3 Ways for B2B Marketers to Engage with Gen Z | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

3 Ways for B2B Marketers to Engage with Gen Z


Generation Z: They're different from you and me.

The more than 68 million people aged 11 to 26 who make up 20 percent of the U.S. population are pre-teens, teens, and young adults who have been shaped by a changing and challenging world. They have witnessed innovations in technology, unforeseen health and economic conditions, geopolitical uncertainty, and climate issues that they accept as an existential threat and want to address.

The members of this generation, still in school or just starting to cut their professional teeth, will be tomorrow's business leaders and decision makers. Tech savvy, ambitious in their pursuits, and anxious about pressing issues in the world, they will impact companies and industries in unpredictable ways. And gen Z will, in no time, start to weigh in on business models, brand strategy, and agency partners, placing their unique experiences and expectations front and center. They will be our colleagues, our customers, and our clients, and before we know it, they will be in charge.

The influence gen Z will have on business poses challenges and opportunities for B2B marketers, and the companies that learn how to engage this powerful group stand to benefit enormously.

What will this take?

Upending traditional approaches to media engagement. Building a strong relationship with members of gen Z starts with meeting them where they live: online and on social media platforms. Teens and young adults spend 13 hours a day consuming media, especially digital media, says WARC. Video is notably popular: Insider Intelligence notes that almost 26 percent of adult gen Zers in the U.S. claim to use YouTube, which barely edges out TikTok (25 percent) and Instagram (20 percent). Young people are hooked on audio, too. Gen Zers report streaming music for almost two hours a day on average, and spend an additional 59 minutes listening to podcasts, according to WARC.

And when it comes to AR and VR — and the hardware, like headsets, that take them to the next level — gen Z is all in: They view AI positively and a significant percentage will likely be early adopters.

What isn't likely to engage this group? Linear TV, which is still a popular medium in the B2B world. Gen Z spends less than an hour a day watching it, and when they do, they are likely to be online as well. When it comes to the kind of content that clicks with this generation, gen Z's preferences have been formed by their lifestyle and tech tools: They want content to be short, to the point, and easy to consume on the go. Interactive elements, like immersive ads that have game-like features — 9 out of 10 gen Zers are gamers — are popular too.

Simplifying the B2B buying process. Gen Z consumers, accustomed to researching products and buying online and on social platforms, are bringing those habits to the B2B buying process. Think self-guided online resources and buying options over white papers and vendor booths at conferences. They have a DIY mindset and, according to Forrester, are already pushing vendors to a variety of self-serve transaction channels, including external marketplaces, app stores, and vendor websites. As Forrester notes: "Self-service options need to be robust and easy to find and use."

Adapting brand promises to the times. Startups these days are often created with purpose-driven business models, but gen Z expects every company that wants this group's business to do right when it comes to people and the planet. (The current backlash against ESG efforts is a blip.) So, what does your brand really stand for? The days when companies could announce brand attributes and simply say why they should matter to the audiences they want to reach are over. B2B business practices and brand promises will need to be plugged into gen Z's concerns and feel personal to them. The environment is one of their biggest concerns: U.S. colleges and universities have experienced a surge in undergraduates earning degrees in environmental science in recent years, up 24 percent each year since 2016.

Too, advertisers and agencies alike will need to be mindful of the carbon impact of their campaigns because gen Z decision makers care about that. How much energy in the form of production, distribution, and related travel do ad efforts consume and how much carbon do they put into the world? Get this: An average online campaign produces 5.4 tons of carbon, according to Good-Loop's carbon calculator. So, carbon reporting and offsets will soon be a big thing in the industry as companies prepare for the net-zero transition.

Even though the oldest gen Zers are probably 10 to 15 years away from the highest-ranking leadership positions, engaging this generation on their terms needs to start now. And rolling out creative, omnichannel campaigns might be the best way to do it. The easier B2B marketers make it for gen Zers to align their purchasing decisions with their media habits, buying patterns and worldly concerns, the sooner they'll win them over. Marketers can't afford to miss out: Opportunities like this only come along once for each new generation.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Phillip Katz is group head of media & engagement at Doremus+Co.