Gen Z and the Billion Dollar War for Spend

Gen Z and the Billion Dollar War for Spend

A couple decades ago (find something better for this intro), the usual brand customer was married, owned a home and had a job. The brand played the role of an expert — talking over the customer, telling them what to buy, how to buy and when.

Early brand marketing painted the customer as ignorant, and the brand as knowing best.

Then came the 2000s and the birth of the web and early social media, and the usual brand customer grew to become the internet savvy Millennials. These customers didn’t listen to the brands anymore; they listened to influencers, to celebrities. And brands discovered they had to change their marketing. They couldn’t be the know-it-alls anymore. They couldn’t offer one -size-fits-all messaging, and they couldn’t talk down to their customers.

Fast-forward a few years and it’s 2022, and brands are encountering a new kind of customer — GenZ.

While Millennials had grown up with the computer and internet, this group hasn’t known a time without it. They’re young, tech-savvy, always online, glued to their smartphones, and in the next couple of years, they will make up the largest consumer base.

With 360 billion dollars in disposable income, according to a Bloomberg 2021 report, brands can’t ignore this group. But brands are also figuring out it’s not so easy to sell to them.

So the big dollar question for most brands is ‘how do you sell to a group that is against being sold to?’

For many brands, the answer to this is in being social. Being active on the platforms these groups frequent — on TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube.

GenZ are voracious consumers of social content But to engage with them, brands have to blend into these online platforms, and importantly, take part in trends and partner with the young GenZ creators in these online communities.

Other brands have taken to being authentic, to sharing their values. GenZ seeks authenticity, and will buy from brands that they trust, and brands they feel share their values. These values range from being sustainable, to caring for the environment, and encouraging diversity.

GenZ are active in seeking out information online about a brand and its products. And when they find a brand that clicks those value boxes, they don’t hesitate to share with their friends and communities online. The same goes also for the brands they find inauthentic; they aren’t scared to call these brands out, and boycott them.

Money matters to GenZ, and they’ve got a keen awareness for justifying the value of every purchase. They are big savers, and unlike their parents, they don’t spend so easily. Their affinity for the internet also means they learn early how to find good deals online.

Most brands are coming to realize that their longevity rests not in selling only to today’s consumers, but winning over multiple generations of customers. And being the fastest growing consumer group, GenZ are becoming an obsession for these brands.

The war for spend will involve getting these thrifty teens and young twenty-somethings to open their wallets. But brands are learning the old rulebooks don’t work anymore. Big influencers don’t impress them, instead they go for niche brands and micro-influencers. They live on social media and on their smartphones, and marketing to them has to be online and mobile first.

According to Forbes, Millennials still represent the largest group of consumers and the Baby Boomers have the largest buying power, but Gen Z’s spending power is on the rise. The savvy brands are beginning to understand the power of spend these brands possess, and are changing their strategies and offerings — whether through becoming more diverse and sustainable, through activations in the nascent metaverse, or participation on social media.

The future of spend will be defined by the mobile-first, social media-savvy Gen Z customers. And brands that get it right today with these groups could find they get a customer for life.

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