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Avoid These 10 Marketing Mistakes When Targeting Gen Z


This generation is looking to support businesses that value ethics and authenticity.


GEN Z, THE generation born between 1997 and 2012, has become a highly sought-after demographic for marketers due to their significant purchasing power and influence. However, effectively targeting this generation requires a different approach than previous generations, and there are some common mistakes that companies are making.


Below, Rolling Stone Culture Council members share what companies should avoid when marketing to Gen Z and why these practices can come across as inauthentic. By understanding these mistakes, companies can create more effective marketing strategies that resonate with this influential demographic.


Focusing on High View Counts


Don’t just shoot for virality in your content. You often can gain a lot of views without actually increasing your sales or driving actions that help your business. Chasing the trends can attract eyeballs, but it won’t always attract committed customers — the lifeblood of business. Try to use targeted content and new marketing channels to win Gen Z over as real advocates and not just passive viewers.


Prioritizing the Product Over Storytelling


Traditional ads tend to be curated to focus on the feelings behind a product or its benefits. This doesn’t speak to the consumer’s values or lifestyle. It comes off as more interested in making money than making a difference. Companies should focus on storytelling and strategic product placement. As a mobile-first, value-driven generation, Gen Z values seeing real people in authentic, relatable scenarios.


Making Unrealistic Claims


Companies should avoid using overly promotional language and making unrealistic claims when marketing to Gen Z. This can seem inauthentic because this generation is known to be more skeptical of advertising and more likely to do their own research before making a purchase.


Manipulating or Pandering


It’s important to avoid pandering to Gen Z during holidays or special events in a way that feels insincere or disingenuous. Similarly, inconsistency in messaging can also be problematic. This generation values transparency and honesty in their interactions with brands. They are quick to spot manipulation or pandering to their perceived interests, so authenticity and consistency are crucial.


Greenwashing


Companies should avoid greenwashing or making false claims about their sustainability efforts. Since Gen Z are environmentally conscious, they may easily spot phony marketing tactics. Many of them also don’t believe companies do enough to address environmental issues. Gen Z values authenticity and transparency, so any attempt to manipulate or mislead them will likely backfire.


Making Products Too Widely Available


Gen Z has a very different relationship with money and time than previous generations. They value scarcity and are willing to wait in line, promote your brand and even pay premiums to be one of the special few to have your hard-to-get product. A steep discount on an easy-to-get product just isn’t as appealing to them.


Assuming You Know More Than They Do


Don’t assume you’re telling them anything they don’t already know. Gen Z is supremely savvy and world-aware, and you need to enter the conversation well-versed in it already. Too many brands come in from on high without a real understanding of where people live, work, think and meet. Do it right or don’t do it at all — inauthenticity kills faster than anything here. Ditto for lip service around social issues.


Failing to Align Your Values With Your Campaigns

Don’t approach marketing to Gen Z as a simple media campaign. Younger generations are more likely than ever to be critical of advertisements and look into the companies they support. So, if your overall brand values don’t align with those you promote in a marketing campaign, you can end up doing more harm than good.


Using Too Much Sales-Speak

Companies should avoid using overly sales-like language or pushing products too aggressively when marketing to Gen Z, as this can come across as inauthentic and insincere. Gen Z values authenticity and transparency, so companies should focus on building relationships and creating genuine connections with their audience through social media and other channels.


Sticking to One Platform


While it’s important to know your audience, you can risk putting an entire generation in a box based on stereotypes — particularly with Gen Z, who, while of the digital age, is known to favor authenticity — so keep it real. Let them talk among themselves by promoting through Gen Z influencers. Diversify your efforts in as many platforms as possible to understand what style and sites best engage with them.

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