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Three Gen Z Behaviors Brands Need to Know

Mintel: Brands will need to appeal to the cohort's ethical and diversity standards.
Two girls with shopping bags looking at a smartphone

CHICAGO — With the oldest members of Generation Z coming of age and the cohort poised to become the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet, market intelligence agency Mintel believes brands must start to recognize concerns particular to this group if they want to successfully connect to them.

In a new report, the company breaks down three key findings brands will need to know about successfully marketing to Gen Z consumers.

They're Digitally Savvy

Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with smartphones, tablets and platforms like social media and YouTube as the norm. The oldest Gen Zers (born 1996) were 11 when iPhones first launched (2007) and 14 when the iPad was introduced (2010).

This generation's media habits and usage of digital technology will force businesses to approach them differently than previous generations. They are intolerant of traditional ads, which makes them tune out, but are open to being influenced by people they genuinely trust, including celebrities and micro-influencers (who Gen Z find more authentic and emotionally appealing).

Gen Z's usage of social media is a behavioral trait that also sets them apart, while simultaneously creating new avenues for marketers to connect with them. The cohort has a tendency to shop with smartphones, so brands and retailers should continue to leverage digital channels where these consumers typically find content to drive discovery, engagement and, ultimately, purchases, according to Mintel.

They Care About the World Around Them & the People in It

Gen Zers have experienced several economic and social traumas and are no longer willing to be silent about the cards they've been dealt, Mintel pointed out. They are open about their need for social and environmental change and will hold corporations accountable for their actions.

70% of US teens say their sustainable actions can make a difference

Gen Zers are more likely than older consumers to pay attention to brands' values/missions and to support those that align with their own. For marketers, that creates the opportunity to connect causes with purchase behaviors. Category players that lead with a cause that aligns with Gen Z's values are better positioned to connect with this audience, thus driving more brand engagement and repeat purchases. 

They Understand Complexity & Want Brands to be Real

Gen Zers in the United States are more diverse than any previous generation in terms of race, gender and sexuality. They value individuality, while proudly supporting equity and inclusion, and will rally behind authentic and accurate representations.

More than half of Gen Z consumers in the United States feel they would be better represented in advertising if more people without perfect lives were shown. Therefore, brands looking to increase their relatability among this generation would do well to focus on creating ads that embrace inclusivity and use real people rather than relying on celebrities, influencers or models, according to Mintel.

Gen Z wants attainable representation and will increasingly expect brands to destigmatize flaws and work to undo unrealistic beauty standards. Members of Gen Z will also be more inclined to notice any instances of discrimination or underrepresentation. Almost one-third of Gen Z adults say they would feel better represented if they saw more racial diversity and more people who do not follow "traditional" gender stereotypes in advertising. For brands, it will be crucial to respect different choices and think the way Gen Z does on these issues, the firm added.

Mintel concludes that while marketers have mastered the art of understanding millennials, brands will need to diversify their approach to connect with Gen Z. They must understand the generation's nuances, target them with relevant products and craft relatable narratives while maintaining ethical standards.

For more insights into Gen Z shopping habits from Mintel, click here.

Chicago-based Mintel has provided research and intelligence solutions to consumer-focused businesses for more than 50 years. It operates 14 global offices.

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