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How Gen Z Is Changing the Marketing Game


Happy Thursday everyone (and for those of you in Cambridge, congratulations on making it to the end of another term)! Today we have a really exciting blog takeover for you which unpicks some of the ways that Gen Z are changing the marketing game. This fantastic and insightful piece has been written by the wonderful Sophie Szymula from the University of Florida. Sophie is interested in social media content creation, brand identity and strategy, and we are so grateful for her taking time out of her busy student schedule to share her knowledge with us today. So Sophie, you have control of the blog...

Generation Z, AKA Gen Z, refers loosely to those born after the late-90s up until around 2010. Already accounting for 40% of global consumers, and predicted to eventually surpass Millennials in purchasing power, understanding and targeting members of Generation Z is going to be vital for brands in the very near future, if not already (Pew Research Center, 2020). We are witnessing several marked changes in marketing.


A need for a digital presence:

Born into an age of increasingly advanced technology, Gen Zs are true digital natives, with many having little to no recollection of times before smartphones, social media, and the Internet an arm’s length away at all times. In order to reach them, brands and companies are focusing on their digital image (read: social media content, email campaigns, and other ways to grab attention online.) This need for a virtual presence is even greater with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many businesses to either learn how to “swim” online, or sink.


The rise of the “micro-influencer”:

Now, using famous celebrities or “influencers” to promote a product is not a new concept; we’ve all seen the Kardashians posting pictures of those gummy bear hair vitamins. But Generation Z’s taken it in another direction where, instead of traditional celebrities, they are drawn to people who have built smaller, but dedicated audiences that are usually entirely online. After following their content for sometimes years, many Gen Zs feel they personally know these people and can relate more to them, leading many to see trends that Generation Z is more willing to buy or use products promoted by these “micro-influencers,” not conventional spokesmodels.


The push for diversity and authenticity:

Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in history and they want to spend money on brands that they can relate to. #AerieREAL, a campaign by American Eagle’s loungewear andintimates line, has been garnering support for including models of all races, sizes, and abilities to represent the brand, and promising to not retouch photos.


We’ve seen a rise in support for Black-Owned Businesses and Women-Led Companies that are taking steps to ensure there is diversity down to the core of the brand. Companies from all different industries are also publishing reports on the demographics of their employees at the demand of Generation Z. Representation is extremely important for Gen Z not just in visual media, but in the company itself. This leads us into the last effect Generation Z is having on marketing and advertising, which could honestly warrant a completely separate article itself -


Stances on Social Issues:

Gen Z votes with their dollars; they feel as if a company’s values are a reflection of their own, meaning brands can no longer be shy about their beliefs and mission. Through their desire for diversity and authenticity, Generation Z is causing many companies and brands to go under questioning about their social responsibility. There’s also an interesting risk of companies being called out for “performative activism,” or voicing support for a certain cause (like #BlackoutTuesday for Black Lives Matter) for personal gain, rather than any actual belief in the cause. With Gen Z, there is a push for marketing that isn’t hollow, and an expectation of brands to “take a stand.”


Generation Z is a new type of consumer: one that is value-conscious, loves being online, and has a need for community and truth. I think it’s vital to learn the impact they’re having on the marketing world, because all of these trends have happened just within the past decade. Many Gen Zs are still in school, and once they fully enter the workforce, marketing will probably not be the same industry it once was.

We would like to again extend our thanks to Sophie for such a wonderful piece, and you can connect with Sophie on LinkedIn here, Twitter here and Instagram here.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author only, and does not represent the views of CAMSoc as a whole or the University of Cambridge.