How to talk to Gen Z (No Cool Slang Required)

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Gen Z

Marketers spent years trying to figure out how to reach Millennials and now that most businesses seem to have a grasp on the tech-savvy generation, the next generation has already begun coming of age: Generation Z.

Members of Generation Z have a different relationship with the world than other generations. While there’s certainly some crossover between Millennials and Generation Z, it’s important to understand that you can’t treat us as the same audience. Members of Generation Z are born between 1996-2010 (ages 8-22). By 2020, Gen Z will account for 40% of all consumers. If you want to communicate with Gen Z, you need to understand what is important to us and why.

Connecting to Gen Z

1. Get to the Point

We have an attention span of 8 seconds. We grew up on the internet and we’re so used to consuming content that if you don’t give us something that catches our attention within the first 8 seconds we’re going to move on. In those 8 seconds, we can judge the value of a message, product or brand and whether or not their warrant our further time, attention, and dollars.

Forced ads before videos just aren’t going to have an impact on us. When I’m forced to watch an ad, if it doesn’t catch my attention immediately, I’ll look away from my phone until it’s over. Give us entertaining, visually-focused content because this will entice us and make it short.

Here is a perfect example from Adidas of an ad that is eye-catching and gets right to the point.

If you want to engage with us, get to the point quickly.

2. Stand for Something

We are more socially aware than any other generation. While businesses in the past were afraid to take any kind of social stance in fear of alienating part of their audience, Generation Z is more likely to support your business if you show your company stands for something. You might lose some of your consumers as a result, but you will end up strengthening your brand’s identity and reputation with those who share your viewpoints.

By publicly standing for something, you provide Generation Z with the ability to connect with your brand on a more emotional level.

Personally, an issue that I am passionate about is climate change. When I make purchases I like to buy from companies that are producing environmentally friendly or sustainable products. I’m even willing to spend extra money on these products because it’s that important to me. I see the impact of global warming, and I fear that if something isn’t done now, the future I had once envisioned might not be possible.

We spend so much time online and have access to unlimited amounts of information in the palm of our hand, and as a result, we are extremely aware of social issues. These issues affect us first hand, but many members of Gen Z are too young to vote. What does that mean for us? We need to use the power we do have, our purchasing power, for good. We want to spend our money on companies that stand for something that we believe in and are making the change in the world that we want to see.

Over 50% of Gen Z-ers state that knowing a brand is socially conscious influences purchase decisions.

Some of my favorite brands:


Gen Z like companies that stand for something

All of their products are cruelty-free and 100% vegetarian (80% vegan). 35% of their products are totally unpackaged (or as they like to say, naked), leading the way in innovative solid products. The rest of the products are packaged using recycled, recyclable, reusable or compostable materials and they are experimenting with using ocean plastics in their packaging. One of their stores in Manchester just officially become the UK’s first 100% packaging-free cosmetic stores.

Jade Yoga –

Gen Z like brands that support good causes

I bought my yoga mat from Jade Yoga because they have a partnership with Trees for Future so with every mat purchased a tree is planted. The mats are also made sustainably with natural rubber which is a renewable resource making them the first “green” yoga mats.

Dollskill –

Dollskill Pride Collection

A portion of sales from any rainbow item on the site with the rainbow flag in the corner will be donated to LYRIC- a center for LGBTQIA+ youth in San Francisco during Pride month.

Power & Light Press –

Company supporting planned parenthood

I bought this bag because a portion of the sales are donated to Planned Parenthood and I use it every day as my gym bag.

Patagonia –

Gen Z love companies like Patagonia that take a stand on environmental issues

Patagonia has been known to take a stand on environmental issues. In 2017, they replaced their usual photo with this stark message. They also donated their $10 million tax return to nonprofit groups who work on conservation and climate issues.

The list goes on and on of companies that are taking a stand on issues that are important to them and guess what? Gen Z’s brand loyalty and affinity for these companies are growing stronger with every stride they take.

3. Be Authentic

With each generation comes new slang terms, but don’t try to be “hip” with the young kids. This never works. Because we’ve spent our whole lives online, we have no trouble sniffing out companies that are trying to appeal to us in such a way because it reeks of inauthenticity.

One thing to keep in mind as you try to target a Gen Z: just because you’re trying to appeal to us doesn’t mean you have to try to be like us.

Have a personality. Don’t be afraid to use humor in your content. Most importantly, be authentic and transparent. We like seeing that there are actual people behind the brand and not just a big company trying to sell us things.

Wicked Hippie –

Wicked Hippie BagGen Z like brands that are authentic


Gen Z like companies that are authentic

Wicked Hippie is a company I love that sells hair and face jewels, accessories, and bags. Their feed is filled with not only pictures of their products, but also inspiring sayings, funny memes, and they share their own personal accomplishments, too.

Jen Atkin, Founder of OUAI Haircare –

Ouai is authentic on InstagramJen Atkin is Authentic on social media

Jen Atkin’s also does a really incredible job of showing her authenticity. She is very transparent on social media about the relationship she has with her team, which is one of the many reasons I love her products.

Companies like this are refreshing and stand out from their competitors. I don’t just feel like I am buying something from another faceless company, I feel like I am buying it from friends that I want to support (even though I’ve never met them).

Dove –

And who doesn’t remember Dove’s iconic video from 2006, which relevancy has stood the test of time.

Just Be Yourself

If you’re authentic, you will stand apart from your competition because authenticity resonates with Gen Z.

Generation Z is a whole new audience that can’t be treated the same way as previous generations when it comes to advertising your brand. We’re not just going to buy any product, we’re going to spend time researching the company and their competition. We want to buy from companies that are authentic, have values that align with ours, and appeal to our short attention spans. By following these three steps, our affinity for your brand will increase and so will your sales!

If you’re interested in learning more about how to effectively market to Generation Z, check out our Gen Z Book.

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