How To Market to Gen Z With Brand, Community, and TikTok

Two teenagers looking down at their phones

Gen Z is the next generation of consumers, and with any new generation, understanding how to reach them is imperative to running a successful business. This article will uncover how to market to Gen Z, what makes them so unique, and the best strategies to engage with them.

Who is Gen Z?

People born between 1997 and 2012 are considered Gen Z. According to a census study by Pew Research, they are the most ethnically and racially diverse generation yet, with 52% identifying as non-white. They also happen to be the largest generation ever, compromising 30% of the world’s population and making up roughly 2 billion people.

What’s unique about Gen Z is that they are the first generation to have always had technology be a part of their lives. Facebook opened to the public in 2006, when the oldest Gen Zers were nine years old, and the first iPhone launched in 2007, when the oldest of the group would have been 10. By the time the oldest Gen Zers reached their teens, the primary means of connection were already through mobile devices, social media, and high-speed internet.

Gen Z core values

Growing up in an interconnected technological environment has shaped their outlook on the world. Since Gen Z could learn and connect with others from around the globe at such a young age, they developed a greater appreciation for diversity. According to a study published by Stanford University, Gen Z is highly collaborative and values authenticity and non-hierarchical leadership.

Brand ethics and corporate responsibility are highly important to them, making their purchasing decisions an extension of their values and identity. For instance, 62% of Gen Z shoppers prefer to buy from sustainable brands and a whopping 73% are willing to pay more for sustainable products.

Shopper sorting through various shirts on a rackGen Z consumer behavior

As digital natives, Gen Z tends to make informed consumer decisions due to their tech-savvy knowledge. They’re more likely to research and explore options before making a buying decision.

There is vast market potential for this cohort because their discovery of products is far from limited. Due to the popularity of social media among Gen Z, they are most likely to shop via their favorite social media platforms. In addition, they are more influenced by the recommendations of real-life users than by celebrity endorsements.

If you’re still not sold as to why marketing to Gen Z is so important, they have $143 billion in buying power. Enough said.

How to reach Gen Z

To reach Gen Z, say goodbye to traditional marketing methods and hello to new strategies. Let’s take a look at the four key ways to capture the attention span of Gen Z.

1. Establish your brand’s values and mission

Gen Z consumers have high expectations when it comes to the values of brands they’re interested in buying from. Social issues, ethical practices, and sustainable consumption are all principles that the group cares for and is looking to be reflected in the brands they support.

These values need to run deeper than simply posting about something that has nothing to do with you or your business. Be mindful of how you present your values and how your business’ overall mission can support the cause.

For example, Yelitsa Jean-Charles’ brand, Healthy Roots Dolls, creates dolls and storybooks that celebrate the beauty of natural black hair. The idea was born from her experience growing up without ever having a doll that looked like her. After conducting extensive research about children’s products on the market, she realized that the product she was designing solved her identified problem.

Screenshot of webpage 'Healthy Roots Dolls'. A young girl plays with a doll's hair.
Screenshot from Healthy Roots Dolls website’s ‘Meet Zoe’ page. Healthy Roots Dolls

What makes Healthy Roots stand out from other dolls on the market is the attention to detail Yelitsa put into creating the doll. The brand’s first and only doll, Zoe, has hair made of special fibers that are washable and can be styled, teaching young girls how to take care of and style their hair. Ultimately, the brand’s mission is to promote a positive self-image in young girls by creating a toy they can relate to. Healthy Roots is so successful because Yelitsa built her brand on diversity and inclusion, which is evident in every aspect of her business.

2. Be authentic

Two women sit on bed inside room

As digital natives constantly bombarded by information, Gen Z has developed a keen sense of authenticity and regards it as very important. Keeping their unique experience in mind, capturing the attention span of Gen Z can feel like an overwhelming feat. However, it doesn’t need to be.

Gen Z prefers social media influencers over traditional celebrities because of the relatability factor they embody. This affects what they decide to purchase, opting for brands with a unique and authentic voice on social media rather than ones that use dated modes of advertising.

Brands that are transparent by showing how they operate, what they’re doing to improve the world in some way, have strong values, and use ‘real’ people, are key factors to employ when marketing to Gen Z.

3. Use each social media platform differently

It may sound obvious to some, but each social media platform has different expectations, and to appeal to Gen Z, you want to ensure you’re meeting those expectations.

For instance, video posts do great on Facebook, while blog content and GIFs are more popular on Twitter. Not only does the media differ from platform to platform, but so does the audience. Depending on the social media network, what you post, write, and when you choose to upload need to be carefully considered. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you’re posting content relevant and in line with your analytics and data.

Gen Zers have accounts on a variety of platforms because they go to each one for something different. Be strategic in your posting, and if you do cross-post, be sure to adjust the content to the network. It’s a seemingly small detail that will go a long way.

Check out how the language learning platform, Duolingo, slightly altered its post for Twitter and Facebook:


4. Build a community

Gen Z cares deeply about community and actively seeks it out. Considering the importance they place on collaboration and non-hierarchical leadership, creating a community where they can connect with like-minded individuals will elevate your brand.

Don’t know where to start? Think about ways to engage with consumers that make their voices heard. Posting interactive polls or soliciting feedback from your audience during product development are great ways to build community. For instance, Shopify merchant DRMERS CLUB used their TikTok platform to get their audience involved in color input for their spring collection.

@drmersclub HELP PLS 😩 #needyourhelp #opinions #helpmeout #clothingbrandcheck #clothingbrand ♬ Colors - Stella Jang

Glossier is a great example of a brand that established itself through community building. CEO Emily Weiss launched her blog, Into the Gloss, to connect with beauty lovers beyond the limitations of traditional media. Through the community she created on her blog, she noticed market gaps in the beauty industry and launched Glossier in response.

Glossier continues to put their audience first, creating a platform to uplift their voices and encourage engagement.

Small gestures like this will help strengthen your sense of community and establish brand trust, two important factors when marketing to Gen Z.


TikTok for Gen Z marketing

There is no better platform than TikTok to reach Gen Z, especially considering that 60% of the app’s users are part of the demographic. Let’s take a look at the top ways you can use TikTok to drive sales and exposure to your business.

Use a compelling hook

It’s no surprise that people’s attention spans are decreasing due to the sheer volume of information we consume regularly. Not long ago, Millennials had an average attention span of 12 seconds, and now, Gen Zers have an average attention span of 8 seconds.

To successfully capture the attention span of Gen Z, using a compelling hook at the start of your TikTok video is an absolute must. This will increase the watch time of your video and inform the TikTok algorithm that your video is worthy of being promoted to more users on the app. Check out how Shopify merchant, Gogo Lush, uses a curiosity hook to pique interest and encourage viewers to comment.

@stillcici No it’s not a cloud 🥴 #trivia #smallbusiness #jewelry ♬ original sound - Domonique Hood

There are plenty of ways to implement the hook strategy, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that you want to pique people’s interest while giving an idea of the content’s focus. While an outrageously misleading hook might seem like a great way to attract users’ attention, doing so will make your bounce rates soar, disappoint your audience, and attract the wrong visitors.

Share behind-the-scenes content

Woman taking selfie on phone in front of MacBook

Sharing behind-the-scenes content is a popular way for businesses to connect with their audience and establish brand trust. As mentioned earlier, authenticity is everything to Gen Z, so packaging orders, workspace tours, and meet the team videos perform well on the app.

Shopify merchant, Serendipity, used a pack an order video to give a shout out to a loyal customer. Videos like this are a great way of not only giving your audience an inside look at how your business operates but includes social proof that your products are worth buying.


@jewelrybyserendipity #smallbusiness #jewelrybusiness #jewelry #packanorderwithme #packanorder #letserendipityhappen #tarnishfreejewelry #smallbusinessowner ♬ Love You So - The King Khan & BBQ Show

Another advantage of creating behind-the-scenes content is that it’s easy to make. No need to hire a production team or have a fancy set-up, videos with a more laid back approach are highly favored by Gen Z and humanize your brand.

Hop on trends

The TikTok algorithm favors videos that implement the latest trends and hashtag challenges. Therefore, producing content in line with those factors increases your chances of exposure.

The best way to hop on trending opportunities is by browsing TikTok’s Discover page, which is categorized by trending sounds, effects, and hashtags to see what’s ranking that day. Once you find a trend you're ready to capitalize on, use it as a framework to shape content that is relevant to your brand.

Learn more: How to find TikTok Sound and Song Trends

Check out this user’s spin on a popular TikTok trend that uses humor to relate to their audience.

@thelogo_page Any small business owners agree? #smallbusiness #beep #worklifebalance ♬ Beep - Andrew🥴

Promote your brand on TikTok

There is no one way to reach Gen Z, but by speaking to their core values through authenticity, community building, and an impactful mission, you’ll be able to resonate with them.

One of the best platforms to market to Gen Z is TikTok, as they make up the majority of users on the app and because the laid back style of content is a big hit among the group. Start your TikTok marketing strategy today by creating videos and tracking purchases using the Shopify TikTok app.

Download the Shopify TikTok App

Marketing to Gen Z FAQ

How do you target Gen Z in marketing?

  • Utilize Influencers: Influencers are a great way to reach Gen Z. Gen Z is used to seeing content from influencers they follow, so it's important to find influencers who align with your brand and create content that resonates with Gen Z’s interests.
  • Prioritize Mobile: Gen Z is a mobile-first generation, so it’s essential to prioritize mobile when marketing to them. Make sure your website and ad campaigns are optimized for mobile devices, and create content that can be easily consumed on mobile.
  • Use Social Media: Social media is a great way to engage Gen Z. Post content regularly, use interactive features like polls and quizzes, and create stories to build relationships with this generation.
  • Focus on Authenticity: Gen Z values authenticity, so make sure your messaging is authentic and relatable. Focus on storytelling, rather than hard-selling, and be sure to emphasize your brand’s values and mission.

Why is Gen Z so important to marketers?

Gen Z is an important demographic for marketers because they are the first generation to grow up in the digital age with access to technology and the internet, and they are incredibly adept at using these tools. They are more likely to research a product online before making a purchase, so marketers must have an online presence in order to reach them. Additionally, Gen Z is estimated to account for 40% of all consumers by 2020, so understanding their needs and preferences is key to success in the marketplace.

How is marketing to Gen Z different than other generations?

Marketing to Gen Z is different than other generations because they are more tech-savvy, more likely to be influenced by social media, and more likely to be influenced by their peers. Additionally, they are more likely to value interactive, visual, and personalized content, and are more likely to reward companies that engage with them in meaningful ways. Gen Z also tends to be more skeptical of traditional advertisements and more likely to prioritize ethical and sustainable brands.