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GUEST COMMENT How can brands capture the elusive gaze of GenZ?

Students: most likely to shop discounts and bargains
Alexa Kilroy, Head of Brand at Triple Whale

Gen Z is the first generation of true digital natives – so how do you make sure that your brand can reach them? Here, Alexa Kilroy shows you how.

Born and raised on the internet, Gen Z was raised with smartphones and social media in hand – unlike their Millennial predecessors, who witnessed the internet’s initial rise. That immediate access to technology has unlocked a new demographic of consumers –  buyers that shop quickly, visually, and with a tremendous desire to “stay ahead of the trend”. 

While it’s easy to think of Gen Z’ers as teens and tweens, Gen Z’s purchasing potential is staggering. Forecasted to surpass Millennials as the largest consumer population in the US by 2026, they already hold a combined spending potential of over $360 billion

As Gen Z’s consumer presence explodes, D2C brands seeking to grow and thrive must shift their marketing strategies to capture the attention of this next consumer audience. Let’s dig in.

GenZ is on TikTok – Are You?

Many brands have yet to break through with Gen Z – but not because they are an unreachable demographic. Considering the average Gen Z-er spends more than 8 hours online daily, there’s ample opportunity to connect. It’s critical that brands meet Gen Z on the platforms from which they consume the most content in order to effectively reach the audience. 

While Instagram remains the hot-spot for reaching Millennial consumers, TikTok is quickly surpassing its platform peers in capturing Gen Z’s attention. Accordingly, advertising on TikTok is a core opportunity for brands to make a lasting impression. 

As a relatively new advertising platform, TikTok presents an ocean of opportunity for marketers – for instance, advertising costs trend 50%+ lower compared to Facebook. Fortunately, TikTok’s unique algorithm allows businesses to generate revenue through organic content, as well as test potential advertisements as organic content prior to backing with adspend, which expands potential for reaching a broader audience along with mitigating costs. 

Stop Scroll with Action Shots 

With today’s never-ending stream of online entertainment, capturing the attention of potential consumers is a growing hurdle.

In Gen Z’s case, they are 16% more likely to engage with video ads for new products, rather than static images or text. Highly entertaining, visually interesting, short-form video is the most effective form of content for encouraging Gen Z viewers to pause. 

For instance, Crossnet, a new backyard and pool game brand, is exploding due to vibrant video ads depicting their products in action – inspiring consumers to say, “I wanna try that!”  

Embrace the FOMO

Many Gen Z’ers have indicated that they are significantly more open to trying new products and purchasing from the latest brands compared to previous generations. Being “the first” to try something can be a tangible motivator in this generation’s purchasing decisions.

Similarly, many Gen Z’ers often express fears of being “left out” of any hot trend, sale, deal, or product. This gives brands the opportunity to leverage the power of “FOMO” – Fear of Missing Out – to inspire urgency to purchase.  

One way for brands to tap into FOMO and quickly convert potential buyers into paying customers is to incorporate “product drops” – exclusive items with implied (or actual) expirations. Brands that offer limited-time releases on exciting, trend-worthy products are often some of the most effective at seizing the opportunity to quickly generate revenue with Gen Z audiences. 

Channel Gen Z Desires

When targeting Gen Z, bold and vibrant imagery tends to outperform darker, grittier content. Leveraging humor, transparency, upstanding values, diversity, or an inspiring founder story – anything that makes a business unique beyond the product itself – is also extremely effective at sparking an emotional response within this consumer demographic.

Additionally, Gen Z’ers are captivated by aspirational content – beautiful homes, gorgeous skin, stylish looks, and luscious locks. Ad creative that sells a lifestyle, not just an item, further inspires consumers to invest in your brand. 

While Gen Z is exceptionally unique and diversified, on the whole, many Gen Z’ers are passionate about directly expressing that individuality. Ideology is notably important to many Gen Z-ers, who view consumption as an expression of individual identity and a matter of ethical concern

Value alignment is also on the rise. As the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, Gen Z’ers demonstrate significant interest in businesses that are ethical, minority-run, female, or POC-founded. They are drawn to businesses with causes they support. And as topics of gender fluidity and identity representation become more and more mainstream, 48 percent of Gen Z’ers claim to prefer brands that don’t categorize items as male or female – compared to 38% in previous generations.

This ethical emphasis adopted by many Gen Z’ers also manifests in a tendency to support small businesses over large conglomerates. Afterpay, an ecommerce payments tool, found that in the past 2 years, Gen Z spending has increased more than 260% for small business on their platform – 80% higher than millennials. 

Passing the Consumer Torch

Gen Z’s purchasing power strengthens by the day. According to recent IRI Data, brands have seen revenue grow 14x on average over time when they market successfully to Gen Z, compared to prior generations.

On the flip side, brands that fail to recognize Gen Z as a powerful consumer audience will not only lose out on sales – they’ll lose the fight with the ticking clock. In just a few years, your current Gen Z customers could become your lifelong brand advocates. Building a relationship with Gen Z now is essential for sustainable growth. 


Alexa Kilroy is Head of Brand at Triple Whale

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