Debunking the Myths Surrounding Gen Z Consumers

Gen Z economic

Although they’re usually well-meaning, many brands miss the mark when they attempt to connect with Gen Z – a cohort that’s now coming into economic power.

Young consumers can tell when a brand is trying too hard to be trendy. Nobody wants to be sold to, and that’s especially true for Gen Z consumers.

With that in mind, let’s examine the careful steps required to effectively market to 15- to 27-year-olds these days, through a conversation with Andrew Roth, the CEO of dcdx, a Gen Z advisory firm that helps brands attract young consumers.

The Food Institute: What are common marketing mistakes companies make when trying to connect with Gen Z?

Andrew Roth: A lot of organizations and brands identify another successful organization’s strategy that has worked with Gen Z and then try to replicate that – which is often a recipe for failure.

Brands also often think that, ‘To attract Gen Z, we need to talk like them.’ And that doesn’t tend to go so well. The rule of thumb is, if you’re not Gen Z, then don’t try to be Gen Z, even if you’re trying to reach Gen Z.

Another key thing to keep in mind is that Gen Z is far from a monolith. It’s the most diverse generation that exists. So, understanding the audience you’re talking to is not just looking at Gen Z as a whole; it’s about breaking it down and understanding who you’re truly talking to.

FI: Are there any myths about Gen Z that you find insulting?

Roth: I think there’s a label that gets put on Gen Z about it being a weak generation, particularly in reference to the numbers of mental health issues you’re seeing with this generation. You’re seeing high levels of depression, anxiety – even rates of suicide. I think some people tend to view that as a sign of weakness. That’s a little upsetting.

What occurred right alongside these growing rates of mental health crises with Gen Z was the presence of social media and when that came into our lives. We grew up in this age of unrestricted social media, and that’s had a severe impact on our lives.

FI: What social media platforms should marketers use to effectively reach Gen Z right now?

Roth: Three of every four active Gen Z TikTok users spend more than two hours a day on the platform, which is the equivalent of a month per year. So, that’s significant. But the impact TikTok has on shopping is another common myth regarding Gen Z. There’s a perception that, if a product is viral on TikTok, it means that all Gen Zers are going to buy it, and that TikTok is the gold standard for how young people are making their purchase decisions, which is far from the truth, though it does certainly influence purchase decisions.

But, as far as the most-used platform by Gen Zers, Instagram is consistently the top-used platform – year over year it continues to see growth in the Gen Z audience. It’s very much like Gen Z’s version of Facebook; that’s where our friends are, and that’s how we keep up with each other’s lives. If you meet someone at a bar you don’t ask for their phone number, you ask for their Instagram. It’s become that central in our lives.

FI: Ultimately, what should food and beverage brands focus on most when marketing to Gen Z?

Roth: This is a generation that is now coming into their economic power and have the rest of their lives to be loyal to a brand. Rather than focusing on the trendy elements of your brand, the question should instead be: How do we actually develop and maintain a relationship with these young people, over time, that’s going to be keep them around and keep them engaged with our brand?