Marketing to Generation Z

Who is gen Z? How are brands marketing to this generation?


Marketing to gen Z is the latest trend and hot topic for marketers. It may already feel tired (so many meetings and presentations), but it's crucial to dive deep into this generation's needs and wants, and truly understand how to best connect with this demographic. After all, gen Z have already entered the workforce and are not only gaining spending power, but tremendous influence.

According to the EY study, "Is Gen Z the Spark We Need to See the Light?," gen Z is the most diverse generation yet. The study stated:

"Trying to define gen Z defies the realities of gen Z. They are, by far, the most diverse generation yet. As we've seen with millennials, and every generation that preceded them, there is no single perspective that defines gen Z. Instead, they're a generation full of plans, passions and paradoxes. Their diverse experiences and strong opinions will have a profound impact on society. And their time is now."

Moreover, the IRi report "Understand Me, Don't Define Me" explained that brands need to take an altruistic approach, explaining, "Focusing on gen Z pays off: Brands that make the connection with this remarkable generation drive, on average, 14 times greater dollar growth opportunity versus other generations."

Focusing on empathy, with brands driving it both internally and externally, should be every company's north star when it comes to gen Z. Chris Penny, managing director of brand strategy agency SSR, wrote about this for ANA recently, stating, "It starts with an empathetic approach and being authentic about the commitments and efforts towards corporate social responsibility. A brand cannot utilize empathy, inclusivity, or sustainability to effectively market towards gen Z without actions that entirely reflect the message being put out."

The following resources provide insight on how marketers can better appeal to gen Z. Read our issue on Generation X.

Best Practices

  • Marketing to Gen Z. ANA/CM Group, February 2022.
    This report examines data around gen Z's motivations, behaviors, and preferences, and provides strategic ways for marketers to engage and drive them to action. In terms of advertising and brand communications, the report says:
    • Gen Z indicates the strongest overall ad avoidance among generations, with notable exceptions.
    • Gen Z reacts better to native ads than other generations, and they're less likely to mind being retargeted based on their recent searches or purchases.
    • Gen Z is more likely than older generations to be OK with ads showing up on the smart devices in their homes.
    • Gen Z shares millennials' higher preference for interacting via social media, and they're also more open to communicating via chatbots than other generations.
  • Marketing to Gen Z: What the New Wave of Consumers Want. Bazaarvoice, January 2022.
    This article discusses the following tactics that can be used for connecting with gen Z:
    • Promote user-generated content
    • Partner with influencers
    • Take a stance on social issues
    • Show authenticity and integrity
    • Use short and snappy video content
    • Utilize up-and-coming platforms
  • Engaging Gen Z Through Authentic Messaging. ANA/ICF, May 2022.
    According to this article, "Brands should... pay close attention to the different regions within the [Gen Z] market. Gen Z is different in New York than in Miami, London, or New Delhi; a Black creator in Atlanta needs something different than a Black creator in Los Angeles; and a Latino in Southern California is looking for a different approach than one in New York. It's important to not only understand the generation, but also how your brand can connect with them in a deeper way based on where they live, play, and eat. Gen Z responds well to personalization and seeing you take the extra step to get to know them and their community — opening the two-way dialogue they try to create for themselves."

  • Engaging Gen Z with Empathy. ANA, April 2022.
    There has never been a bigger challenge than to effectively market a brand towards the gen Z population, who are quickly rising to take over as a prominent buying power in the United States with $360 billion in disposable income. Gen Z is the generation of empathy; the kids who grew up in a recession and came of age during the pandemic.

    They won't purchase a product, or seek a job for that matter, from a company with values that don't align with their own – so how do brands target these values and avoid "corporate slacktivism?" It starts with an empathetic approach and being authentic about the commitments and efforts towards corporate social responsibility. A brand cannot utilize empathy, inclusivity, or sustainability to effectively market towards gen Z without actions that entirely reflect the message being put out.

  • Understand Me, Don't Define Me. IRi, May 2021.
    This report shares insights and recommendations for marketers on how to prepare to win with Gen Z, a powerful generation of shoppers that, as of 2021, accounted for 20% of all U.S. consumers and $143 billion of direct buying power. The following chart shares information on how Gen Z discovers new products:

  • Is Gen Z the Spark We Need to See the Light? EY, 2021.
    Below are some of the considerations that this report shares regarding connecting with gen Z:
    • Are you leveraging data and analytics to targeting the individual segments of gen Z, versus a one-size-fits-all approach?
    • Are you thinking about how to build experiences across the entire journey, regardless of channel?
    • Are you re-evaluating your influencer strategies, user-generated content offer or co-creation/crowdsourcing initiatives to involve and dialogue with gen Z, versus pitch to them?
    • Have you asked the question: "Why would they care?" Gen Z's dollar is hard won — they are either saving it, investing it or spending it, often on resale. To capture them, you need to go beyond the transaction, leaning into the things that they care about most.


  • Getting in the Game with Gen Z. ANA, April 2022.
    Wendy's is widely recognized as one of the most engaged brands reaching the diverse and influential gen Z audience, but that doesn't just happen overnight. Carl Loredo, Wendy's U.S. CMO, explained the story of how the QSR known for its square hamburgers leveraged its challenger attitude to reshape the rules and became an iconic gen Z "brand-fluencer" in gaming, social, sports, and pop culture. View the accompanying Wendy's PowerPoint here.

  • How Swarovski Won Over Generation Z by Creating Some Crystal Halo Swag. ANA, April 2022.
    To connect to a younger audience and advance its mission of making luxury available to everyone, jewelry brand Swarovski partnered with Xbox and the popular video game series Halo to create customized crystal giveaways to celebrate the release of a new edition of the Halo series.

  • How Dorito's Disrupted Gaming. ANA, April 2022.
    Doritos's "Disruptor Series" was a nationally focused program designed to reach Doritos and gaming fans across the U.S. According to the case study, "Gen Z is shaping the future of both gaming and retail, and it craves disruption. The Doritos brand, in its own evolution, is rooted in disruption and in taking experiences to the next level for its gen Z target."

  • Ferrara Candy Company: Twitch, Esports, and Gummy Worms: How a Candy Brand Won Over Generation Z Gamers. ANA, April 2022.
    Capitalizing on Xbox's 20th anniversary to connect with generation Z consumers, Ferrara Candy Company created a custom Xbox console giveaway, an esports league, and special game packaging to sell its popular Worms product, using Twitch influencers to help carry the message and drive engagement.

  • How Honda Turned the Keys Over to Creators. ANA, April 2022.
    Honda has a storied past of leveraging creators on their social channels for a wide array of executions leading to brand resonance. However, to launch the all-new 2022 Civic Sedan and target a Gen Z audience, the brand developed a campaign entirely made by content creators.

  • How Hot Pockets is reaching Gen Z Through Gaming. ANA, December 2021.
    Nestlé USA's Bryan Waddell discussed how Hot Pockets doubled down on its investment in esports and gaming and launched Pockets 4 Bits, a campaign that rewarded gamers with Twitch Bits and ignited the brand's strategy in engaging with the teen and young adult demographics. View the accompanying Hot Pockets PowerPoint here.
  • Excedrin: It's Game Over for Headaches. ANA, December 2021.
    As a 60-year-old brand, Excedrin set out to drive awareness among people between the ages of 18 and 24, as well as build consideration of Excedrin to treat gaming-related headaches.


  • Purpose-Driven Gen Z, with Brad Brinegar. ANA, September 2021.
    According to Cubist Martini's study The Purpose Premium: Gen Z and the "Double Top Line," 65 percent of gen Z said they are willing to pay an average 48 percent more for products from purposeful brands, and 49 percent said they are willing to earn 20 percent less to work for a purpose-driven brand.

    Moreover, 63 percent of respondents said it's very important or extremely important for businesses to step up and address challenges facing society. What the data suggests is that operating with an authentic purpose creates additional value for both consumer and employer brands.

    In this episode of Beyond Profit, a podcast of the ANA Center for Brand Purpose, host Ken Beaulieu catches up with Brad Brinegar, founder and principal at Cubist Martini and executive in residence at Duke University's Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative, to discuss the gen Z study and what it means to marketers, the expectations of Gen Z, how brands can achieve sustained growth through a focus on purpose and values, and more.


  • Marketing to Gen Z.
    Using engaging, interactive exercises and case studies from brands like Nike, Wendy's, Refinery 29, and more, participants walk away with transformational learnings that will be immediately applicable to your next campaign or initiative. As you discover how to engage gen Z strategically and creatively, your brand will be primed for success for the next 10 to 15 years as gen Z becomes the largest and most important cohort for nearly every corporation, brand, and agency.

    To get started with your member training benefit, download our Quick Start Guide or email

The Marketing Knowledge Center actively connects ANA members to the resources they need to be successful. You can visit the ANA website to engage with the MKC in three ways.

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"Marketing to Generation Z." ANA, 2022.