Oct 08, 2019

What does Gen Z expect from marketing?

Gen Z, the true ‘digital natives’ of our time, as a demographic are making more belief-driven purchases in their search for the truth behind brand experiences.

  • Gen Z is becoming more competent at identifying insincere advertising and are searching for advertising that mirrors their beliefs or shows a genuine concern for social and environmental causes. For these reasons, authenticity in marketing is not just a bonus, but a necessity.
  • Gen Z is loosely classified as people born from 1995 to 2010 and are labelled as the ‘true digital natives’ because from a young age, they have been exposed to social channels, the Internet, and mobile phones.
  • The product of which is a generation that is extremely comfortable with collecting and cross-referencing sources of information as well as the integration of virtual and offline experiences.

“This generation wants [brands] to be more real, authentic and organic…” Younghee Lee, Global CMO, Samsung.

Who is Gen Z?

“In the US, it is estimated that Gen Z has a direct spending power of US$29 billion-US$143 billion and an indirect spending power of US$600 billion.”

The context from which a generation emerges greatly shapes their outlook and behaviour. For example, Baby Boomers (born from 1940-1959) were in a post World War II context and are best represented by consumption. The Gen X demographic (born 1960-79) consumed status, and Millenials (1980-94) consumed experiences.

In a study conducted by McKinsey & Company, they found that all of the Gen Z core behaviour traits are dependent on one element, their search for truth. In general, this study found that the Gen Z demographic - on track to account for about 40% of all consumers by 2020 - try to avoid labels and place more value on individual expression. They strongly believe in mobilising themselves for a range of causes and make decisions pragmatically.

Generally, Gen Z is well educated about brands and if they are not, they are competent in accessing information to develop an opinion based on this brand quickly. For instance, if a brand was to advertise diversity but lacked genuine diversity in their ranks, this discrepancy would be noticed

In a nutshell, Gen Z is comfortable with having more than one way to be themselves, with a search for authenticity that creates more freedom of expression and a greater understanding of different kinds of people.

Four key aspects Gen Z expect from advertising are online privacy, complete transparency, shared values, and above all, authenticity throughout.

Online privacy:

As a demographic, Gen Z is increasingly conscious of their online privacy, with 62% actively using a private browsing window and a further 51% using an adblocker. Furthermore, the Global Web Index found that 62% worry about how their data will be used by companies, with 56% indicating that they prefer to remain anonymous online.

In light of these statistics and attitudes, it comes as no surprise that this demographic is taking active measures to protect their data and anonymity, and marketers should consider this before inundating them with more ads. As far as they can remember, Gen Z has experienced an abundance of ads, many of which will not agree with their search for the truth, and so they will choose to actively block this content.


The Gen Z demographic have learnt to question everything. With the enormous amount of information available, they’ve been conditioned to do their research and form their own opinion rather than simply accepting the first thing fed to them.

94% of consumers state that they will feel more loyal towards a brand that offers complete transparency, again linking to Gen Z’s search for the truth, they want to feel as though they know the brand on a personal level so that they can form real connections. 

To build a successful relationship with the Gen Z demographic, brands need to prioritise gaining their trust, this is achieved by adopting a transparent model which will allow the demographic to feel in control.

Shared values:

Gen Z is showing increasing concern about the environment and social causes, they respond well to brands that demonstrate a shared concern regarding this, with 69% of this cohort stating that they prefer socially conscious brands.

In a study carried out by Spotify, they found that Gen Z considers the most important brand ideals to be: equality, honesty, and environmental protection.

Furthermore, while shared social values are important to Gen Z, they also desire to see real and relatable people in marketing campaigns, who are similar to themselves. The people placed in ads need to share the same beliefs and motivations, as 67% of the Gen Z audience said that they need to see real people in ads. Deep Patel, Forbes comments: 

“They have made it clear that what they care about more than anything is feeling like they know the brand or the person behind the camera. They don’t want to feel marketed to—they want to feel like they’re part of something.”

Generation Z have a vast amount of expectations from brands after growing up exposed to a world of social channels, mobile phones, and the Internet. This generation expects brands to understand exactly who they are and what they want while sharing their values for social and environmental causes. With this generation set to make up 40% of all consumers by 2020, brands should invest the time now in understanding and catering to their needs for future marketing efforts.