Gen Z Characteristics Creative Marketers Can Learn From

    September 07 2020

    Gen Z Characteristics Creative Marketers Can Learn From

    September 07 2020  |  Marketing , Social Media , Social Media Manager

    Blog - Decoding Gen Z-01-3

    Generation Z is unbothered, unfazed, and unapologetic when it comes to their social media prowess. Set to join Millennials as the dominant U.S. consumers much like Baby Boomers once did, Gen Z is a generation full of characteristics all their own. Leaving even the age closest to them stumped. 

    Born from the years 1995 to 2009,  Gen Z’s core group is currently aged 13 to 22 years old, with a few outliers 23 to 24 years old. Gen Z is the first-ever mobile-first generation who can’t remember a world where smartphones and social media weren’t a part of their everyday lives. And before the older generations begin to talk about the adverse effects of technology and social media, this generation is already aware of the issue and are actively finding ways to counteract excessive screen time. Hence, crafting viral TikTok dances or commenting on videos way into the middle of the night. But all jokes aside, this generation is changing the social landscape as we speak, and marketers better take note, or they won’t keep up.  

    This online generation grew up in an era of progress. From marriage equality to body positivity, Gen Z is now entering a new age of gender identity and self-expression. Moved by activism, the first thing brands should know is that having a social good component is no longer just “nice to have,” it’s critical to gaining Gen Z’s attention. But don’t go overboard with sophisticated design; Gen Z can see right past that. 

    Move over Millennial Pink, Gen Z Yellow and technicolor are here to stay. This week, we’re decoding Gen Z and what marketers need to know to effectively communicate and attract this emerging generation.

    Which Social Platforms Do Gen Z Use Most?

    Unlike Millennials, Gen Z has had access to social media and the internet for most of their lives. And because of that, marketers can’t recycle content the same way they’ve done for past generations. Gen Z’s most used platforms Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram all serve a different purpose in their lives, so adjusting the content to work for each medium is key to successfully reaching this powerful consumer group.

    • Snapchat: Gen Z, having evolved with the company since its inception in 2011, Snapchat is the original Gen Z platform and basically set up the blueprint for how Gen Z communicates. Snapchat makes it easy to communicate in a way that helps them truly express themself. It’s in-app design tools allow them to get creative with the content they share privately to friends and publicly via Stories. Note: Self-expression is vital to this generation. 
    • YouTube: Gen Z is big on creating online communities. They don’t see much of a difference between online friends and real-life friends, which is why new short-form video apps like TikTok and Triller are taking off with this group of consumers. Gen Z uses YouTube to watch tutorials or view content that aligns with their interests, or even starting their own channels to show off creative abilities or share their lives with other people interested in the same things.
    • Instagram: The mobile-first generation prefers Instagram to Facebook to discover brands and online shopping. 75% of Gen Z likes buying from retailers online, and since Instagram’s addition of Instagram Shops, it’s made buying from the platform easy and hassle-free. Instagram is also another way for Gen Z to express themselves digitally. They don’t view it as creating a brand but rather showcasing their talents and creativity to the world. Check out sellit, PLANOLY's new feature that helps any business sell directly from Instagram. 

    Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 honoree, Makenna Kelly, is an excellent example of how Gen Z uses readily available tools to create and express themselves. This 13-year-old started her own autonomous sensory meridian response channel (ASMR) called “Life with MaK,” where she uses her phone to record most of her videos. Kelly even says that her generation isn’t more creative than previous ones, but their way of showing it to the world represents early access to the internet and social platforms. 

    PLANOLY Pro-Tip: Gen Z’s mobile-first mentality is critical when deciding what mediums to market on. Try prioritizing phone and social when speaking to this generation because this is where you’ll reach them best.

    Gen Z Characteristics Social Media

    The Emoji

    Known for their creative use of emojis, Gen Z uses emojis unironically and find them useful when crafting a message to their audience. So what do certain emojis mean? And how can companies and marketers use them to their advantage? Well, first, you have to understand how this generation is using them, and your best bet is sorting through a Gen Z comments section. You’ll see common ones like the sequence of a single eye, lip, a single eye emoji plastered across all social media, and not so common ones like fairy emojis. But what does it all mean? 

    The understanding changes from post to post, but when you begin to read through them, all the users say the same thing just reiterated in different ways. Like “it’s the _____ for me” or “_____ sitting there like 👁 👄 👁”. Many young Millennials have started using these phrases to garner familiarity among their younger following like Instyle Magazine's Social and Special Projects Editor, Peyton Dix, and comedian Jordan Firstman.

    Blog - Decoding Gen Z-03 (1)

    The Scrappy Aesthetic

    Despite the Millennial generation quickly aging out, their clothes and aesthetics aren’t. The 90s and early 2000s have had a resurgence with this generation of teens and young adults. Most of them are probably wearing some thrifted Millennial’s clothes. This is also true in how Gen Z reimagines popular creative works into memes, photos, collages, and filters. They lean towards imagery over extensive texts and use the internet for their source of inspiration. 

    It’s important to note that instead of making brand new things from scratch, they borrow images and manipulate past relics to create something new. This generation doesn’t take ownership that seriously because anyone can make something only for someone else to take it and make it their own. It’s more about authorship and originality that stays true throughout their creations. 

    So Instead of marketers trying so hard to come up with something new they can take popular trends and rework them into something clever for their brand to market to the Gen Z generation. But don’t sleep on the trend, or you might be too late.

    Blog - Decoding Gen Z-04 (3)
    Blog - Decoding Gen Z-05 (4)

    Creative Activism

    Gen Z is very loud when it comes to social issues on social media. They are more progressive than previous generations with the exception to Millennials, and quick to mobilize to create viral trends that strengthen a social cause. The most recent trend that took off was TikTok and Donald Trump’s Tulsa Rally. Many Gen Zers signed up for his Tulsa Rally without the intent of attending. This prank helped upend important voting data for the upcoming presidential election, which was precisely their goal. 

    Another way Gen Z remains active online is by highlighting causes, charities, and campaigns they care about while still having fun with emojis and memes. Just look at well-known creative activists Deja Foxx and BreeAnne Minisee. Foxx started Gen Z Girl Gang, a community with a mission “to redefine sisterhood for a new generation,” she told Refinery29. “We do it by experimenting with social media as a community-building tool and inverting the typical top-down structure to instead center our audience as our content creators.” Minisee started another online community Black is Lit, where she aims to create more Black representation on the platform and give youth

    Gen Z Characteristics

    The Overall Messaging

    For content to be worthwhile to Gen Z, it needs to be funny and entertaining. The same way Gen Z creates content is the way they consume it. Hone in on those key characteristics to make content this community wants to share with friends and family. Don’t be afraid to use memes, emojis, or Gen Z lingo because nothing you say or do is inappropriate or unprofessional in their eyes – except for being on the wrong side of political issues. Whether it’s a social cause or viral dance, get playful with it! That’s what this generation responds to best. 

    Meme account @patiasfantasyworld and creator @DonteColley market to their audience in a way that’s playful but serious at the same time. Owner and meme facilitator, Patia, created a resource list to help dismantle systemic racism while running a meme account full of inappropriate jokes. Colley, a popular creator, makes funny dance videos that indirectly focus on real issues like the one featured here. Use these two accounts as inspiration for the content you’ll produce in the future.

    We know there's a lot to unpack here, but just remember not too long ago, we were asking ourselves, "How do we market to Millennials?" And look how well that turned out! Start by using Gen Z characteristics to create relatable content.  Keep a lookout for our Gen Z news updates coming soon! 




    Learn more about Carrie Boswell, on PLANOLY

    Carrie Boswell

    Carrie Boswell is the Digital Marketing Content Specialist at PLANOLY. She is always finding ways to include pop culture and the Gen Z perspective into the content we create for marketers and small business owners.

    More by Carrie Boswell


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