A wise man (my dad) once told me that, “You can tell what’s most important to someone by observing two things: What they spend their time doing. And what they spend their money on.”
Over time, I’ve found that statement—like so many others from my dad—to be extremely accurate and valuable advice. And as a marketing professional—I’ve applied that lesson to help me have a better understanding of the things that are most important to various consumer bases.
One consumer base in particular for which that advice could really help brand execs have a better understanding of—is Generation Z (also known as Gen Zers). For years, chief executives of brands around the world have been rendered bemused—trying to understand how to position their products to appeal to what many believe is the most finicky generation that has ever existed—Gen Z.
But to truly understand Gen Z—you should start by simply observing what’s most important to them—which is what they spend their time and their money on. Here’s a spoiler to what they spend a great deal of their time on—social media.
As far as what they spend their money on—research and data shows that these are the types of products that Gen Z shoppers are willing to pay extra for in order to acquire.
Products from purpose-based brands
According to the second Business Of Sustainability index by Greenprint, 80% of younger Americans are willing to pay more money for products that are environmentally friendly than alternatives that aren’t.
This data coincides with a study by Exasol, which showed that 86% of consumers cited a company’s credentials in climate change, diversity and inclusion, and ethical business practices played a key role in whether or not they’d do business with an organization.
More so than their predecessors—Gen Zers have shown a willingness to pay more for products from brands that align with their environmental and social ideologies—even during periods of inflation.
Each month, some of the biggest brands in the world take part in their own exhibition of salesmanship via exclusive releases.
Whether it’s the release of the latest Apple iPhone—which is usually in such short supply on the day of the product’s release (many Gen Z consumers are such fans of the phone—they often sleep in front of retail stores overnight in order to be one of the first in line in hopes of purchasing the product while it's still in stock).
Or, the Jordan Brand releasing the latest retro Air Jordan sneakers—driving Gen Zers in a frenzy trying to refresh their SNKRS app every other minute after the item goes on sale in an effort to purchase a pair.
Gen Zers enthusiastically participate in the exhibitions of exclusive releases and are more than willing to pay extra money to purchase exclusive products. In fact, the more exclusive that a product is—the likelier it is that it'll be more expensive—which only makes Gen Zers covet the product that much more.
Hypebeasts (people who are devoted to acquiring trendy fashion items) around the world see exclusive products as status symbols. And in the days where clout is greater than currency to most Gen Zers—the most exclusive products are expected to generate the most clout—which means money is no object to obtain them.
Case in point, earlier this year—a padded denim jacket by Balenciaga recently appeared online and sold out instantly after the product was seen worn by Kanye West at Paris Fashion Week. With a price tag of $ $1,950 USD—the jacket became the desire of Gen Z hypebeasts around the globe hoping for the chance to purchase the exclusive item.
Those suggested by sneezers
Hundreds of centuries ago, way before the word “marketing” ever existed—cavemen hunted some of the most dangerous behemoths on the planet for food—as well as warmth. As the cavemen encountered new predators in the wild—they developed their own techniques for the most effective ways to hunt them.
Those cavemen that were fortunate enough to encounter the newfound predators, hunt them, and live to tell others about it—were the very first versions of what we call today, “Early Adopters” also known as “Sneezers.”
In his book, Unleashing The Ideavirus, author Seth Godin defines sneezers as the people who are more likely to tell their friends about a great new idea. “These people are at the heart of the ideavirus. Identifying and courting sneezers is a key success factor for ideamerchants.”
Sneezers—back in the caveman days, were so effective for the same reason that early adopters are so effective today…they’re the ones that inform the tribe on ways to survive. For the caveman—survival consisted of being the first to tell others in the tribe how to hunt dangerous predators.
But for Gen Zers, sneezers are the ones that ensure the survival of their social status (which is extremely important to them) by being the first to tell them which products to purchase in order to make their lives better in one way or another.
In a June 2021 survey, 65% of Gen Z adult respondents said that a recommendation from a friend or family member were the two most trusted sources for product suggestions.
The great thing for brands is that Gen Zers aren’t just more likely to purchase a product suggested by someone who they know that tried it first—they’re also more inclined to spend extra money on that product if the person who recommended it to them is deemed hip or cool. In other words—influential.
This especially applies to men—who according to ION, are more likely to spend $500 or more than women are on a product without seeing it beforehand—when someone they deem influential promotes it.