How to Market to Gen Z

Video killed the radio star, but Gen Z is killing advertising. (So they say.) Not entirely, of course, but in a way. Reaching Gen Z requires new approaches to marketing, and that’s rewriting some of the rules of the business.

But what makes marketing to Gen Z so different? 

Gen Z (now in their teens and 20s) is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in history. They have wide access to information, wildly disparate viewpoints, and more than enough platforms on which to share both.

And the way this generation consumes media — highly personal, yet collective; stylized yet authentic — is making our marketing playbooks as obsolete as phone books. Like the millennials before them, these new users are largely credited for the boom of new social media channels, like TikTok.

Two Gen Z teens on social media

Growing up in the age of dial-up, millennials upended the communication norms established by Gen X, with their corded phones off the hook as they glued themselves to MTV. It’s Gen Z’s turn now. A force to be reckoned with in their own right, Gen Z-ers are giving companies no option but to adapt, adapt, adapt. It’s no surprise that streaming companies like Hulu are rolling out their own ad management platforms: traditional TV commercials? Gen Z-ers just won’t connect. 

But there are a few ways you can reach and resonate with the kids these days — the first being to avoid underestimating their sophistication or tech-savviness. If you’re still feeling more disconnected than ever, it’s time to get to know your newest audience.

What makes Gen Z unique? 

Gen Z comprises the population born between 1997 and 2012, give or take. These are the grandkids of the Baby Boomers. Although sharing a few characteristics with millennials (mostly in their 30s), the formative years of Gen Z were shaped by a world that is drastically different from Nana and Papa’s.

Gen Z-ers are the first digital natives. They love using technology, and were born at the peak of technological innovation. But given their diversity, it’s a mistake to group Gen Z under a single definitive umbrella. 

Since they’re shrewd and highly informed consumers, marketing to Gen Z requires an entirely new approach that blends native advertising with innovative design and copy, diverse messaging with razor-sharp targeting.

How to market to Gen Z 

Making a dent in the Gen Z marketing juggernaut starts with understanding how this age group consumes media, and what types of media they’re likely to gravitate toward. According to a Deloitte report on Forbes, digital media trends vary depending on the age group. Understanding how these young adults engage differently with their favorite brands is critical to setting up the best Gen Z marketing campaigns on the right channel at the right time. 

Social Media

More than 84 percent of Gen Z-ers have access to at least one social media platform. That’s a stunning stat by any standards. So is this one: 95 percent of teens own a smartphone, or have access to one. This makes social media the single greatest avenue for marketers to make their brands known to Gen Z. 

The most frequented platforms include TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat. Having a presence across these platforms is critical in appealing to this age group. 


For Gen Z, emails are a necessary evil. If they had it their way, they’d probably bury the virtual white envelope in a time capsule along with other ‘90s remnants, like CDs, floppies and that VHS of “You’ve Got Mail” (whatever, “Shop Around the Corner,” I’ll always love you). But here’s the snag for Gen Z: Opening different social media accounts requires an email address. They also need emails to subscribe to newsletters and alerts. Looks like they’re stuck with @ for now.

Given the wealth of information emails deliver, a good number of users in this age bracket still check their email multiple times a day, even if they’re not that into their inbox. This makes email an excellent avenue for Gen Z marketing — although not as powerful as social media, which alerts users in real-time.

Images and Video

For an age group with vast access to information, it’s shocking that the average Gen Z user has an attention span of about eight seconds. (Millennials have about 12 seconds.) That poses a new problem for marketers: Get your message across faster than ever.

Images and videos make eight seconds look like a lifetime, especially if you hook your audience within the first couple of seconds. That’s why so many marketers lean heavily into video marketing: it’s an essential tool for any marketer targeting this age group, and it comes with numerous benefits.

Device-specific content 

In addition to the type of media Gen Z consumes, the type of device used is also a key factor in marketing. This is particularly important when creating content or a website. The majority of people in this age bracket use a smartphone. It’s the most widely used device, followed by tablets and the occasional laptop; a few use multiple devices to visit their favorite websites and apps. Creating marketing content that’s easily accessible across these devices is critical to ensuring a better connection with your target audience. 

Why is it harder to market to Gen Z? 

Marketing to Gen Z can be tricky because their values and preferences are so new. But that doesn’t mean marketing to them has to be any harder than marketing to older generations. You just need to keep some basic facts in mind.

They trust influencers more than institutions

Trust, particularly in larger institutions, is on the decline among members of Generation Z. In an era when information spreads like wildfire, Gen Z prefers a more appealing, personable individual who packages information in a way they can relate to. 

Gen Z wants transparency

Historically, businesses haven’t been the most transparent. For a generation that is at times called the “True Gen,” marketing now has to be all about transparency. There’s no compromise, because they are resourceful and can get the information they want, and verify it. This is particularly challenging when handling sensitive matters like social justice and the ethos of your brand. 

Brands that want to be more upfront with this age group will quickly discover that it’s a thin tightrope to walk — and you might falter. What you should never do is underestimate Gen Z and their truth-seeking abilities. 

Video marketing is essential

A carefully worded print advertisement in the local dailies was more than enough in the past. It was cost-effective, easy, and fast. Video marketing is a whole ‘nother ball game, and many marketers are still trying to wrap their heads around it. The content must be informative, entertaining, and captivating — not an easy task to achieve in only eight seconds of attentive viewing. 

You have to segment your audiences

You can’t put your Gen Z consumers in the same basket as other generations — not even millennials. Keeping them separate, unfortunately, increases your marketing budget because you have to create individualized content for different generations, especially when you want to simultaneously run campaigns targeting different groups.

Although costly, the approach of marketing to Gen Z separately improves your brand identity, and your ads are likely to resonate with more consumers within your targeted age group. 

What does Gen Z want from brands? 

So far, it may seem almost impossible to market to Gen Z. Although challenging and a little different, it’s far from impossible. You need to know the cues that appeal most to this demographic, and — with a little creativity — you can have them eating out of the palm of your hand. Here are a few things that Gen Z-ers look for in advertising. 

Visual Content 

Not just any visual content, but eye-catching visual content. About 81 percent of Gen Z-ers prefer YouTube and Instagram as their social networks. With quick eyes scanning a wealth of information, short videos resonate better with this generation, allowing marketers to develop bite-sized visual and audio content that hits the right chords with their target market. 

Creativity and Interaction

Trying to get the attention of Gen Z on social media takes some creativity and interactivity. Younger consumers aren’t just looking for something to read over and regurgitate after. They want something they can tap, click, or swipe when they land on your adverts. 

Anything you can do to encourage conversation and interaction will fetch better results. Interactive polls that can also net you vital information on improving your marketing strategy serve as just one great example. 

Time-Sensitive Posts 

Gen Z has a serious case of FOMO: fear of missing out. Social media brands like Instagram have created features like Stories and Drops, which drive time-sensitive engagements. You can take advantage of this to create awareness with launches that get your audience excited and engaged. 


Tagging is a significant part of what Generation Z-ers do. It’s not just for them but for marketers, too! Tagging encourages your followers to share your content; customers can also add their physical location and tag their friends. Hashtags make it easier to find your content, as well. 


Gen Z is all about funny. If your marketing content isn’t funny, it at least has to be extremely appealing. This explains the attraction to memes and quippy clips. The one thing that will have your consumers scrolling past you is a templated response. Instead, strive to be organic and unpredictable in your responses and your marketing approach. 

4 Tips for marketing to Gen Z in 2023 

Gen Z has significant buying power — over $44 billion annually, which is more than enough to get most businesses and marketers to give them some extra attention. Tapping into this market requires taking a unique approach. Here are a few tips on how you can market to Gen Z.

Drop the formality 

Gen Z-ers prefer to see real, relatable people. Your ad content should reflect the same struggles and beliefs as your audience. Having paid actors in your commercial, using lengthy blocks of text, and sounding sales-centric will not cut it with this audience. 

Create short, impactful content 

With Gen Z-ers, you have to tell your fun and riveting stories in eight seconds or less. Luckily, you have Snapchat and Instagram for that. You can make quick advertisements with engaging and exciting content that resonates with your audience. With Gen Z, it’s all about the visuals, so practice making short videos and using photos. This will make it easy for you to connect with Generation Z. 

Adopt a multi-platform approach 

There are several popular social media platforms. Although the number of active users differs depending on the platform, take advantage of what they offer — it will allow you to spread your Gen Z marketing message wider. The rules of engagement change with each platform, but structuring content is the same: short, memorable, engaging, and funny. The content should be informative and amplify your brand’s values and mission. 

Partner with influencers to build trust 

Influencers are becoming an important tool when marketing to Gen Z. They are relatable, and could save you a lot of trouble when your creative engines are running on fumes. However, this shouldn’t be an excuse not to employ other effective marketing strategies. Using an influencer, which can be pricey, should be secondary and complementary to your other marketing methods. 

3 Great Gen Z marketing campaigns to inspire you 

If you’re still struggling with wrapping your head around Gen Z marketing, here are a couple of examples of some of the best Gen Z marketing campaigns that have had massive success by putting all these pieces into practice cohesively.

  • Will Finds a Way — Under Armor — Under Armor’s “Will Finds a Way” is an excellent example of a brand appealing to the challenges and emotions of teenagers and twentysomethings, and seeing massive success from it. 
  • We Make it Today — Instagram — As its own brand, Instagram — one of the most popular social media platforms with the Gen Z crowd — sets a great example in this short, hugely successful marketing campaign.
  • Cram Smarter — Studocu — Big Sea worked with college note-sharing brand, Studocu, to catch the eye of Gen Z college students in need of a new study buddy, just in time for final exams.

Some social media marketing tips for reaching Gen Z 

Social media is easily the best platform to reach out to Gen Z-ers. But not all marketers or brands thrive there — mainly because securing social media marketing for Gen Z requires following a set of golden rules that fortify your efforts in social media. Things to keep in mind:

  • Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet, and embraces this by celebrating diversity
  • Don’t emphasize cultural labels in your copy. Keep the target demographics to yourself.
  • Try to sell a lifestyle. If there’s anything that drives Gen Z-ers, it’s lifestyle. 
  • Engage frequently and quickly.
  • Partner with influencers. 
  • Use gamification to increase engagement. 
  • Be a mobile-friendly brand. 
  • Optimize for all social media platforms. 
  • Build appealing and enticing social media profiles for your brand that Gen Z users will want to follow. 
  • Have a video marketing strategy. 
  • Create a face and voice they can engage with.

Partner with an agency that gets Gen Z marketing 

Gen Z-ers have billions of dollars in spending potential. If you add in their Gen X parents, that figure becomes mind-blowing. As a marketer, these numbers are impossible to ignore. Contact the Big Sea team today to learn more about how we can help you get those Gen-Z gears turning.