The Definitive Guide to Marketing to Gen Z

Generation Z is the next wave of consumers that will change everything. Are you a brand or organization hoping to reach them? If so, this guide is for you!

Start By Understanding

First, it might be important to know who generation Z really is. For those that don’t know, we’re very sad to hear that but equally excited you’ll get to learn all about us. Generation Z is loosely defined as the generation born after 1996. Today, that means 12-24-year-olds. 

In order to market to Gen Z we must understand who they truly are. 

Gen Z is not unlike any other generation in that they have their own quirks, nuances, and behaviors that are very much unique to them. Thus, we must start by confirming a very common misconception:

Gen Z is not simply “millennials on steroids”. 

While digitally and socially they follow similar trends to their elder millennials, Gen Z has a variety of distinct differences that separate them from millennials. 

Now we could rant all day about Gen Z (and do), but we’ll sum it up in a few bullet points so you can truly understand who generation Z is.

  • Generation Z has never seen a world before the internet thus they not only understand technology but have a great sense of where it’s headed.
  • Impact matters most. Gen Z is the most altruistic generation we’ve ever seen.
  • Gen Z is the most financially savvy generation yet. At their core, they are penny pinchers and savers. 
  • Behaviorally, they are confident, open-minded, and caring, but far from naive. 
  • They don’t purchase based on experiences but rather based on their personal brand. Every purchase is merely an extension of their digital personal brand online.

Gen Z is oftentimes a living, breathing contradiction. Which makes marketing to gen z quite difficult. They are socially liberal as can be but economically very conservative. They care for others, but their own personal progress is a #1 priority. 

Capturing Attention

Gen Z is ad insensitive and boasts an 8-second average attention span. Because of this, your ability to capture Gen Z attention is the first, and most important step in marketing to Gen Z.

Video is necessary, there’s no debate there. But what style of video?

Speed must happen first. The overall video length matters significantly less than the overall pace of the video content. A 15-second video can be slow just as a 5-minute video can be fast. 

Creative needs to execute quick cuts, fast transitions, and brief points. 

Next, disrupting attention flow is vital. If it doesn’t throw the audience off, they will be laser-focused to scroll or click past any video.

Catchy thumbnails and thought-provoking scenes work best. 

The audience should wonder “WTF?” (what the f***) in the first 2-4 seconds in order to retain their attention. 

Show Up to the Right Party

If you show up to the wrong party, you won’t reach Gen Z. In which case you’ll never be able to turn up and go viral on TikTok w the squad. 

It’s no secret social media matters to Gen Z, but which platforms are most vital? 

This is always changing, but at the writing of Q4 2019:


For today’s generation, YouTube is TV. Gen Z grew up with parents shoving ipads in their faces at the peep of a complaint. In the influencer era, Gen Z developed fandom for their favorite YouTubers. They’re subscribed, ready to watch 5-15 minutes of video content, and will spend the most time-consuming content outside of their friends on YouTube.

Unlike other social channels, the average user doesn’t produce content of their own. Thus the far majority of users are consumers of content rather than produce. Far brands, this means becoming a content producer makes you one of a much smaller group than it would on other channels. 

For YouTube, you’re not fighting for consumers’ attention away from their friends but their favorite YouTubers & other brands. 

Thus, in our ranking, YouTube is the #1 channel for marketing to gen Z.


Formerly Musical.ly, TikTok has burst onto the scene in the last 2 years to become a major social media player.

The platform is best engineered for today’s generation: short-form videos, full screen, vertical, and low production value meaning just about anyone can create content on their own. 

Generation Z is well versed in creating content on their own, staying in on the joke, and pushing the average creativity boundary. TikTok is a platform to do all of the above and more – a platform could not be engineered better to fit Gen Z.


For Gen Z, Instagram is a requirement. It is similar to what your website is for older demographics. It’s your digital brand. 

When Gen Z wants to find info on your products, reviews, pricing info, etc… they will go to Instagram first. 

Organic reach is declining, but the ability to showcase your brand and direct sell through a platform is still on and rising. 


Finally, the forgotten platform of the decade: Snapchat.

Despite their stock telling you Snapchat sucks, it still holds a major role in the daily lives of Gen Z. Among social channels, it has the greatest capability for direct messaging, with users direct snapchatting each other as the primary use of the platform!

The best part is that hardly any brands have truly figured out how to create content and build an audience on Snapchat, making it ripe for the taking. 

For Snapchat, Gen Z is a massive opportunity. Wait, I mean the other way around. 

(or maybe I’m advising Spiegel on where to orient future app dev regarding augmented reality 

Be Unique

My favorite conversation around Gen Z marketing is the fear that tailoring a custom message to Gen Z will lead to losing your older demographics.

The way to avoid this is simple: change your message, not your brand. 

Your message to a 16-year-old and a 64-year-old can and should be distinctly different. Your brand, however, should remain the same. 

Rather than attempt to change who you are, merely change how you communicate. 

Tailor content, platform, copy, caption, cta, everything to fit your Gen Z demographic that is built for Gen Z. 

If you aim to add elements of Gen Z into existing, vanilla marketing strategies it will fail. This generation is smart, they won’t be tricked. Most of all, they don’t waste their time-consuming content or buying from brands that don’t 110% support their own vision/personal brand.

Execute & Test

My best analogy for describing the ever evolving generation Z is this:

Computing power is said to double every two years. Thus if you view this on a graphic it drastically accelerates over a short period of time.

This is generation Z. Everything around them is changing at an accelerated rate. And this generation is hard wired to not only accept that change, but further fuel it.

They move fast, their consumer behaviors shift on a dime, and a 1-year window to reach them might be too long.

In order to best catch up with and retain generation Z, we must focus on execution and testing. Follow this step by step list:

  1. Understand Gen Z
  2. Capture Gen Z’s Attention
  3. Show Up to the Right Party
  4. Be (ridiculously) Unique

For a demo of how we reach Gen Z and our process, email me jake@trndsttrs.media 🙂

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