The New Normal: What Adult Marketers Can Learn from Gen Z


It was recently uncovered that the average teen spends more than 7 hours of their daily free time on a screen. Whereas every generation to date is progressive with their individual nuances, the children born between 1996-2015, known as Gen Z, are reinventing the game of marketing.

These 4-22 year-olds engage with messages in a vastly different way than previous generations, including their Millennial and Gen X parents. Never have they known a world without social media. They frequently use YouTube to do their homework. And their “normal” is constantly evolving. The previously-mentioned research shows staggering shifts in video viewership and smartphone ownership in this group just since 2015.

Gen Z is important for a myriad of reasons. For one, they have begun to enter the workforce and will make up 40% of online consumers by the end of 2020. Second, Gen Z is the future, and the future is now. Beginning with Gen Z, key differentiators are no longer geography nor birth year, but rather behavior-based. “We will end up looking more like Gen Z than they will end up looking like us,” said Gen Z researcher, Jason Dorsey, in his influential TED Talk referencing that his 4-year-old daughter was frightened by the sound of the dial tone on their landline. He notes, “A 7-year-old in the US has more in common with a 7-year-old in India than they do with a 65-year-old in their own country.” Think of this change in terms of Facebook. When it started, Millennials were the first adaptors, but the audience today is dominated by Baby Boomers. Behavior trends start with the young.

Here is what the future looks like to Generation Z:

1. Videos are now King

Whether they are learning to make slime, acquiring gaming tips, or watching pranksters with strapped cameras to their heads, twice as many young people watch online videos than they did in 2015. And the time they spend watching has doubled, with an average of 68 videos a day. 85% watch YouTube and 80% of them do it to learn something. The remaining turn to video social media for entertainment’s sake, taking a break from the stresses of modern life.

Marketing takeaway: Tutorials and training are key for this demographic. Ensure that your brand has a social media video presence, your website is updated with video content, and that content is entertaining.

Popular teen personality and vlogger, JoJo Siwa’s video Teaching Miranda to Make Slime, has more than 50 million views.

2. Authenticity Rules

Gen Z seeks personal, authentic content. As we noted in Entertaining Posts – Brands Doing It Right, 80% of consumers say it’s authenticity that motivates them to follow a brand, and Gen Z is no different. They have grown up with YouTube influencers creating simple how-to videos in their living rooms, who they view as being just like them. Highly-produced content is not necessary for this audience. Messages with the perfect Instagram selfie don’t resonate with this crown, unlike previous generations. Only 15 percent of those surveyed care about having a “ton” of social media followers. They prefer quality over quantity when it comes to social media influencers. In short, the more real, the better.

Consider Vat19, the Number 1 Brand Channel on YouTube. This online toy and gift retailer’s videos have an impressive 5.7 billion views. Their silly product demonstrations are more playful than they are salesy. One of their most viewed videos shows one of their influencers in a bathing suit reacting to what happens when he sits in a bathtub full of one of their products, Liquid GlassThinking Putty. It’s ridiculous, but shows the non-scripted influencer using and (mostly) enjoying the product. The video has more than 72 million views.

Marketing Takeaway: Know your brand and consider the power of micro-influencers who can drive 60% higher engagement levels and 22.2% more weekly conversions.

Vat19’s Bathtub full of Thinking Putty video is one of its top viewed YouTube videos

3. Convenience is Key

This generation does not remember when they couldn’t punch a button to order a rideshare from Uber or Lyft. If they want to watch something, they immediately go to YouTube or a streaming service. Whether it be groceries, goods or dinner, they don’t need to go in stores to receive their items when they can be delivered that day. Gen Z has grown up on instant gratification, and it’s the same when it comes to content… They want it immediately.

Marketing Takeaway: Keep it simple. Gen Z is overrun by the speed in which they are consuming data, so they want their marketing to get straight to the point.

4. Keep it Short

With potentially five screens open at once, this generation of consumers communicates quickly, with emojis and an attention span less than that of a goldfish (8.25 seconds). Popular YouTube videos average around 2 minutes total and Vine and Snapchat videos are even less.

Marketing Takeaway: Agile marketers communicate at the furious speed these youngsters are consuming information. Keep your messaging and apps simple to understand and operate.

With 9.79 billion pageviews, Lego is the Top Branded YouTube channel. The most popular video on the channel is “Moana” Movie as told by Lego, a 2 minute long video. Notice the authenticity of using the product instead of pushing it and the simple homespun quality of using blue jeans as water.

5. Share Social-Consciousness

89% OF Gen Zers would rather buy from a company supporting social and environmental issues over one that does not. Socially responsible brands whose cause supports the essence of its marketing and branding such as Patagonia, TOMS, Noonday and Honest Company, have seen significant growth with Z-ers.

Marketing Takeaway: Do good deeds, then spread the word through your website and social media.

Patagonia’s recycle program is an example of the company’s commitment to supporting environmental and social issues.

6. Invest in Individualization

Not only does Gen Z want to be entertained, but they want to participate, actively giving opinions, collaborating, and even co-creating. YouTube has been working on creating more interactive videos where viewers can pick the ending to their own shows.

Marketing Takeaway: Make it personal. Smart marketers invest in content strategy, emphasizing tutorials, training and general entertainment. Messages should be personal to key demographics with chatbots and virtual assistants. Individualization is key across the intergenerational board with 41% of consumers abandoning a brand because of poor personalization.

YouTube viewers may soon choose their own ending to shows.

As technology continues to broaden and generations become more centered by behaviors than geography or birth date, it is more vital than ever for brands to have a visual culture, authenticity, convenience, speed, social conscience and functionality to interact. Brands trust OneSpot’s data integrity and analysis to fuel decisions that keep pace with the next generation’s thirst for information and interesting digital journeys.


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