5 Myths Marketers Got Wrong About Gen Z, According to Data & Our Gen Z Intern

To be honest, Gen Z can feel like foreign territory to all. Even myself, born in 2001. Although I’m smack in the middle of the TikTok, middle-part wearing generation, I don’t always fully understand the trends we start, stop, or totally cancel.

Even though I’m no genius when it comes to how to market to our generation, I can tell you it’s pretty obvious when marketers try too hard to sell to us. It often feels too forced and fake.

That’s why I’m here to help! Let me debunk a few myths and predictions marketers might have made about our wild generation so that you can find the right ways to grab our attention and keep us engaged. Let’s dive right into some of those incorrect thoughts, debunk them with data from our State of Consumer Trends Survey, and discuss tips for what you can do instead.

5 Gen Z Myths, Debunked

1. “Gen Z is obsessed with fast fashion.”

It’s easy to see SHEIN or Princess Polly hauls on TikTok or Instagram and think these represent our generation. Of course, these online retailers do have a grasp on our generation to some extent, but what grabs our attention are retail resale sites. For example, 90% of Depop’s users are younger than 26.

Today, Gen Zers are purchasing this apparel, but in a much less harmful way, being that resale clothing is second-hand.

Instead of getting caught up in cheap prices and deals, Gen Z, more than any other generation, considers the brand’s ethics and its stance on social issues. You don’t just need to take my word for it. we surveyed over 100 Gen Zers and found that how a brand approaches social responsibility has a real impact on Gen Z purchase decisions.

And, when we asked whether companies should take a stance on social issues, 50% of Gen Z said they should. As a marketer, this means that, if you haven’t already, you need to prioritize this for Gen Z and even younger millennial audiences.

I also urge you not to think of social issues as a broad term that is often thrown around without any substance to back it up. Instead, break it down into specific issues that you can actually fight with tangible results. And, just to help you out even more, here is where to start:

When we asked Gen Zers who want companies to take a stance on which issues are most important to them, racial justice was by far the top issue (69%), followed by LGBTQ+ rights (50%), gender inequality (46%), and climate change (42%).

2. “Data privacy and security are irrelevant for Gen Z.”

I get why many people believe this one. Gen Z is known for being glued to their phones, which obviously comes with the risk of unsecured and unrestricted data.

Furthermore, we are the TikTok generation, and – as many of us know — TikTok has had its share of privacy concerns. And yes, we may come across as irresponsible at times, especially when it comes to social media (the milk crate challenge was not the best idea); but don’t underestimate us.

As the first generation born into a technology-based world, we’ve seen the realities of a digital space more than any other generation, so data security and safety are naturally top of mind.

As you can see in the graph above, Gen Z purchase decisions are strongly influenced by whether or not they can trust a company with their data (as it is the second highest ranked consideration before purchase, at 83%).

The data above means that, as a marketer, you need to convey data privacy to our generation and can’t just assume we don’t care about these criteria. Assure us that we aren’t being scammed or exploited. We may not always prioritize it over experience and entertainment (as seen with our usage of TikTok), but don’t believe that you can do anything with our data, and we won’t mind.

3. “TikTok is The Best Way to Reach Gen Z”

TikTok is a great space for Gen Z; it offers a genuine feel to the content that no other app provides. This style is quite attractive for some of our shorter attention spans and busy schedules. In fact, TikTok is the app Gen Z uses most often. Despite this, surprisingly (or not), it’s not our favorite social media platform.

When we asked Gen Z their favorite social media app, Instagram and YouTube easily took the cake, with TikTok placing third, as seen in the graph below.

From your perspective as a marketer, this means that even though a significant effort should still definitely be made to generate TikTok content, don’t forget about our trusty old friend Instagram – even for Gen Z.

There are many reasons why Gen Z shies away from directly buying on TikTok. These include the concern for data privacy previously mentioned and just wanting to use that space for the sake of connection and entertainment rather than advertisements and purchasing.

So, If you plan to sell directly through social media, Instagram definitely should be your go-to (as 28% of Gen Z saying they bought something directly in a social media app in the past three months).

HubSpot’s recent Instagram Marketing Report goes into more detail on why the app presents such an opportunity for social marketing and selling, so don’t lose sight of it!

4. “Put a product in front of Gen Z, and they’ll buy it.”

Even though we do gravitate towards TikTok-style content, that doesn’t mean we’re receptive to just any type of short-form videos, including those that market products.

Before making a purchase via social media, we need to be made to feel like we found the product on our own. We don’t want to feel forced into any decision, especially when it comes from a clear advertisement that we can’t relate to.

To persuade Gen Z, brands must prioritize making entertaining content that feels authentic to grab our attention. Then, once they have our genuine interest, they can more easily slip in their product rather, than getting yet another eye roll from us.

As this graph above shows, the top way we prefer to discover a new product is through TikTok, Reel, or other short-form video formats, where the product is shown but not imposed on us. In a world where we are often made to feel powerless, we strongly value a sense of autonomy and agency– help us feel empowered through your actions.

5. “Word of mouth is a great way to reach Gen Z.”

Yeah, I know this may seem contradictory as we really like to talk but hear me out. As just outlined, Gen Z is stressed: we feel out of control, doomed, and like the weight of the world lies on our shoulders.

With that comes a unique sense of camaraderie and connection among us. As a result, Gen Zs trust other Gen Zs as they are also going through the same shared emotions. And, what better way to unify than via social media?

We have turned social media and online communities into our modern-day version of word of mouth. Therefore, we even trust influencers’ recommendations more than those from our friends and family.

This graph above helps emphasize that your marketing focus should be on connecting with Gen Z in the spaces we feel comfortable: social media. Sorry, Mom and Dad, but you don’t have much influence over us anymore.  

More Resources for Marketing to Your Target Audience

Now that we’ve explored and debunk some of the biggest Gen Z myths and predictions, you might be wanting to learn even more about the generation and how they shop. Here’s a quick list of more data-driven resources that we hope you enjoy:

The State of Consumer Trends [Data from 1000+ Consumers]
How Each Generation Shops Differently
5 Things Gen Z Will Spend Money On

And for a detailed deep dive into all of our consumer trends data survey (including insights not on the blog), download the free report below.