How to Reach Gen Z in 2020—Beyond Authenticity

One marketer says a gaming strategy is a must

Photo composites of woman wearing skullcandy headphones, FaZe Clan logo, spotify on mobile, and man wearing skullcandy headphones
Brands should focus on consistent, quality content—but not overpolished creatives, according to one marketer. Illustration: Trent Joaquin; Sources: FaZe Clan, Spotify, Skullcandy

Gen Zers—who count the Parkland kids, Greta Thunberg and Zendaya among them—are intriguing to the rest of us. Throughout 2019, Adweek dedicated coverage to understanding the next cohort of consumers: from an infographic to visualize their phone habits, a podcast dedicated to their entrepreneurial rise and a video series featuring 18 Gen Zers addressing our most pressing questions about them.

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For one thing, they like paying with cash. They’re also suspicious, anxious and wary of the traps millennials fell into (see: college debt). They’re also purpose-driven and want to see more than an attempt at authenticity, yet they don’t mind targeted ads.

Marketers across different industries, from streaming to cannabis, share which strategies they’ll be leaning on to grab Gen Zers’ attention in 2020.

Responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Gen Z wants to engage with brands

“Gen Zers are entering the workforce at a rapid pace, with the eldest of them now 23. These digital natives are used to consuming a lot of information at once, they are tech-savvy, and are inherently suspicious of advertising. This audience seeks authenticity, and they prefer socially responsible businesses. They are also acutely aware of data privacy issues associated with digital advertising. Brands have to understand that building trust with this audience means something entirely different than the previous.

“More tactically speaking, a constant social feedback loop is important to this audience, which is why interactive platforms do extremely well. Providing an outlet for self-expression for this audience is as important as being responsive to them. They grew up in an era where there was more content choice than ever. More important than the question of what content to put in front of this audience, the question needs to be: Does this content encourage them to share and engage with it?” —June Sauvaget, global head of consumer and product marketing, Spotify

Authenticity is paramount

“In a new decade and during an election year, I believe our Gen Z consumers are going to crave even greater transparency, authenticity and social consciousness out of their brands of choice. They will buy from brands that demonstrate a larger purpose.

“We need to be relentless around content creation and social, in both quality and quantity. And when I say quality, I don’t believe it’s that consumers expect highly produced content. In fact, I think the more overly polished creative appears, the less it will resonate. But we will have to be relentless in the quality in regards to how consumers relate to and connect with our content. When it comes to quantity, you can’t rest on your laurels as a brand. The minute you publish, your content is already old. Your content has already moved down the feed. We have to give our consumers reasons to repeatedly come back to and build a relationship with our brand. We have to remain interesting enough every day and every week that consumers come back for more. Be interesting. Be compelling. Be different. And don’t ever rest easy.” —Jessica Klodnicki, CMO, Skullcandy

Respect the consumer

“If you’re marketing towards young millennials or Gen Z, a gaming strategy isn’t a maybe, it’s a must. I have no doubt that by the end of 2020, it’s going to be common practice among all marketers to intersect with gaming. If a young male demographic is important to a brand, they must be in gaming. Period. There’s no there’s there’s no greater way to target young males than via gaming.

“More than ever, a brand needs to respect the consumer and respect how a consumer wants to be spoken to. I think there are more demands that a consumer has over the brands that target them than ever before, whether that’s philanthropic, being socially conscious, or being conscious of how they treat their employees. More than ever, we care about care about the totality of how the brand conducts itself rather than just the product.” —Lee Trink, CEO, FaZe Clan

Be open with Gen Z—and educate them

“I think educating the consumers is going to be a huge focus in 2020, especially when we speak to the consumers for us next year, the youngest consumer that could consume cannabis legally is going to be born in 1999. And I think that Gen Z community is so intrigued and so curious on knowing the process. I think that’s going to be really big as educating the consumer and showcasing the process of that creation and that’ll help educate them and lead the consumers to purchase. That’s why what we’ve seen in the last two years has been really big on experiential marketing for customization. It’s been huge because it allows us to show the process to the Gen Z, and that’s what they love, to see our process. That’s what wins them over.” —Naj Tyler, vp, marketing, Viola


@klundster kathryn.lundstrom@adweek.com Kathryn Lundstrom is Adweek's breaking news reporter based in Austin.
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