How Brands Are Connecting with Gen Z
Kimberly Surico |
 09/21/22 |
6 min read

How Brands Are Connecting with Gen Z

Colloquially known as zoomers, Gen Z is all over the news––but they wouldn’t know it, as they are not watching the news. They are on social media finding themselves, sharing ideas, and, in numerous ways, shaking the foundations of the modern world. They’re making the news!

Gen Z didn’t grow up with the TV on all day. They are growing up on the internet. In fact, they are the first digitally native generation i.e. they don’t remember a time without the internet.

And this generation is unique in other ways. At a period when other generations mature by mingling amongst themselves, many zoomers have been isolated from one another. And this has certainly impacted their way of life. Their outlook on life is different, their motivations are different, even their language is, like, different?

Is this why brands seem puzzled? Because they are, if we judge this by the news reports:

Some top headlines about Gen Z.

Some top headlines about Gen Z.

Luckily, we have a zoomer with us here at NetBase Quid® to help untangle the yarn. Her name is Nicole Seredenko, Associate of Consulting Services, and she just gave an insightful presentation titled Understanding Gen Z (By a Gen Z).

We are going to uncover some nuggets for brands targeting this apparently puzzling generation. But, to learn more, be sure to watch the presentation for yourself and download the webinar slides from the website.

So, how are brands connecting with Gen Z?

Knowing Where They Are

Brands that seeking to form close ties with Gen Z must first figure out where their audience is. Due to a chain of influences, the internet has been established as Gen Z’s natural habitat.

The oldest of the generation, born in 1995, was raised around modern technology, with heavy reliance on the internet. Thus, they are adept at it and prefer to do things on the internet including making and staying friends, learning, and shopping.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the youngest of the generation entered puberty at a time when the internet was pretty much the way out for the entire world. Interacting with others and even school had to be over the internet for a full year, longer for many, as they saw their parents work from home as well.

And then with recent advances in technology, we’ve collectively realized that the internet isn’t simply a contrivance. Gen Z didn’t struggle with dumb phones and slow connection. Rather, they have access to advanced technology which allows them to easily make a life on the internet. (The smartphone is their entry technology!)

If you want to connect with zoomers, you find them on the internet.

NetBase Quid has access to every corner of the internet inhabited by Gen Z.

NetBase Quid has access to every corner of the internet inhabited by Gen Z.

From social media to news platforms to forums and blogs, we tap the full array of sources. We even go deeper into restricted sources such as TikTok (yes, that TikTok), public info available on social media accounts, and gated commercial content.

Understanding Their Attitudes and Values

Knowing where they are is just the beginning. To connect with Gen Z, modern brands must also understand their attitudes and values. These are the internal convictions that govern their actions.

Leveraging social media data, we can find out what’s important to Gen Z. And we have.

Seredenko singles out four key themes in Gen Z’s social conversations: Graduation from university, job seeking and career advancement, mental health, and safety and police reform.

However, Gen Z is a huge and diverse group of people. Using geo-fencing features in NetBase Quid®, we can get a better understanding by analyzing conversations across separate regions of the world.

According to Seredenko’s investigation, zoomers in North America are more concerned about the student debt and its financial burdens and limitations to their young adult lives. They are also more vocal about mental health than anywhere else.

In Europe, as they start new careers, zoomers are discussing the importance of work-life balance. That same spirit of setting strong foundations is manifested in their push for the development of a sustainability consciousness in the general population.

Gen Z in the Asia-Pacific region are driven by work and growing their careers. Platforms such as Reddit and forums are quite popular as the young minds seek career advice and connections. Similar to North America, mental health is often discussed in the context of the debilitating effects of stress.

We also get a glimpse of Gen Z’s attitudes and values when Seredenko shows findings from a study on their outlook towards alcohol. It is clear that the generation prefers drinking in moderation and incorporating alcohol into broader experiences such as traveling or learning a new art.

Recognizing Their Influences

How does a Gen Z come to develop their opinions, values, and mentality in general? Who is influencing this generation? This is an important question to answer if you want to connect with this fickle segment.

One important feature of this generation is that most of them live with their parents. Meaning, whatever money they spend has to come directly from their parents/guardians. Which also means their parents have to know where at least most of it goes.

Thus, their guardians are a great influence in how the generation thinks and acts. This includes both the aspects of upbringing as well as moment by moment decisions.

This came up during Seredenko’s analysis of Gen Z’s response to the COVID vaccine. Data shows that parents and their teenagers and young adults weren’t always in agreement about the drug.

A New York Times article reported a case where teens were rebelling against their anti-vaccine parents. Clearly, there was another influence.

With their access to celebrities on social media, zoomers could easily seek a second opinion on the issue. Campaigns using their favorite celebrities to promote vaccination worked as zoomers saw people they look up to agree with them, especially if their peers were thinking the same.

Celebrity endorsement helped foster Gen Z positivity towards the COVID vaccine.

Celebrity endorsement helped foster Gen Z positivity towards the COVID vaccine.

Peer-to-peer interaction is arguably the greatest source of influence for Gen Z. They can relate to each other and whether they are correct or not, their bonds are stronger than their parents’. They are also far much closer to their friends than celebrities.

All these influences have to be taken into account and in proportion when trying to connect with Gen Z.

Studying Their Preferences

Finally, to connect with Gen Z, brands have to study their preferences.

There are three major sets of preferences to be considered. The first is the online platforms that zoomers prefer. Zeroing in on their location within the internet makes it easier to reach and connect with Gen Z.

Seredenko’s research shows that Gen Z are in various places online depending on what they want to do: Learning (YouTube), entertainment (TikTok), interaction (Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, forums, blogs). It could help to know the strengths of these platforms in catering to the needs of their users.

The second set of preferences is the activities and topics of conversation. Through social listening, you can find the myriad of topics that Gen Z is discussing on different platforms.


A word cloud highlighting the topics most popular with Gen Z.

Among activities, travel is one main focus for Gen Z who see it as a way to enrich life with experiences. Another popular activity is the use of recreational drugs, with a caveat.

For instance, in another first for Gen Z, marijuana is increasingly being legalized across the world. It has found eager users who often prefer it to alcohol.

While they use marijuana for the health benefits, zoomers have another fun activity in bartending. Learning how to make different drinks at home and showing off to their peers online has become a preferred pastime.

The collection of the brands they use is the third set of preferences that can help brands understand and connect with Gen Z. Being aware of their favorite brands and why they love them can help you connect better with Gen Z.

Seredenko’s presentation includes examples of popular brands among zoomers as well as conversation captures that suggest why the brands have such a pull on zoomers.

Be sure to watch the discussion in full at the NetBase Quid® resource center and download the slides to learn more: Understanding Gen Z (By a Gen Z).

If you would like to cultivate a better relationship with your Gen Z audience, we will help you find all the information you need to get there. Reach out for a demo today to see how we can help you connect with elusive zoomers and create campaigns that they’ll love!

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