Why Brands Need to Innovate Now to Reach the New Generation of Digital Natives - Gen Z
Nov 14, 2023
As the first generation of true digital natives, Gen Z has grown up entirely immersed in technology, social media, and the internet. This has shaped their values, attitudes, and preferences in ways distinctly different from previous generations.
Specifically, Generation Z refers to those born during 1997 to 2012, marking a demographic explicitly poised for remarkable impact. As this generation progressively enters their twenties, their purchasing power and market influence increases with each passing year.
According to a report by Queros, Gen Z’s now accounted for 32% of the global population in 2023, surpassing millennials as the largest generation. However, most corporations today still struggle to create authentic marketing campaigns and brand experiences that speak to this demographic.
To stay relevant with new audiences and retain loyalty, brands need to radically rethink their strategies to cater to the evolved mindset of Gen Z. Companies that take the time to understand the values and preferences of Gen Z, while leveraging Gen Z data-driven insights to engage them, will be best positioned for long-term success.
“I like when brands use Gen Z slang — it's kind of like they're speaking your language, literally,” said Alix Earle, a 22-year-old beauty and lifestyle influencer has skyrocketed in popularity amongst Gen Z for her unfiltered approach on social media.
Core Values and Attitudes of Gen Z
Gen Z has grown up in a historic era of activism and social change. From the climate crisis to racial justice movements to escalating political tensions, current events have shaped their worldview and values.
Sustainability is a top priority with over 70% believing in the importance of companies addressing climate change and committing to sustainability goals. This means that Gen Z consumers are more likely to support brands that share their values and demonstrate a genuine commitment to making the world a better place.
A key champion of this is Patagonia - successfully earning Gen Z’s respect for Patagonia’s mission of environmental activism and transparency. The outdoor clothing company donates 1% of total sales to environmental causes, supports grassroots movements, and publishes detailed reports on its environmental and social impact.
Beyond sustainability comes diversity and inclusion. Brands that celebrate diversity and empower underrepresented voices will gain Gen Z’s trust and loyalty. Fenty Beauty by Rihanna is one praised for its inclusive range of products and models that cater to different skin tones, genders, and cultures. This exemplifies effective marketing that resonates with numerous young individuals, as they feel acknowledged and represented by a major corporate beauty brand.
However, Gen Z remains wary of disingenuous corporate activism disguised as inclusivity marketing ploy. They can detect inauthenticity and performative allyship from brands trying to simply appeal to youth audiences without enacting real change.
A notorious example of a brand campaign that failed to connect with Gen Z on social issues was Pepsi, which faced backlash for its tone-deaf ad featuring Kendall Jenner and a protest scene.
Creative New Ways of Monetization
According to an article by Entrepreneur in 2019, it was found that 41% of Gen Z-ers want to become entrepreneurs. With an entrepreneurial spirit, Gen Z admires the creator economy. They hope to turn hobbies into side hustles or full-time businesses.
Gen Z values unfiltered self-expression and individuality. Brands must provide platforms for this generation to create, collaborate, and monetize their passions. They expect open access to tools for building an independent, digitally-powered livelihood.
Marketing and Innovating for Gen Z
Successfully marketing to Generation Z requires embracing new strategies tailored to their preferences as digital natives. Brands must be willing to take risks, evolve quickly, and maintain an intimate understanding of youth culture.
The Need for Innovation
Most big corporations have relied on decades-old playbooks of flashy marketing and impersonal messaging. Sadly, throwing thousands of dollars to Times Square’s billboard no longer works for us. These traditional tactics completely miss the mark for digitally-savvy youth audiences.
Brand loyalty has reached all-time lows among young consumers with unlimited brand choices. Gen Z craves authenticity, creativity, and values alignment - not top-down promotional campaigns.
The stark reality is that the marketing status quo has left brands ill-equipped for the digital native cohort. Pivoting successfully requires completely reinventing approaches to research, branding, community building, and co-creation.
Siloed College student marketing teams cannot simply guess what motivates and inspires youth today. Brands must intersect with youth culture on the ground level, willing to listen, learn, and evolve.
Connecting authentically with Gen Z hinges on brands taking risks to partner with young creators, ceding control to fresh perspectives, and probing uncharted territory together. The companies that realize this possess the keys to owning the future. Those clinging to the past face the risk of going obsolete in the next 5-10 years.
Dime as a Solution
Dime is an innovative solution that authentically connects brands with Generation Z. Where else can you find the largest gatherings of Gen Z’s? Universities and large cities Dime distinctively funnels your brand to these active communities through university marketing, launching your brand amongst top US colleges.
Leverage the power of an extensive college ambassador program, empower your reach with Dime’s team and database of the next generation, and successfully innovate your brand to win the favor of your largest future consumers. Dime partners with diverse, creative college students, allowing your brand to be heard by your target audience. Our Dime ambassadors, an exclusive community of Gen Z and college students, are selected based on their backgrounds, skills, and networks to enable multidimensional connection.
With national reach across hundreds of universities, Dime enables high-impact launch on top College campuses. Our authenticity stems from situating branding within the youth itself.
For brands struggling to engage with Gen Z, Dime represents a turnkey solution. It captures youth audiences through ambassador partnerships deeply rooted in Gen Z
The Bottom Line
Successfully marketing to Generation Z is not just a choice for brands - it is imperative for their future relevance and survival.
As Gen Z's purchasing power grows each year, companies must show willingness to take risks, rapidly innovate, and stay attuned to youth culture.
Rather than rely on traditional marketing tactics, solutions like Dime represent new, Gen Z-centric approach focused on authentic peer-to-peer storytelling and creative collaboration.
Brands that embrace change, relinquish control, and fully cater to the mindset of digital natives will thrive.
The future undoubtedly belongs to the brands that treat Generation Z not just as a demographic to target, but as true partners in bringing values-driven products and messaging to life. The brands that recognize this and act accordingly will secure an enduring, loyal customer base for decades to come.