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Educate Yourself on Gen Z

Marketing intelligence and research agencies often conduct research and prepare reports on industries or customer segments. Sometimes they post a teaser with little useful information, forcing you to spend thousands to get the good stuff. Other times they give a bit more information in that teaser, sometimes requiring you to leave your name and email address. Either way the goal is to generate leads. London-based Mintel put together reports like this. The good news here is that the “teaser” part has some useful information that you might bring into your classroom.

This Mintel article, “The Future of Consumer Behaviour in the Age of Gen Z” defines Gen Z as those born between 1997 and 2012 (note, everyone defines these slightly differently and in Essentials of Marketing we use 1995-2010). This generation is the first to have never known a world without the internet and smartphones. Their purchasing power is only going to increase as they move into adulthood. Students like to know more about themselves, and these days most of our students are members of Gen Z.

The article suggests the following as defining characteristics of Gen Z:

  1. Pragmatism: Due to global crises, including the pandemic and rising living costs, Gen Z exhibits a careful approach to spending. Statistics show 43% anticipate reducing non-essential spending, while 51% prioritize finances.
  2. Digital Nomads: An astonishing 98% of Gen Z uses social media, with TikTok as a primary platform for product research. They’re also inclined to use online wallets, reflecting their online-first behaviors.
  3. Commitment to Diversity and Choice: Gen Z challenges conventional gender roles, seeking brands that prioritize diversity and inclusion in their campaigns.
  4. Demand for Environmental Change: While many believe Gen Z to be more environmentally conscious, they have unique eco-behaviors and hold brands accountable. About 34% believe in boycotting brands failing to address social and environmental concerns.

The article also provides five example industries and how each is (or might be) marketing to Gen Z consumers.

  • Travel: Gen Z’s increasing financial independence influences their holiday decisions. Offering flexible payment options, like Contiki’s model, is becoming essential.
  • Beauty: Gen Z values transparency and sustainability. They favor brands that align with their ethical standards and oppose ‘greenwashing.’ They also demand more realistic beauty standards and prefer authentic content. Moreover, 69% turn to TikTok for beauty insights.
  • Food: Snacking is big with Gen Z, with a quarter snacking more than once daily. They’re open to adventurous flavors and unique snack subscriptions.
  • Alcohol: The “sober curious” trend is on the rise, with 40% of 16-24-year-olds moderating alcohol intake. While non-alcoholic drinks gain popularity, Gen Z’s willingness to experiment should not be ignored.

As Gen Z’s purchasing power grows, it’s crucial for brands to resonate with their unique characteristics. Authenticity, diversity, eco-friendliness, and engaging digital content are pivotal. Brands should challenge Gen Z stereotypes and align strategies with their evolving preferences.

How you can use this article in your marketing class

With suggestions from ChatGPT, I offer some ideas for using these insights in your marketing class:

  1. Case Study Analysis: (Chapters 3 and 5) Divide students into groups and assign each a specific section (e.g., Travel, Beauty, Food, Alcohol). Each group will analyze their section’s content, identify the primary challenges for marketers, and propose strategies to address them.
  2. Role-playing Activity: (Chapters 13 and 19) Simulate a marketing meeting where students take on roles as brand managers and strategists, planning a campaign targeting Gen Z.
  3. Consumer Research Exercise: (Chapter 7) Have students design a survey for Gen Z on a chosen topic (e.g., eco-friendly products, digital wallets). They can later analyze and discuss the results in class.
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