How Marketers Can Reach Gen Z

By Valerie Dennis  |  December 8, 2017

People sitting on couch laughing

Listen up marketers: The oldest members of Generation Z—defined as those born between 1995 and 2012—are graduating from college and entering the marketplace. As the first generation to have known a fully digital life, the Gen Z experience and perspective is unique, and you’ll need to generate your brand strategies accordingly.

Expected to account for 40 percent of consumers by 2020, Gen Z will present a notable marketing opportunity that your organization shouldn’t ignore. It may be a challenge though, as only 36 percent of the overall generation say they feel they have a strong connection or loyalty to any brand. In our Generation Z: Part 1 blog post, we identified Gen Zers and explained how to communicate with them.

Here, we chat with father-son duo David (a Gen Xer) and Jonah (a Gen Zer) Stillman about the key traits specific to this generation and how marketers can leverage some of these traits to engage with Gen Z.


“Gen Z sees no difference between the physical and the digital world,” says Jonah. “When we buy products—at the end of the day—it’s going to come down to efficiency.” While he and his peers do like to interact in a brick-and-mortar store and have conversations with employees, sometimes it’s easier to buy online. And aside from the face-to-face experience, the difference between online and physical stores has been eliminated for these consumers. “Whether I am loading groceries into the cart at the supermarket or adding to a cart online, it’s truly one in the same,” says Jonah.

Marketing takeaway: Organizations need to be active in both the digital and physical spaces. David emphasizes focusing on the brand as one whole team, rather than having separate physical and digital teams.


From social media to ads to retail products, hyper-customization is everywhere. “Here’s a generation that’s been literally customizing their own brand since birth,” says David. He points to the online Nike store where people can design their own shoe. “We’re seeing customization more, and more people want to put their own stamp on it because that’s the world they grow up in.”

Because Gen Zers are living this customized lifestyle, they determine what they want to see and make it happen. Jonah says that his peers are the easiest to reach—they live a largely a digital life and are on all platforms—but the hardest to engage because they know how to avoid targeted and boosted content.


Marketing takeaway: To reach Gen Z, marketers must provide personalized and customizable experiences tailored to the individual user. “The more personal and authentic you can feel, the more attractive it is to a Gen Zer,” says Jonah. This includes using what the generation perceives as “real people”—influencers and YouTube personalities—rather than well-known celebrities. To resonate with how Gen Zers interests in a customized approach to things, include options for how they view and use your content and products.


This is the do-it-yourself generation. “If they want to know how to do something, they can literally just log on to YouTube and learn,” says David. When it comes to consumption, Gen Zers believe they can do a lot of it themselves.

Marketing takeaway: Do it yourself taps into hyper-custom, says David. “If I do it myself, it will be more customized to me.” Marketers can reach Gen Zers by helping them feel like they are creating or deciding what to create for themselves (examples include the recent popularity of meal preparation kits and painting parties). He calls this the Marth Stewart generation: putting bits and pieces together for their own DIY project appeals to them.


Because Gen Zers are digital natives, they always have had information at their fingertips. They can request or view anything on a device at any time, which has led to a “fear of missing out.” Gen Zers want to be connected and in-the-know at all times. “Because of our fear of missing out, we don’t want to miss any opportunity,” says Jonah.

Marketing takeaway: Gen Zers have an eight-second attention span. David encourages marketers to use that eight seconds to their advantage when talking to Gen Z. “If in eight seconds you can create a little FOMO—boom, you’re going to hook them. FOMO is really going to be one of your more powerful marketing initiatives with Gen Z.”

Related: The Difference Between Generation Z and Millennials [Infographic]

You can read about the other traits and how they all relate to the workplace in the Stillmans’ book, Gen Z @ Work. And in part three of our blog series, we’ll share a quick guide illustrating the differences between Gen Z and millennials. 

Read next: Content Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference, Again?

Related Posts

Miracle-Ear Content Strategy: Agility Meets Quality

Driving ROI with Thought Leadership: B2B SEO Strategies That Create Authority

Advancing a Scalable B2B SEO Content Strategy