15 years Insight Studio logo
young woman using cellphone and smiling

Marketing to Gen Z


how to get on the good side of this growing generation

20 apr 2023 | by kristen binns

As the youngest member of the Insight team, I take my duty as a Gen-Z representative very seriously.

I mean, we’re super cool and intelligent, and we deserve attention! 🤗 But I get it; we are a bit of a mystery to some of our “older” counterparts.

Each generation has a set of shared experiences, interests and values that set them apart from the next, and shape how they think and interact with the world. This means each generation needs to be marketed to differently.

So how do you market to this emerging generation?

First, get to know us!

Gen- Z is defined as anyone born between the years 1997 and 2012, following Millennials. We already represent 140 Billion in spending power, and along with being the most diverse generation yet, we are expected to be the largest generation in the next 20 years in Canada, according to census data. Even more good news, Gen-Z is on track to be the most educated generation yet, which means we’re coming for your jobs!! Just kidding- it means we’re coming to join you *hugs*.

There are a lot of stereotypes about Gen-Z, but we are much more than that. Taking the time to get to know and understand us is how you can build a connection between us and your brand.

In the coming years, Gen-Z will step into even more buying power, and we don’t mind being picky. So let’s get into how you and your brand can become besties with Gen-Z, or at least get us to ‘pick you, choose you, love you!’ as Meredith Grey might say.

1. Think values first

There are more brands and businesses than ever when it comes to buying just about anything. For us, the ones who stand apart have a ‘values first’ approach.

We care about our planet and social issues, and even if your product is really good, if your values don’t align with ours, we will likely turn to a competitor whose do.

We want businesses to share what they stand for with us. Tell us what you are doing for your employees, society, and planet aside from making money.

That being said, you should absolutely not broadcast values that you don’t believe in or adhere to because we will find out if you’re not authentic in your claims. We have no space for performative activism and empty words in 2023!

2. Be inclusive

Gen-Z is incredibly diverse and inclusive, and we expect brands to be as well.

The other day while watching youtube, I saw an ad that immediately gave me bad vibes. I couldn’t quite pinpoint the reason, but then it came on again, and I realized why I got the ick; there was not a single drop of diversity in the entire ad of at least 7-10 people. No gender or racial diversity, and only able-bodied actors.

You may think, “well, it’s just a commercial cast, nbd,” but we notice these things, and we care about them. There’s no good reason why diverse representation was excluded. Either the brand’s entire marketing team didn’t notice, or they did notice and didn’t care; either way major red flag.

Inclusion isn’t just about casting either. The words you choose and the undertones that are portrayed send messages too. (Kendall Jenner’s infamous Pepsi commercial, anyone?)

The bottom line is, using inclusive and diverse visuals and language is the way to go. It hurts nobody and includes everybody. If you’re not sure what inclusive language is or how to start incorporating it, take some time to research it. It will pay off.

3. Be personable

Us Gen-Zers love to engage and feel a connection with the brands we interact with, and the fact is we are probably not going to connect with you if you’re, well, boring. So let’s avoid that.

There is endless content out there, and we’re not going to waste our valuable time interacting with brands that put us to sleep. Get creative with your content, make it impossible for us not to get sucked in,

Duolingo is my favourite example of this. The language learning app consistently produces timely, delightful content centred around their owl mascot, Duo, who has a sassy and flirty personality. The charming woodland creature engages and entertains millions online. Duo and their funny social presence create a community that boosts their brand and bottom line.

When creating your brand personality, ensure it aligns with your product, services, and values. If you’re a medical company that’s literally saving lives, a silly and sassy personality probably isn’t the right fit. But, you can use other emotions to reel in and connect with your audience. 

group of gen z hanging out

4. Use the right platforms and tactics

The same tactics you used to market to our parents aren’t going to work for us. You won’t find me reading the newspaper so skip out on advertising there.

If you want to market to Gen-Z, do it where we spend our time. This includes, but is not limited to, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Youtube.

It’s also important to note that it’s not just about being on the right platforms but using them properly. The channels mentioned above are so appealing to us because they give us educational content in an entertaining way. And, It’s usually bite-sized content, meaning we can interact with it anytime, anywhere. Marketers should aim to weave in their messaging in the same manner on these types of platforms.

Additionally, if you’re not already leaning into influencer marketing, I recommend you get on that. Influencers play a massive role in Gen Z marketing because they are relatable and create more authentic relationships, which we crave. In fact, we are twice as likely to make purchases based on an influencer’s recommendation than millennials are.

5. Money isn’t everything, but it’s not nothing!

Now that you know how to win us over, you might wonder how much $$$ you can get from us.

As I mentioned earlier, Gen-Z is very pragmatic, and we bring that approach to our finances. The average Gen-Zer starts researching financial planning at age 13. We want to grow our savings rather than spend money.

So what does this mean for businesses trying to open our pockets? It simply means we’re sensible and realistic (who would’ve thought that we young people could be so mature?), and we put a lot of thought into our purchases.

We think our purchases through, check competitor prices, and value what our friends and family say about a product. We grew up with technology and the internet and know how to use it well. This doesn’t mean we are addicted to our screens, but it does mean we are connected to the online world and have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips to inform our spending decisions.

My advice to you is to be transparent about everything and anything because we are not afraid to do the research when it comes to making a purchasing decision. We want to spend our money on good products and services, from good brands, and we will go the extra mile to make sure we do.

So there you have it, Gen-Z is not that complicated. We just want to know the real you. We want to give our money to companies we trust and believe in.

Sharing your personality, values, and overall being a good inclusive brand will take you a long way with us.

If you still want to learn more about Gen-Z, here is a cool article with some words directly from Gen-Z that might help you understand us even more. You can also talk to the Gen-Z people in your office or your life and ask them what their favourite brands are and why.

Stay in touch!

Kristen Binns


Pairing a strategic lens with a passion for creative thinking, Kristen coordinates and executes communication strategies that get results. She acts as a link between the media and the client and collaborates with the creative team on various projects.

Kristen Binns


Pairing a strategic lens with a passion for creative thinking, Kristen coordinates and executes communication strategies that get results. She acts as a link between the media and the client and collaborates with the creative team on various projects.

More quick reads