Generation Z as a Consumer

8 seconds, it’s not a long time.

In 8 seconds Usain Bolt could run 83 metres

Every 8 seconds someone, somewhere is born.

In 8 seconds light travels nearly 1.5 million miles

In 8 seconds hopefully, you have read this opening preamble…

But how significant are 8 seconds, really?

If you are one of Generation Z then 8 seconds is quoted as being your attention span.  So what is the impact in the consumer brand relationship?

If a target audience doesn’t stay tuned in long enough to engage with messaging, where does this leave brands?  To understand that question we have to delve a little deeper into the demographic in question, so who are Generation-Z?

Born between 1995 and 2010 and with a population estimated to be over 2.5 billion by 2020, figures on Generation Z spending power vary anywhere between $40-$160 billion per annum.

With over 90% of parents stating that their children influence their spending decisions, some estimates push Generation Z’s effect on spending to a staggering $600billion per annum.

Digital savvy is an understatement.

Generation Z has been brought up immersed in technology, potentially using up to 5 devices to view content, they are the first truly digital generation.

With multiple sources of information at their fingertips, Generation Z are adept at rapidly identifying, sorting and discarding information that they do not trust or does not resonate with their beliefs. They are wary of brands, institutions and corporations


Today’s generation is immersed in a digital world, empowered with a near immeasurable source of data and given access to the world in a way that was unthinkable less than half a century ago.

Growing up in this information-rich world, under a backdrop of fake news and socio-political upheaval – Generation Z are using connectivity and technology to understand the world around them. This info gathering tech-empowered generation have a strong sense of independence and individuality, with well-developed beliefs and values, all through increased social and ethical awareness driven by connectivity and information.

How does this affect the world of marketing and the brand messaging if content is always available, and the consumer is smart, savvy and totally connected? Surely this connectivity must make it easier for brands to connect with consumers?  Unfortunately for brands, that’s not the case.

In a recent study on Generation Z, they identified the phrase “watching television” with streaming something online – there was no distinction between live television, satellite, cable, streaming services or YouTube channels, watching something on a device was “watching TV”.

The impact of this is that traditional above the line TV advertising is the least likely to reach and resonate with the young consumer of today.  In the UK, 16-24s (8%) and 25-34s (17%) are also less likely than average (32%) to say they would miss the TV set.

So if TV isn’t the media of choice for Generation Z, how can brands connect with their audience?

Generation Z practically live online.

Hyper-connected in an instantaneous, multi-device driven world, Generation Z more than any generation before them connect through their smartphones, tablets and devices.

Connection to their peers and the wider world is through their devices, particularly in the form of a smartphone.

To capture the attention of Generation Z, marketers must become masters of social media.

The brands that are achieving success are those that are reaching Generation Z with tailored social campaigns. In the limited window of attention span, brands don’t have time to construct lengthy narratives like those seen in traditional TV ad campaigns.

Experiential purchases and social media

Fashion has always played a huge part in how teenagers present themselves to the world and Generation Z are no different.

However where the generations that grew up before social media would say, “I am wearing [brand X], therefore I am cool”, for Generation Z its less about purchasing a brand to elevate social standing and more about experiential purchases that they can share on social media.

To the connected generation, if it’s not shareable it didn’t happen – social media is king.

Where fashion was previously used as an aspirational tool to elevate younger generation’s social standing, to the acutely self-conscious Generation Z, fashion is a supporting act in their quest for individualism.

Empowered, but with an ingrained wariness of brands and institutions, Generation Z want to associate with brands who offer more than a product, but a story with which they can affiliate themselves.  Brand equity isn’t enough. The social context of how the brand fits into the fits into the world is as important as the strength of brand itself.

This is a game changer in the world of marketing. A brand polished TV ad campaign, awash with rippling abs and shiny white teeth won’t even cross Generation Z’s radar – the ad-filled environment in which they’ve grown up has caused them to develop their own internal adblockers.

Research by Futurecast shows that 65% of Generation Z dislike ads that make life look perfect, and 61% like ads that show diverse family types.

Real-life people in real-life scenarios are key for marketing to Generation Z.

The smartphone is the new portal to the soul. Targeted, specific, big data-driven ads delivered through trusted screens of personal devices are up to two times as likely to engage their online audience, even if the brand is completely unknown.  The increasing prevalence of mobile has seen explosive expansion over the past couple of years and is only set to continue as Generation Z consolidates their buying power.

Brands now have to tailor their voice and image to Generation Z’s requisite beliefs.  Rather than pushing a widely appealing narrative, marketers must assimilate with the individual story of each customer: “I am wearing brand X because they represent my values and support my outlook and lifestyle”.

So where does this leave brands when trying to market to Generation Z?

There are three key areas that brands need to focus on to capture awareness.


Brands need to be honest, brands need to be truthful and brands need to show they care.  Transparency is crucial in terms of where a product is made, what ingredients are used and how they are sourced, and finally the brands’ social impact and how it treats its employees.

Businesses must ensure that their values are in tune with the needs of the generation, and marketers must make sure that these are communicated in an earnest way.

A sense of ‘Real’

Brands have to capture a sense of ‘real’ –people, situations and environments – glossy ads of a perfect world are increasingly hard to relate to and engage with.

To stand out, brands should harness user-generated content and the reach of social influencers on media platforms to capture Generation Z in their native space with trusted online personas.

Social activity

Generation Z have a higher tendency than any other generation to buy brands that have a clearly defined social cause.

Brands need to realise they’re a part of society and have a role to play. Generation Z wants to make a difference with every purchase

With $600 billion of potential purchasing power, brands are going to have to work hard to capture the attention of the demographic in question, and use every trick in the digital toolbox to maximise their potential. If brands are serious about targeting Generation Z, they must fully adapt their strategy to tailor not only their marketing content and medium, but also their environmental corporate and social responsibility policies.

– Anthony Welch, DECIDE.

Awards presented to Decide include: DBA Design Effecttiveness Award Winner; IPM Awards Silver Winner 2019; The Luxury Packaging Awards Finalist 2014; MDA Marketing Design Awards Finalist 2014 Awards presented to Decide include: DBA Design Effecttiveness Award Winner; IPM Awards Silver Winner 2019; The Luxury Packaging Awards Finalist 2014; MDA Marketing Design Awards Finalist 2014