Approximately 98% of them own a cellphone. 92% of them have a digital footprint. 50% of them are online for a minimum of 10 hours a day. They’re also the most diverse group in North American history.  Welcome to Gen-Z, the generational group born between 1995 and 2015, that marketers will be raving about (and people will be complaining about) for the next ten years.

But who are these new whippersnappers who are on track to become the largest generation of consumers ever seen by the year 2020? How can your brand reach them to make an impact? How will they yield their approximately $143 billion dollars of direct spending?

The answers may surprise you.


Gen-Z has grown up in a world that has never not had internet. They have no idea why you would use a landline. A fax machine seems ridiculous. And they have expectations of the world that have been shaped by the social media comment section.

This generation is spending the day on Snapchat and Instagram, and watching an average of 2 hours of YouTube a day. According to surveys from ZeroCater, 40% of them admit to being addicted to their phones. If you’re trying to reach them through traditional linear media or static posters on transit, you’re missing the mark. Gen-Z is looking down at their screens, not up at your billboard. If you want to grab the attention of these multi-screen masters you’re going to have to wow them beyond belief, or figure out a way to break into their trusted friends circle.


Many internet-studies indicate that Gen-Z currently spends approximately $44 billion on themselves, but also influences $600 billion dollars worth of spending in others. While those numbers may still be up for debate, one thing that’s agreed upon is that Gen-Z knows how to use the power of influence. They understand advertising better than any generation before them, and look to their peers or trusted advisers for a review before they buy a product, not a commercial. If you want them to buy your product, a web banner or promoted tweet is not going to do it. They want to hear from their friends or someone they trust. For brands, this means the age of the micro-influencer has only just begun.

That influential power is not just limited to a product, either. With the world’s information at their fingertips, Gen-Z is looking for an open, two way dialogue with companies that speak to them honestly. Since they can easily research your company in seconds, they’re not as brand loyal as previous generations. If you want to secure your spot in their shopping cart, you’re going to need to walk the walk and talk the talk when it comes to the lifestyle and values you present to them as a brand. Otherwise, they’re going to call you out on being fake, and tell their friends about it, too.


As the most diverse generation we’ve ever seen in North America, Gen-Z is empathetic to those who are marginalized. They value equality and equity, and want to see diversity and equal representation. And that’s not the only cause that keeps them up at night. Roughly 70% of them see mental health issues like anxiety and depression as a major issue among their peers. 60% said they’d support companies that take a stand on human rights. They care about the environment, health, and poverty. And they’re the first generation in history to prioritize purpose over salary. If you don’t hold the same values as they do, and aren’t doing something to make the world a better place, they’re not going to see you as worthy of their time.

Gen-Z is not your average generation. They’re far more pragmatic in their spending than previous consumers, and they know how to navigate the online world better than anyone else. They are looking for a company that speaks to their values; one who is honest and real. They’re looking for a company who profits with a purpose — so if you’re not doing that, you can kiss their dollars goodbye. #SorryNotSorry.

— Paul Rivait is Senior Manager, Social Media and Analytics at Public Inc.

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