With the breakneck pace of today’s digital media landscape, data is key and proactivity is paramount. Nowadays, the tools and capabilities we as marketers have at our fingertips to collect large quantities of incredibly valuable, detailed data drive highly targeted ad campaigns in emerging new spaces daily. But without a keen eye for what conditions will look like down the road, no amount of data can adequately keep brands ahead of the curve.

It wasn’t very many years ago when we saw what almost seemed like a regression with some of the world’s largest brands, where multiple consumer categories were all effectively lumped into one massive advertising mash-up. It was a time where anyone under 25 was carelessly labeled a “millennial,” which largely confused the term in the public consciousness. Though now, as the first quarter of 2019 draws to a close, we’re seeing less of that blanket categorization and more of an intentional study of the burgeoning generation of buyers and professionals known as Generation Z.

David Ralls is president of Chandler-based Commit Agency.

For frame of reference, consider Generation Z to be anyone born during the late 1990s into the mid-2000s. The generational cohort that’s succeeding millennials, Generation Z is already projected to be the largest generation of consumers in the country—expected to outpace their millennial counterparts by as soon as 2020. What’s more, the youngest wave of buyers to hit the market is expected to command a spending power of as much as $140 billion. Perhaps even more impactful, however, is the fact that Gen Z exhibits one particular behavior that isn’t commonly seen in marketing statistics of this nature. According to a report compiled by MarketWire, Gen Z’ers influence up to 93 percent of their households’ spending decisions. Distill that down: the youngest members of most households in the country participate in spending decisions. Almost all of the time.

Back to the notion of foresight. Without understanding these particular consumers and their collective potential economic impact on a granular level, brands are going to have a hard time tapping into those newfound dollars reaching our marketplaces. As a result, we’re already beginning to see a shift toward a crop of budding brands that are starting to plant their flags and chip away considerably at the mountainous market share many legacy brands today still enjoy. We’re seeing the Dollar Shave Club take on Gillette, Warby Parker challenge Nationwide Vision, and Netflix take on the goliath networks. Why are these young brands faring so well with younger demographics? Foresight again—knowing where to reach their target consumers and understanding that the spenders of Generation Z live in starkly different places than their advertising ancestors.

A standard 30-second television spot is far more effective in reaching a Baby Boomer than a bright-eyed member of Gen Z, though a thoughtfully placed ad on Spotify or Instagram would easily be in Gen Z’s line of sight and might miss Baby Boomer consumers altogether. Generation Z is carving out new media platforms and advertising spaces faster than anyone can keep up, and meeting them in those places is crucial to building a meaningful business to consumer relationship. Simply put, tapping into Generation Z’s multi-billion-dollar spending potential is an exercise in strategy. The data and statistics are telling us that activating the right strategy to reach these young consumers not only translates into sales and conversions, but could also translate into opening direct marketing pipelines to entire households.

Perhaps the most important facet of successfully reaching Generation Z, though, relies heavily on the notion of authenticity. Our latest demographic of workers, voters and consumers want to buy from honest and relatable brands. They want sustainable practices and operations, ease of access and transparency. Ultimately, capturing a Gen Z customer is going to require building trust.

The buying tropes that define Generation Z will serve to make companies better entities. We’re going to start to see the opposite effect of that regression we encountered in the mid-2000s, where brands take thoughtful considerations into defining their demographic subsets, find new customers in the burgeoning spaces they’re creating for themselves and market to them in honest and relatable ways that promote a brand’s inherit authenticity. Soon, we’ll see the brands that don’t want to make these shifts start to disappear, and the ones that remain will be the ones that successfully tap into Generation Z’s $140 billion spending power.


David Ralls is president of Chandler-based Commit Agency, a brand definition, consumer experience and marketing amplification agency that creatively pushes beyond what’s expected to achieve meaningful, measurable results.