Getting the Goods on Gen Z

Marketers have shifted their sites recently from Millennials to Gen Z…but…where to find them and how to reach them?

Let’s start by mentioning a few identifying features of this new generational phenomenon. Born since 1997, the eldest are just entering the work force. Or trying to. Most are still in high school. They’re more diverse than any cohort before them. They are the product of circumstances most of the rest of us have not faced as children.

”Gen Z have already lived through a global economic recession, a global pandemic, and political turmoil not seen in decades,” says Jules Chaffiotte, New Business Director at FRED & FARID Los Angeles. “And for marketers, it’s important to remember Gen Z cannot imagine life without the Internet, social media, or Amazon!”

They take little for granted: this cohort is constantly verifying information. Industry research shows Gen Z conducts more Google searches than any other age group: an average of 63 per week.

“And they want this info fast,” says Laurent Leccia, Executive Creative Director and Partner at FRED & FARID New York. “Gen Z has an ‘eight- second filter’ — that’s how much time you get to snag their interest and attention before they click onto something else.”

So it’s no surprise that TikTok and its warp-speed videos are a big hit with this generation.

They’re Very Demanding

Gen Z sits firmly in the driver’s seat today, accustomed to fending off a barrage of info and ads vying for their attention and money and demanding more of what they deem important.

“They want to see more about issues such as the future of the planet and humanity, and they expect to see messages from brands and marketers that reflect those concerns,” Laurent continues.

An example from FRED & FARID Los Angeles: this message for Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future climate change action group to illustrate the crisis of global warming and this one: a tongue-in-cheek tourist video promoting life on Mars when Earth becomes uninhabitable.

And here on Earth, Gen Z expects a level of customer service their parents could only dream of, and they demand truth, transparency, and honesty in advertising.

“User-generated content, full of humor and imagination, is an effective way to get their attention” says Peter Jacobs, Global Business Director at FRED & FARID Los Angeles. “This has already proven to be an effective and cost-efficient way of reaching Gen Z.”

Some examples from FRED & FARID Paris: #LaRedouteChallenge, the digital casting call to find the “face” of the French online retailer’s new digital campaign. Aimed at attracting new, younger customers to the site, #LaRedouteChallenge offered 13–18 year-olds the opportunity to express their creativity in video on the TikTok platform. To-date, a record for all brands on the French market: 294 MILLION views, 112,000 videos posted.

Another example from FRED & FARID Los Angeles: Webtoon, a four-part video campaign launched at the end of 2020 and featuring celebrities in cinematic films, obsessing over WEBTOON™. Web-based comics have become a global and cultural phenomenon, with an average of 64+ million monthly active users, 16.5+ million of whom read comics daily. The first episode featured celebrity actress, Alia Shawkat.

They also like stories, including everything from Youtube videos all the way to Netflix and TV shows, especially during the pandemic.

“TV and video have become a real, shared, communal experience — for people sharing the experience in the same room or the same platform — for the 21st century,” says Séverine Autret, Managing Director and Partner at FRED & FARID Paris.

Nielsen polling shows that since the start of the health crisis, co-viewing grew across broadcast, cable and syndicated TV viewing. “This also shows the power of story-telling in advertising,” Séverine continues.

An example from FRED & FARID: this 8’00 “très paris” video based on the iconic French song, “Il est cinq heures, Paris s’éveille,” for the launch of Longchamp’s new platform.

Digital Campfires

To avoid being hit with hard-sell tactics Gen Z digital natives eschew legacy social media platforms such as Facebook

“Facebook is for their parents!” says Amanda Hellman, Managing Director and Partner at FRED & FARID New York.

Instead, they hang out in small groups around “digital campfires.” Many of these started as gaming platforms and then expanded into lifestyle, fashion, food as the global pandemic forced most of the world to stay at home.

“In the past year, digital campfires have morphed from a way for Gen Z to connect with each other to a cultural force” Amanda adds.

Most of us marketers already know and use TikTok, with its 100 million monthly active users in the U.S. alone. But stay-at-home pandemic restrictions have fueled others in the past year. To help you get up to speed, here’s a short primer on those campfires, as mentioned in HBR.

Fortnite: a massive shared-experience platform with 350 million accounts, attracted a core audience of 14-to-24 year-olds with their primary game, Battle Royale but was dropped from the Apple App Store and Google’s app marketplace last year when a “battle royal” erupted between Apple and the platform owner, Epic Games. No word on when/if that dispute will be resolved.

Roblox: With 37 million daily active users and 20-million multiplayer games, this platform counts more than two-thirds of all 9-to-12year-olds in the U.S. in its audience. In 2020, users spent $1.9 billion on Robux, an increase of 171% from 2019.

Discord: As of December 2020, this gaming platform with 140-million monthly active users, broadened its categories to include style, beauty, and cooking. By limiting groups to around 200 participants, the platform aims to create the feeling of intimacy that Gen Z wants.

Twitch: Acquired by Amazon in 2014 just a few years after its launch, this platform has more than 30 million daily visitors and more than 7-million unique creators streaming each month offering players the chance to livestream their own play to earn money and followers. Nearly half of the audience are prime Gen Z, aged 18 to 34.

A recent Harvard Business Review article shows these campfires are successful at bringing people together: A series of five concerts by hip-hop artist Travis Scott inside the game Fortnite in April (2020) was attended by more than 27 million players. A two-day November (2020) performance from rapper Lil Nas X on the gaming platform Roblox garnered more than 33 million views.

An example from FRED & FARID Los Angeles: collaborating with OPPO, one of the world’s leading smart device manufacturers and innovators, #Livelytogether, connects people in different European countries with real stories of real people in order to spread the brand’s positive spirit during the pandemic.

A New Kind of Customer

Content has to be tailored to this audience who turn their backs on traditional sales pitches and need extra motivation to part with their money. The technology has to be fast. “We understand that 60% of Gen Z shoppers won’t use apps or websites that load slowly or are difficult to navigate,” says Nathan Smith Global Business Director at FRED & FARID Los Angeles. This is important: retail industry research shows three-quarters of Gen Z (75% ) are mobile shoppers, using their smartphones.

Unlike Millennials, Gen Z are not spendthrifts, though as a group, Gen Z has upwards of $150-Billion dollars in their pockets, even though many are too young to hold credit cards. “Shaped in their infancy by the Great Recession, Gen Z seems reluctant to pay full price for anything,” Chelsea Steiger, Creative Director at FRED & FARID Los Angeles says. They’re “comparison shoppers.” They’re fans of buying second-hand — a sector that Thredup’s 2019 Resale Report, says will be bigger than fast-fashion in the coming decade, and a trend which some leading retailers are already adopting.

Click here to see the FRED & FARID Paris campaign for La Redoute’s secondhand service, “La Reboucle” for clothing and home decoration.

The challenge? “There is no one-size-fits all formula for reaching Gen Z, no clear rules,” says Adrien Goris Creative Director at FRED & FARID Shanghai. Marketers have to be creative and keep their eye on trends that emanate from this powerful cohort. “The pandemic has reshaped our thoughts and way of life and given voice to new, more human values, and it is Gen Z who will be carrying these through into the future.”



CREATIVE / CULTURE AGENCY. Purpose driven company based in Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Shanghai.

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CREATIVE / CULTURE AGENCY. Purpose driven company based in Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Shanghai.