Deciphering Generation Z: A Short Guide For Marketing And Media Professionals | Vietcetera
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Deciphering Generation Z: A Short Guide For Marketing And Media Professionals

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In 2015, trend forecasting and analytics firm WGSN released a study on Gen Z –a term used to refer to people born between 1996 and 2010. The study predicted that in the next 5 to 7 years, Gen Z (accounting for about 30% of the population worldwide) would supersede Millennials as the largest single consumer group. That forecast has now become a reality.

Digital natives who grew up during an economic boom, as consumers Zoomers are more sophisticated and, as a result, harder to decipher than previous generations. To better understand Gen Z and help brands build more effective dialogue with this generation, join us in conversation with industry experts from Dentsu Redder, an advertising agency; MSL, a communications firm and part of Publicis Groupe; and TikTok Vietnam, a video-sharing social networking service.

Thong Nguyen – Chief Client Officer, Dentsu Redder

In your opinion, what values shared by Zoomers set them apart from the Millennials?

Following in the footsteps of Millennials, Generation Z came of age during a digital renaissance, dominated by the presence of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Thus, digital and social networks have had a huge impact on various aspects of their lives: from influencing how they build relationships to shaping their worldview. Possessing a particular set of unique values, what separates Gen Z from previous generations is that they are: 

TrailblazingZoomers position themselves in a much more distinctive and personal way. Unlike Generation Y, for whom following the norms was itself a norm, today young people take their fate in their own hands. Being exposed to a world of possibilities since an early age, there’s nothing that Generation Z despises more than being held back. The “Go Big or Go Home” mentality is so prevalent that they always find a way to create and rise above. It's this fear of being left behind that drives them to learn and innovate everyday. 

Highly interactive — Generation Z is slowly abandoning traditional media. Whereas previous generations preferred to read newspapers and watch TV series, Gen Z  favors the use of social networks such as Facebook because they provide a more interactive space. 

Inquisitive and straightforward  With access to abundant and free resources in the palm of their hand, Gen Z is eager to learn and keep themselves updated with the latest information. They also don’t shy away from conflict and are willing to speak their minds on social media and in everyday life.

Purpose-driven Unperturbed by the run-of-the-mill societal standards, Generation Z would rather live their lives in pursuit of a more meaningful "purpose". They are referred to as the " generation of change" because they long to make a difference, to make a positive impact on the society and the environment, even if it means changing their own behavior to serve the cause. 

Practical Gen Z acts on what they think can prove their abilities, rather than according to the expectations of others. They want to create real value instead of chasing unpractical and intangible dreams. They're bundles of energy and enthusiasm with great ambitions and a burning desire to revolutionize the world around them.

A classic example is the success of Biti's Hunter Street. Vietnam’s Zoomers were in a craze to hunt down the Hanoi and Saigon editions of the limited release, not just because of the sneakers' aesthetics, but also because of the profound national pride and cultural significance presented in each design.

What trends and tendencies have you observed in how Zoomers consume media?

Mobile devices have become an essential part of life for Generation Z because they allow for constant communication through different platforms. Just leaving home without a fully charged phone could send a Zoomer into a panic mode. It's not uncommon for Gen Z to spend almost a third of the day on social media. That is almost double the amount of time they spend on other activities such as listening to music, texting, etc.

One of the most common reasons why Gen Z uses social networks is to satisfy their need for entertainment. A simple observation shows that the highest-charting contents on online platforms are usually entertainment related.

At the same time, Gen Z is very individualistic in developing their thoughts and opinions. Their process of thinking and decision-making is not dependent on or easily influenced by family and friends.

When assessing a brand, they don't just take the word of celebrities, but form their opinions based on reviews from users, experts and influential figures in the field.

Gen Z wants a two-way relationship with brands, with an expectation for a deeper value exchange. How are successful brands responding? 

Gone are the days when consumers would buy a product just because of its appeal. Nowadays, consumers are more likely to support brands that champion the same causes that they do.  

When a Zoomer purchases and wears an item of clothing from a specific brand, it is not merely a fashion statement, but an expression of their individual identity. So, not only does Gen Z want more personalized products, they're also willing to pay higher prices for them. Gen Z will only back a company if they know what it stands for. If the brand is only interested in revenue, the founders would be wise to target a consumer group other than Gen Z. They want their money to be spent on something more meaningful than just enriching shareholders. And they only want to engage with ethical businesses, because their ethics and philosophies are also reflected in the products that they use. 

Therefore, brands serve as Gen Z's living declaration to the world.

Another example is Bitis Hunter's Valentine campaign, where the gendered pronouns “Anh & Em" are replaced by the word AM, highlighting the brand's message of love and equality.

What main implications should brands be attuned to in order to capture the attention of and build trust with Zoomers?

Be sincere and consistent: Gen Z has the wisdom to recognize a brand's intention. Therefore, it is important to ensure an honest and consistent message that can be delivered in the long term, not just in media campaigns but also accurately reflected in the consumers' experience.

Use relatable and generation-appropriate language: You can't attract someone's attention or get them to understand you if you don't speak their language. Therefore, brands need to familiarize themselves with the latest trends, or they will be seen as old-hat in the world of Gen Z.

Thien Long’s new youthful and dynamic look has garnered much attention from young consumers.

Another example is how Highlands opted for Golden Lotus Tea (a drink that falls on the more traditional side even for Millennials) as the main product for Tet holiday. Using sharp and informed insight, as well as highlighting the drink's unique buttery flavor (a signature of the lotus seed) the brand has revamped the image of Golden Lotus Tea among the young. 

Be insightful: All smart decisions come from having good insights: of your own brand, of the world and of your consumers. Brands must be attentive to external changes, and look beneath the surface to capture consumers’ minds, aspirations and behaviors. 

Mirinda created a Tet-themed music video called" Chuyện cũ bỏ qua” (To let go of the past) that embodies the Tet's spirit of renewal and compassion, when everyone wants to let go of the old year's anguish to celebrate the new. It has since become a Tet anthem among young people.

Another example is a Tet campaign from Sony. Tet is often referred to by young people as the "National House Cleaning Day", and being scolded by parents for not doing housework is an inevitable "pain" associated with Tet. With the introduction of Sony's wireless headphones, the much dreaded annual Tet cleanup has become a more enjoyable experience for young people.

Luc Mandret, General Manager, MSL (Publicis Groupe)

In your opinion, what values shared by Zoomers set them apart from the Millennials?

Gen Z faces a great paradox: being the most connected generation of all time, they are nonetheless extremely lonely, despite all the technology at their fingertips. They are challenged by cyberbullying more than any other generation, and deal with it predominantly alone. They are more susceptible to mobile addiction, while also living in an infobesity society (characterized by information overload): with access to all information on social media platforms, they need codes to be able to tell real from fake.

Yet infobesity and always-on-connection can also have a positive impact. Research shows that Gen Z are the most “socially-conscious” and “environmentally-conscious” generation. And this is as true in Vietnam as in any other country.

What trends and tendencies have you observed in how Zoomers consume media?

At MSL, as one of Publicis Groupe agencies, we have access to many studies and data, from demographics to mobile, from purchasing to influence, so we can monitor closely the whole journey of consumption. Zoomers are more practical than Millenials, for example, when it comes to buying, as they will focus primarily on functional benefits and value for money.

Capturing Zoomers’ attention is a challenge for marketers and communication professionals: Gen Z pays less attention to content, whether earned, owned or paid, than Millenials – approximately 2/3rd less attention from one generation to the next.

Clearly both generations are mobile users, with Gen Z being the heavier of the two, as mobile time has become the new primetime. Mobile first is how brands should think to capture the attention of Zoomers.

Zoomers are the prime users of mobile devices, so mobile first is how brands should think to capture the attention of this generation.

Also there is the question of platform preference, with Millennials being more reliable and loyal, mostly using Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, while Zoomers are very open to new experiences and switch between platforms, from TikTok to Twitch to Snap and tomorrow to a new trendy one. When it comes to social usage, Zoomers follow what I call the 4T habits: to Test & Try then Trash or Trust.

Gen Z wants a two-way relationship with brands, with an expectation for a deeper value exchange. How are successful brands responding?

With the Zoomers, brands have to be responsible. Responsible for their employees, the planet and the environment and society as a whole. We speak of the purpose of brands in our communication industry. Purpose has been cheapened by meaningless claims, and today it has to be for real, it means coming with real actions, with concrete proofs. That’s where I believe PR is key in all communications and marketing strategies: the role of PR is to engage with all your communities and stakeholders. You need to bring trust if you want to have an incremental impact with Zoomers, brands need horizontal and bottom-up engagement to be successful. Advocacy programs are more important than loyalty programs with this generation.

With the Zoomers, brands have to be responsible. Responsible for their employees, the planet and the environment and society as a whole. Advocacy programs are more important than loyalty programs with this generation.

What main implications should brands be attuned to in order to capture the attention of and build trust with Zoomers?

Brands should focus on two important pillars when communicating with Zoomers: Consideration and Care. How your audience will absorb your content and message, why they should consider it, what you can bring them without losing your brand’s DNA. When it comes to caring, Gen Z wants to be convinced, so brands need to have strong advocates, real influencers and not only celebrities that push contents.

Zoomers are as quick to name and shame brands publicly as they are to fall in love and share. But you need to earn their love. It takes time for brands to build long-term strategy and engage with Zoomers ; consequently brands have to be agile and adapt to their needs, bring them value and real interest. 

In closing I would like to add that if you want to attract Gen Z, be ready for sustainable communication - not only good communication but communication for good.

Nicholas Pham, Head of Operations, TikTok Vietnam

In your opinion, what values shared by Zoomers set them apart from the Millennials?

Each generation has its own story, so it’s like comparing apples and oranges when you try to put the two generations against each other, especially when they’re composed of people from entirely different age groups and backgrounds. However, I too have developed my own opinions of Gen Z after having extensive experience working with them.

Something that most Zoomers share is that they all have a very strong sense of individuality. It seems that each person is a universe of their own. They can quickly grasp the latest trends, and absorb what they like about the outer world into their inner universe to create their unique personal palette. It's the most striking and endearing trait that I've noticed based on my experience working with them. 

What trends and tendencies have you observed in how Zoomers consume media?

As mentioned above, Gen Z has the ability to take hold of and absorb information extremely quickly. They’re more than willing to reshape their mental landscape based on the knowledge that they have acquired from the outside world. But while their mindsets are open, they're also critical, which requires a certain level of sensitivity and alertness from the brand's side in order to be appropriately utilized.

Gen Z wants a two-way relationship with brands, with an expectation for a deeper value exchange. How are successful brands responding?

I wholeheartedly agree with the premise of this question. A two-way relationship is exactly what Gen Z is looking for in any brand. I think any brands that are dynamic and responsive enough are already aware of this and have developed their own strategies accordingly.

Here at TikTok, we’re steadfast believers in this two-way relationship and have been putting in constant effort to build it since our early days. Whether it's a massive media campaign, or a fun, light-hearted social media challenge, everything that we do has its own significance.

And for us at TikTok this significance lies in the aspiration to inspire the younger generation to freely create, freely express themselves and spread these values throughout the community.

Whether it's a massive media campaign, or a fun, light-hearted social media challenge, everything that TikTok does has its own significance. And this significance lies in the aspiration to inspire the younger generation to freely create, freely express themselves and spread these values throughout the community.

What main implications should brands be attuned to in order to capture the attention of and build trust with Zoomers?

I think that the first thing that they need to do is to turn the world into a “sandbox", a space where Gen Z is free to unleash their creativity. It doesn't matter what industry it is, as long as a brand can provide services and products that are meaningful, that are interactive and that allow Gen Z to express their own colors. Only then will they win the hearts of the youngest generation. 

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