Connecting with the digitally skeptical: marketing to Gen Z

Of all the three billion people who use social media worldwide, no generation is more fluent in the Internet than Gen Z. This is unsurprising — generally thought of as the generation born between the late 1990s and early 2000s, Gen Z is the only living generation to grow up as “digital natives.” They do not remember a time before the online space and are used to being the target of advertisements of all kinds. So how do you market to a generation that is notorious for being cynical of any business trying to sell to them? Easy: you meet them on their turf, use their lingo and adhere to their high moral standards.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Gen Z knows when a company is trying to pander to them, and they aren’t afraid to loudly scoff at a brand that tries to come off as “relatable” but falls short. It’s best to be sincere. If an advertiser’s message is honest, authentic, and, perhaps most importantly, non-condescending, Zoomers will be much more receptive to interacting with that message. Essentially, they just want to feel like it’s a person talking to them, not a faceless mega-corporation.
Although it might sound counter-productive, marketing materials that look less polished will hit harder with a younger audience. A casual, conversational vibe is easier to connect with — after all, this generation has been bombarded with TV and web ads their entire lives. It makes sense that we’d need a different approach to appeal to such a digitally fluent group.

Money Isn’t Everything

According to a 2022 Statista survey, 45% of Gen Z respondents said they were “motivated to engage with a new brand on social media when the brand appeared trustworthy and transparent.” It shouldn’t always be about selling a product, from the Gen Z perspective. It’s equally important for a brand to display a commitment to good values — Gen Z’ers want to know that the places they’re shopping at are sustainable and put emphasis on diversity and inclusion. That credibility needs to be earned. Teenagers and young adults are wary of companies that engage in “greenwashing” or “rainbow capitalism” and are much more willing to support brands that are willing to put their money where their mouth is and take steps to contribute positively to the world.

A Good Influence

These days, it isn’t sponsored advertisements or celebrity-endorsed commercials that get a Zoomer’s attention; it’s influencer marketing. According to a Morning Consult report, influencers have become the most trusted spokespeople for younger generations. If an influencer is able to present themselves as authentic and relatable, Gen Z is highly likely to trust their purchasing advice. Influencer marketing is a lucrative niche, and if you can utilize it in any way for your brand, you are much more likely to get a foothold with the Gen Z market.

Here at Augustine, we consider the use of various social channels — TikTok, Instagram, and even recently YouTube shorts — instrumental to a successful campaign. It is by far the best way to connect with an audience that spends upwards of four hours per day on social media.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Funny

To many outside of this generation, Gen Z’s humor borders on the nonsensical. It’s edgy, witty, sharp, and absurd. You’re just as likely to get a laugh over an image of a random object with a radial blur effect on it as you are an actual scripted joke. Don’t let that intimidate you, though. All you need is a willingness to go a little darker and a little more oddball with your humor and you’ll be set.

Consider Duolingo, a popular language-learning app, and their approach to social media marketing: it’s weird, it’s offbeat, and Gen Z loves it. Check out their TikTok to see how a simple language-learning app’s mascot has become a beloved character that younger people on social media can relate to and laugh at. (And, if you’re not sure how effective this kind of tactic would be, look at the comments and see just how much engagement their videos receive.) To an older consumer, this attitude from a brand might be off-putting or confusing. To Gen Z, though, it’s these kinds of community interactions that set a brand apart from the rest.

Key Takeaways

The scope of the marketing landscape is always changing, and we at Augustine strive to always stay a step ahead. Reaching Gen Z can be a daunting prospect, but these surefire strategies will help you craft the perfect campaign to maintain a strong connection with a younger consumer base.