For a couple of years, the Z Generation, better known as Gen Z or Centennials, has been gaining more and more attention from the media and businesses of all sorts. According to the Pew Research Center, an American fact tank based in Washington D.C., the idiom covers everyone in world born from the end of the 1990s onward. The general consensus stands on a timeframe that starts in 1997 and extends until 2012, while Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996.

“Unlike the Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), there are no comparably definitive thresholds by which later generational boundaries are defined (…) we believe 1996 is a meaningful cutoff between Millennials and Gen Z for a number of reasons, including key political, economic and social factors that define the Millennial generation’s formative years”, explained the fact tank a couple of years ago.

A symbiotic relation with ICT

For the British Oxford Royale Academy, this group possesses unique characteristics. They have a symbiotic relation with ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) with early access to smartphones and tablets, the world they live in has “never felt safe” (they were still very young when the terrorist attack of 9/11/2001 happened, and they’ve experienced the Pandemic in their early years), they are tolerant, health-conscious, anxious about their privacy, proactive and worried about their future.

“They’re are educated and extremely vocal about women and minorities’ rights, sustainability, discrimination, bullying and so many other things” adds Nadine Njem, marketing consultant for the Lebanese online shopping platform Lemonade Fashion, that operates a platform selling designer brands in the MENA region and the US. “Research is showing that they are customers who will search extensively before connecting with your brand, so being outspoken and clear about your product and its mission is very important”, says Riham Hijazi, co-founder of Rush & Reez, a contemporary fashion label based in Beirut.

The oldest members of the Gen Z are now 25 at most and the youngest just completed their first decade. One last dimension is really critical. “Gen Z is a global community [and] quite connected with each other. That makes them very similar in many aspects, regardless of their origins or where they live, whether it’s in the US or the MENA region, for instance,” underlines Njem.

One fifth of the global population

From a marketing perspective, Gen Z are still the second biggest segment behind Millennials, but they will soon enough be “the main target for brands as their purchasing power increases and is expected to overtake Millennials”, as suggested a report by the mobile advertising platform AdColony, in 2020. The market size is estimated by various studies at between USD 100 and 150 billion worldwide.

According to several crossed-check sources, Gen Z should represent around one fifth of the global population in the near future (so a total of around 80 million in this part of the world). But they are by nature really hard to engage and even harder to keep engaged, especially through conventional approaches. One obvious fact is that any potentially successful outreach strategy targeting them has to involve social media, preferably with the help of top influencers.

“They are uncompromising, they change incredibly fast but they are true to their brands. In a word, they need to genuinely love you (as a brand, a product or a concept) and one can’t simply go phishing for them”, explains Njem before adding, “In that aspect, they’re fundamentally different from Millennials, who are more guided by their needs”.

Thus, anything that is destined to target Gen Z has to be authentic, engaging, creative, modern, colorful, moving and fun to watch. As well as offering a good deal for the price asked.

Rush & Reez estimates that at least 40% of their customer base in the coming 1-3 years will be Gen Z. “As an online-native brand, we understand that this segment of digital natives is the most involved when it comes to environmental impact and they are actively searching for brands with purpose, brands that represent their values and [that] care about what  they care about”, she says. In a similar vein, Hijazi believes like Njeim that “transparency” is one of the best assets to establish a sustainable relationship with Gen Z customers. “We are not just trying to sell clothes to them; we are promoting a brand destined for people who understand that fashion is more than an aesthetic, that over-consumption is a problem, and no other generation has been introduced to global crisis as early as gen Z”, she says.