To be honest, Gen Z can feel like foreign territory to everyone. Even myself, born in 2001. Although I’m in the middle of TikTok’s mid-dress generation, I don’t always fully understand the trends we start, stop, or cancel altogether.
While I’m not great when it comes to how to market to our generation, I can tell you that it’s pretty obvious when marketers try too hard to sell us. It often feels too forced and fake.
That’s why I’m here to help! Let me debunk some myths and predictions marketers might have made about our wild generation so you can find the right ways to get our attention and keep us engaged. Let’s dive right into some of these misconceptions, debunk them with data from our State of Consumer Trends Survey, and discuss tips on what you can do.
5 Generation Z myths, debunked
1. “Gen Z is obsessed with fast fashion.”
It’s easy to see SHEIN or Princess Polly on TikTok or Instagram and think they represent our generation. Of course, these online retailers have an understanding of our generation to some extent, but what catches our eye are the retail resale sites. For example, 90% of Depop users are under the age of 26.
Today, Gen Zers are buying these clothes, but in a much less harmful way, as the resale clothes are second hand.
Instead of getting caught up in cheap prices and deals, Gen Z, more than any other generation, is mindful of the brand’s ethos and its stance on social issues. You don’t just have to take my word for it. we surveyed over 100 Gen Zers and found that how a brand approaches social responsibility has a real impact on Gen Z purchasing decisions.
And when we asked if companies should take a stand on social issues, 50% of Gen Z said they should. As a marketer, this means that if you haven’t already, you need to prioritize it for Gen Z and even younger millennial audiences.
I also ask you not to think of social issues as a broad term that is often thrown around without any substance to back it up. Instead, break it down into specific problems that you can actually tackle with tangible results. And, just to help you out even more, here’s how to get you started:
When we asked Gen Zers who they want companies to take a stand on which issues are most important to them, racial justice was by far the top issue (69%), followed by LGBTQ+ rights (50%) , gender inequality (46%), and climate change (42%).
2. “Privacy and data security are irrelevant to Gen Z.”
I understand why many people believe this. Gen Z is known for being glued to their phones, which obviously carries the risk of unprotected and unrestricted data.
Plus, we’re the TikTok generation, and as many of us know, TikTok has had its share of privacy issues. And yes, we can seem irresponsible at times, especially when it comes to social media (the milk crate challenge wasn’t the best idea); but don’t underestimate us.
As the first generation born into a technology-based world, we’ve seen the realities of a digital space more than any other generation, so data security and safety are naturally a top priority.
As you can see from the chart above, Gen Z’s purchase decisions are heavily influenced by whether or not they trust a company with their data (being the second most valued pre-purchase consideration at 83%) .
The above data means that as a marketer, you need to pass data privacy on to our generation, and you can’t assume that we don’t care about these criteria. Rest assured that we are not being scammed or exploited. We may not always prioritize this over experience and entertainment (as seen with our use of TikTok), but don’t think you can do anything with our data and we won’t care.
3. “TikTok is the best way to reach Generation Z”
TikTok is a great space for Gen Z; it offers a genuine feel to content that no other app offers. This style is quite appealing for some of our shorter lead times and busy schedules. In fact, TikTok is the app Gen Z uses most often. Despite this, surprisingly (or not), it’s not our favorite social media platform.
When we asked Gen Z their favorite social media app, Instagram and YouTube easily took the cake, with TikTok in third place, as seen in the chart below.
From your perspective as a marketer, this means that while a significant effort should definitely be made to generate TikTok content, don’t forget about our trusty old friend Instagram, even for generation Z.
There are many reasons why Gen Z avoids buying directly from TikTok. These include the data privacy concern mentioned above and just wanting to use this space for the sake of connection and entertainment rather than advertising and shopping.
So if you plan to sell directly through social media, Instagram should be your go-to (as 28% of Gen Z say they bought something directly from a social media app in the past three months ).
HubSpot’s recent Instagram Marketing Report details why the app presents an opportunity for social marketing and selling, so don’t miss out!
4. “Put a product in front of Gen Z and they’ll buy it.”
While we gravitate towards TikTok-style content, that doesn’t mean we’re receptive to any type of short-form video, including product marketing.
Before we make a purchase through social media, we need to feel like we found the product on our own. We don’t want to feel pressured into making a decision, especially when it’s a clear ad that we can’t relate to.
To persuade Gen Z, brands need to prioritize creating entertaining content that feels authentic to get our attention. Then, once they have our genuine interest, they can more easily get into their product, rather than getting another look from us.
As this chart above shows, the best way to discover a new product is through TikTok, Reel or other short-form video formats, where the product is shown but not imposed on us. In a world where we often feel powerless, we value a sense of autonomy and agency; help us feel empowered by your actions.
5. “Word of mouth is a great way to reach Gen Z.”
Yes, I know this may sound contradictory since we love to talk so much, but hear me out. As we just mentioned, Generation Z is heightened: we feel out of control, condemned, and like the weight of the world is on our shoulders.
With that comes a unique sense of camaraderie and connection between us. As a result, Gen Zs trust other Gen Zs as they are also going through the same shared emotions. And what better way to unify than through social media?
We’ve turned social media and online communities into our modern version of word of mouth. Therefore, we even trust the recommendations of influencers more than our friends and family.
This chart above helps emphasize that your marketing focus should be on connecting with Gen Z in the spaces we are most comfortable with: social media. Sorry, Mom and Dad, but you don’t have much influence over us anymore.
More resources for marketing to your target audience
Now that we’ve explored and debunked some of the biggest Gen Z myths and predictions, you might want to learn even more about the generation and how they buy. Here’s a quick list of more data-driven resources we hope you’ll enjoy:
And for an in-depth dive into all of our consumer trend data surveys (including insights not found on the blog), download the free report below.