared to other generations
Put simply, Gen Z is en route to becoming a digital and economic force of nature. It is this generation that will dictate trends in media, commerce, and growth in the coming years and so it is essential to understand and engage with them to capitalise on this. Gen Z is also incredibly agile and open to innovation. Combined with an elevated level of digital literacy, they have the potential and the flexibility to create more opportunities, whether that be in the workplace or as consumers.
Where does this put media owners who need to appeal to a financially conservative generation that is also unsusceptible to what they have to offer? How do you stand out in the digital spaces that they occupy daily?
How to market to Gen Z:
According to a study carried out by Yello, ‘More than half [of Gen Z] say they value face-to-face communication and just one in four expresses a preference for digital communication’.2 Whether this is fueled by a rejection of the digitally immersive experience in which they were raised, or contrastingly, a byproduct of being raised in a world so highly interconnected, Gen Z values authentic interactions. To appeal to a Gen Z audience, media owners’ online experiences must feel intimate and personalised. Show real people and genuine experiences – find a way to show empathy in your advertising.
Be socially conscious
It is important to understand that Gen Z is more aware of what they want, and more importantly, what they don’t want. They like to save money, and shop with brands that are quirky and ethical. They put more thought into where they place their money; is the brand unique? What is the message the brand is trying to convey? What does buying from the brand say about me? What impact does this brand have on others?
This social consciousness is not exclusive to Gen Z, but to truly tap into their purchasing power brands need to consider how they are perceived. And this must be authentic – with their digital skills, Gen Z will find out if brands are dishonest or greenwashing!
Be transparent and tolerant
Traditional advertising methods won’t work – Gen Z-ers are the most well educated and, more importantly, the most diverse and inclusive demographic we have come across. Advertising, therefore, must reflect the individuality and complexity that they experience daily in their real lives, but they must be reflected sincerely, and succinctly. It is important that Gen Z see themselves represented and will mobilise to be seen in digital spaces where they are not (take the GB News boycott for example). For a demographic that has been resilient enough to adapt to major global disasters (the post 9/11 disaster, 2008 economic crash and Covid), smokescreens and a lack of transparency and tolerance in advertising and marketing will not be accepted and is counter-productive in unlocking the treasure that is their financial potential.
Gen Z is a large and profitable market to tap into if you can engage with users on the right platform and with the right issues. The world of media is changing, and it’s important to connect, engage, communicate and understand Gen Z – rather than assume that we are the same as our predecessors, or conversely, too different.