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Tips for marketing to Gen Z

Tips for marketing to Gen Z Phil Ahad

Brands have been so focused on reaching Millennials in recent years, but the latest target generation for marketers is Gen Z or iGen, those consumers born between the mid-90s and 2009. They are a unique bunch, with unique tastes and habits that brands and marketers need to get up-to-speed on immediately.

Some brands are already up-to-speed, while others need to play catch-up. Here are some of Gen Z's principle characteristics and how brands can use that intel to effectively reach them.

Here's the landscape for marketers.

First, they have more available funds. Now that members of Gen Z are in their late teens and very early 20s, they both lean on their parents for financial support -- about half are employed and making money of their own and therefore can support themselves while the other half are unemployed and rely on their parents for financial support. This duel dependent/independent status makes them influential with regard to family spending and household purchases, and they are also direct consumers themselves.

And while Millennials are the most effected and weighed down by student loan debt, Gen Z'ers aren't quite there yet. Of those that have begun accumulating student loan debt, three-fourths of them have not yet begun paying them off. This means extra money for purchases.

Tip for marketers: The buying influence and newly available cash flow makes Gen Z an untapped potential that can't be ignored by brands. Do not ignore!

Secondly, Gen Z is an idealistic bunch. This generation wants to see the world become a better place and want to somehow help make that happen. Gen Z'ers admit to being more concerned with making a difference in the world than they are with making money, in fact. Don't ignore the desire this generation has to sync up with "brands on a mission." Brands like TOMS Shoes, for instance, implement a "one-for-one" giving model. And for a generation that grew up during a time of instant gratification, the immediate sensation of giving back while making a purchase is very satisfying.

Tip for marketers: This group wants to align themselves with brands who share their hopeful attitudes. When thinking about what products to buy, more than a third of Gen Z'ers prefer to buy products that donate a portion of their proceeds to charity. Add a charitable incentive or movement to your efforts. Make your plans to give back clear and -- equally important -- make it easy for them to give back. They want to make the world a better place, yes, but are not so interested in having that be a complex process.

Lastly, they are online all the time. Gen Z doesn't understand life without social media, smart TVs, and instant access to just about everything online. They, unlike their big bro Millennials, don't even remember a time when being offline was a thing. It's simply a state of being that doesn't exist.

Tip for marketers: When targeting this cohort, campaigns that worked for Millennials need to become more technologically sophisticated and persistent. And no longer are the days of Facebook and Twitter only -- your brand will need a Snapchat presence, robust YouTube channel, etc. McDonald's, for instance, beefed up their Snapchat marketing efforts and guess who followed? Gen Z. Filters play a huge role in the success of the platform because it allows for the user to interact directly with a brand. Brands need to tap into these new geo-tagging filter opportunities.

Also, select a more relatable spokesperson or brand ambassador. Consider a YouTube star or Vine personality rather than a traditional celebrity. Most of us may not have heard of MAGCON or know who Lele Pons is, but Gen Z knows just who they are. They may not be "mainstream famous" but Gen Z'ers value their opinions and follow them online already.

Phil Ahad is a senior vice president at Toluna QuickSurveys. Prior to joining QuickSurveys in 2011, Phil held many senior-level marketing roles for companies such as AOL, comScore, CoStar Group and most recently Medmarc Insurance Group.

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