November 2, 2018

ZEITLINES | 11.02.18


Have you got a Gen Z in your life that you just don't quite get? What does it mean when they say "Let's get this bread"? This week our President, Kathy Murphy, takes a look into the confusing cohort and what it takes to get their attention in the era of Audience Democracy.

Observations from the trenches: Marketing to Gen Z IRL


According to Neilsen, the single largest segment in the US is kids born between 1996 and 2010, commonly referred to as Generation Z or Gen Z. They are the first truly digital natives. They’ve grown up with YouTube. Their purchasing power is estimated to be $44 billion ( In previous blogs we’ve examined their ambitions, their careers even their IG jokes. Their communication style is equally fascinating.

Gen Z makes up close to half of the total media audience. Over 90% have a digital footprint, they are 25% more likely than millennials to say they are addicted to their devices ( and the majority (65%) communicate with each other more often digitally than in person ( A Visioncritical study shows that because Gen Z is being raised by Gen X parents, they are more realistic when it comes to job opportunities, less likely to take risks, and they seek stability and security in their jobs and finances.

I recently witnessed their unusual communication practices when observing a 14 year-old working on a class project with her ‘group.’ Of course I knew they would be doing everything online. What I didn’t realize until I saw it, is how differently they would do it.

The starting point is a shared document development tool – they’re using Google Docs. Based on my observations, this generation is taking their usage of it to the next level. They’re not just developing documents together and sharing them back and forth, they’re using Google Docs as a communications vehicle much like texting or Instagram. While building a presentation slide live, one person may be adding an image, while another is editing the bullets and another is contributing a random question about fashion. All in that one slide. And, all three of them are paying attention to what the others are doing at that very moment. And, while I found it incredibly distracting, this is just how they were tackling the project. They weren’t questioning it.

As marketers, when contemplating brands for the future, we need to be empathetic to this very natural way of being for Gen Z. They are multi-taskers extraordinaire. They want to interact while they are working. They co-create in real-time.  They can juggle a lot of balls and they have the tools to do it.

The starting point is grounding your brand in something meaningful, that provides the Gen Z audience with a sense of stability, your brand purpose. From there, you need to develop a marketing campaign that is not dependent on any one channel but rather is made available to Gen Z when, where, and how they want it. The key to success here will be a core campaign creative idea that enables and even empowers them to interact in the way that they want to,  naturally and wherever possible even giving them a role in creating it.

Co-creation with a forum to provide feedback and input…even if it’s just what they’re going to wear to school tomorrow.




After checking out that visual thanks to Vision Critical, what do you think are the biggest differences between Gen Z and Millennials? Shoot us an email at and share your story!