(Source: )

Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2012, will account for 40% of all consumers by the year 2020. Although they are “digital natives,” these price-conscious shoppers buy in brick and mortar stores most of the time. And they influence $44 billion in discretionary spending. So, while millennials have monopolized the marketing spotlight for quite a while, Gen Z is well worth getting to know.

To gain insight into this generation, MNI Targeted Media Inc. commissioned a study of Gen Z behavior, surveying students at major universities about their media consumption. They identified seven key traits of this generation, which include their heavy reliance on social media, fear of missing out (FOMO), high esteem for social impact, expectation of conversation, and open-mindedness. In an interesting twist, MNI found that Gen Z is surprisingly reliant on print. In fact, they spend more time reading physical newspapers and magazines without interruption than they do on social media, websites, and blogs.

Then, based upon its analysis of this generation, MNI formulated five “laws” of marketing to Gen Z that offer useful insights and actionable takeaway:

1.  Keep your content platform-specific. Unsurprisingly, Gen Z is highly connected – in large part due to their life-long use of social media platforms and ability to Google anything or go ask Alexa. MNI finds that these consumers navigate easily between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Their use of each platform is specific however. They use Facebook to get general updates; Twitter for the latest news; Snapchat to share real-life moments; and Instagram to showcase their aspirational selves.   

The takeaway: Tailor your message to each platform because Gen Z wants to see that you understand them, which is reflected in how they use social media. Your message needs to fit seamlessly and appropriately within specific social channels to create a genuine connection.

2.  Be authentic. Thissocio-politically conscious generation is proactive about making the world a better place. Their brand loyalties and buying choices directly reflect this value system. Gen Z rewards brands that take a strong stance on issues (provided it aligns with their values, of course). They want to see that a brand really cares, though. And this means being authentic. Brands must have a clear, steady point of view that doesn’t waiver based on circumstances or platform.

The takeaway:  To connect with Gen Z, brands will need to be willing to take a stand on issues that are complex and even controversial. Then, they need to maintain a clear and confident position while genuinely engaging consumers to demonstrate that brands are “fighting the good fight” with them, side by side.

3. Let them create your content. Raised in a world of influencers, Gen-Z likes to see their peers using a product. They also like to post content to their own channels and have it get noticed. Celebrity and expert endorsements hold less value for them than those of their friends or influencers they follow on social channels.   

The takeaway: Give these consumers opportunities to create and share their own content around your product or brand. And don’t try to sustain your spin. The less control you maintain over the content, the better. Allowing Gen Z to post what they want to, how they want to, will better support that authenticity in #2.

4. Don’t forget the price. The MNI research highlights a significant data point: Gen Z’s formative years were dominated by the Great Recession, in which they saw their Generation X parents’ net worth fall by over 40%. As a result, Gen Z “knows how to live in survival mode.” According to

the MNI study, 72% of Gen Z consumers say that cost is the most important factor when

making a purchase. They use the internet to price compare, and no amount of marketing can make them buy unless the price is right.

The takeaway: Know the market and your competition at least as well as they do. Ensure that you are weaving a narrative about relative value into your messaging. But the bottom line: Get that price right.

5. Bring digital in the real world. While previous generations witnessed an astounding migration of their favorite brands and experiences online, Gen Z has seen brands that started in e-commerce move to brick and mortar, like Warby Parker and Birchbox. Thus, they don’t separate digital and physical. And while 60% of Gen Z shoppers prefer to go into a store over shopping online, 75% of them also check a store’s app while they’re shopping there.  

The takeaway: Consider crafting your marketing to capture this audience and adding new features like AR into your app to bridge both worlds as seamlessly as they do. With Gen Z, real-life interactions and integration of tech with brick and-mortar are smart moves.

As MNI points out, this generation is not Millennials 2.0. Rather, they are a distinct force that makes sophisticated choices about identity, purpose, and values. They’ve spent their lives surrounded by digital content and they know how to filter anything that lacks the right tone, language, and relevancy. This is not a one-message-fits-all generation. While deeply connected with parents, friends, and online communities, they pride themselves on being unique. To market to Gen Z, brands most be willing to listen to their voices and preferences and authentically communicate across digital platforms and through real world experiences.

If you get the message and the medium right, they’ll reward you. And if you don’t, they’ll let you know. Be real, respond, and maintain shared values and true connections for the most rewarding relationship with Generation Z.