Simplifying Gen Z using consumer research 

Often, Gen Z seems like a mystical creature that many marketing research professionals do not know what to do with or think of. It seems like Gen Z is a giant mountain that a lot of us are trying to overcome.  

In Quirk’s June Wisdom Wednesday series, Lisa Morales Freed and Nancie Carollo, research strategists at Aspen Finn, gave a clear and concise presentation on just what a Gen Z consumer is looking for and how to market to them.  

We know that Gen Z’s attention span is very small. Freed and Carollo say that you have about eight seconds to grab their attention but the two claim that is just on the surface. If there is something that catches their attention, they will give a lot more time.   

For the most part, Gen Z wants to make change. In fact, according to Freed and Carollo, 83% are hopeful to find work that will allow them to make change. Because of the generations' individuality there are many things they want to change.  

For example, they want to help the environment. If you want your brand to stand out, have an environmental cause you stand for and follow through with it. But don’t just say it, do it.  

Later in the presentation, Freed and Carollo shared their findings on three aspects of Gen Z. Their consumption behavior, brand loyalty and what brand relevance means. Both women found different things but were able to come up with an overarching convergence on each aspect.  

Let’s dive deeper into these three aspects.  

Consumption behavior  

Freed said Gen Z values things that older generations might have taken for granted because we are running out of time. Meaning the Earth is running out of time. Gen Z does not want to add to the waste on the planet. So, they buy products based on longevity. 

Carollo on the other hand states Gen Z still does impulse buy, but they do it through thrifting. Meaning that the quality of a product must be good enough to last multiple owners. Or they need to be able to repurpose it.  

The two speakers put their ideas together to state that Gen Z is “driven by individualism and an entrenched belief that I can do better – I must do better – than the establishment.”  

Brand loyalty  

Carollo made an interesting point in that Gen Z does not have as much concern for brand loyalty as previous generations did. Loyalty is something that is earned moment to moment with the biggest difference being that Gen Z wants to help brands amplify the good they are doing.  

Freed disagreed slightly in that these are still Gen Z’s loyalty building years, habit building years. That they will be influenced by their beliefs but also by their environment just like any other generation. But she does agree that having similar if not the same values is important to them.  

Which brings us to where Freed and Carollo agree that Gen Z is “driven by desire and confidence to contribute meaningfully.”  

Young person looking for product in freezer at store

Brand relevance  

Freed believes that a brand is still an asset to a business. That it is something that you should let Gen Z help you mold and share. Gen Z sees a brand as a way to connect to values.  

Carollo believes that brands need to reveal their purpose, one that is not just about making a profit. You need to let Gen Z see inside the business.  

The two researchers did agree that brand relevance to Gen Z is “driven by fierce individuality and a sense that individuality is shaped by inner self but strengthened through external openness.” 

Gen Z understands their influence  

For me the biggest takeaway was that individuality and personal values are important to Gen Z. They want to be able to fully be themselves and buy from brands that share the same values.   

Freed and Carollo said it best by stating that Gen Z is unapologetically diverse. They know time is running out and they understand the weight of their influence.