A Marketer’s Guide to Copywriting for Generation Z

Estimated reading time: 10 minute(s)

In just a year, Generation Z—aka Post-Millennials, Digital Natives, Plurals, Deltas, iGen, Net Gen—will flood the market, accounting for 40% of all consumers, and a proportionate sum of consumer spending. That’s 130  million new consumers in the U.S. alone, hungry for your products and services…and expanding rapidly in reach and power.

For any b2c marketer, this is obviously a huge opportunity. But beware: born between 1995 and 2005, Gen Z—aka my generation—are not the people you think we are. Read on for some do’s and don’ts about copywriting for Gen Z.

Tell Us the Truth. The Whole Truth.

The first generation in human history that never knew a world without easy access to the internet, Gen Zs understand that anything and everything can be found—or found out—on Google. Simply put, you can’t lie to us, manipulate us, omit critical data, or otherwise pull the wool over our eyes. So: don’t.

Keep the Rose Out of Your Copy.

The word “Millennial” tends to be interchangeable with “young person.” But it’s not true–and any marketing directed toward Millennials, but intended for Gen Z, will get you an eye roll, or (worse) ignored.

Millennials are decidedly sunny—in their general outlook, and about brands, specifically. Good for them!

If Millennials are golden retrievers, Gen Z is a Basset hound. Remember, most Millennials came of age during The Great Recession: they knew the world that came before.

In contrast, Gen Zers were typically born into the recession, giving us a more lasting imprint about scarcity, unreliability, and turbulence. As a result, my generation ‘tracks’ older, more conservatively, and yes, infinitely more jaded.

Gen Zers are famously distrusting of big business, write Jeff Fromm and Angie Read, co-authors of Marketing to Gen Z: The Rules for Reaching This Vast—and Very Different—Generation of Influencers (Amacom, 2018). So in your copywriting for us, stoke trust, stay even-keeled, and steer far clear of those rose-colored glasses.

Get Your Message Across Quick… Like, Really Quick.

You might have thought Millenials had a short attention span, at 12 seconds. Think again. Gen Zers are all about instant gratification: from social media to online shopping, our attention span is down to eight tiny seconds.

That means that with copy and content, you need to get in, build trust, and get out. Think about a snack vs. a three-course meal.

Sound like a challenge? We know!

Prove Your Value.

As toddlers to pre-teens in a world dominated by uncertainty, Gen Z likes brands that make an impact. Gen Z doesn’t want to just read about how your company has made a difference: they want to hear your stories and understand your narrative.

This generation responds well to humanity and compassion, to pain and triumph. Weave that into your marketing copy, and you’re on the right track.

Get That We’re Weird. And Different.

LOL, TBH, OMFG, FML. If you think these acronyms represent Gen Z, they do—and they don’t.

Gen Z’s culture of online communication is probably not what you think it is. For example, this WaPo article lists 28 faceplant moments for advertisers that tried to connect through some presumed aspect of our culture—but only got it halfway right (= 100% wrong).

The savviest brands have an opportunity to talk to Gen Z in the same way we speak with each other. Take the time to learn the language of the internet through memes, 280-character blurbs, and relatable, shareable content.

And whatever you do, don’t dismiss us as lazy, text-obsessed, and semi-literate. 

 

Takeaways? Gen Z is skeptical as heck. We crave safety—and insist on proof. And no, we are not Millennials.

When copywriting for Generation Z, tread carefully. And most of all, respect us. We’re here to stay.

Vanessa Poulson

Born adventurer, raised wordsmith, current intern, Vanessa is a jack of all journalistic and linguistic trades including copywriting and copyediting, article writing, and social media copyediting and curation. Vanessa’s writing experience dates back to writing monster stories in elementary school, fan fiction in middle school, and eventually long-form journalistic and academic writing throughout high school and college. She loves creating intriguing stories and written content and is always up for the challenge of learning about something new.

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