How to Understand Gen Z's Unique Traits and Behaviors Going into 2023

January 5, 2023

Gen Z is collaborative, yet private. Emotional, but unattached. Individual, though diverse. How can brands properly understand and market to this consumer segment?

The basics of Gen Z marketing likely aren’t changing any time soon, but many brands have yet to pin down this mysterious generation. The generation values a multitude of things, like diversity, community, and honesty.

But, what do these values mean? How do those statement inform your messaging strategy in 2023? Allow us to translate. We have been relentlessly studying and creating content for this perplexing population and pulled together 5 of Gen Z’s top traits to keep in mind as you jump into campaign planning for 2023.

The 5 Gen Z Values to Keep Top of Mind in 2023:

1. Inclusivity and Individuality are not dueling concepts but rather importantly intertwined

Inclusivity is one of the most critical values for Gen Z. They are diverse in their sexuality, race, religion, and ethnicity, just to name a few. Looking at race specifically, a Pew Research study executed in 2022 found that 48% of Gen Z individuals are considered “racial or ethnic minorities,” compared to 39% of Millennials who were considered the same.

Many in this generation feel like they are more than a “Male” or “Female” and see themselves as more fluid than the generations before them. One in six Gen Z individuals has reported being either transgender or queer, compared to one in ten Millennials. Because of this, nearly 60% of Gen Z individuals believe there should be more “gender-neutral” options on online forms that ask for an individual’s gender, and 35% say they know someone who uses they/them pronouns–more than any generation before them.

With these facts in mind, education, protection, and acceptance of these identifications has become significantly more widespread with this generation as well as expected by the people and brands they support.

As counterintuitive as it may seem at first, individuality is just as crucial to Gen Z as inclusivity is. This is largely because of the generation's strong desire to be more than a binary number, a simple and easy check box that can be understood from a mile away. This generation yearns for deep contradiction and elusiveness. They pride themselves in being complex and multi-faceted.

Previous generations may have felt pressure to conform to certain social norms or expectations in the past, the same is not true for Gen Z. An emphasis on individuality and inclusivity has allowed this generation to embrace and showcase their interests, values, and personalities to a broader audience, without fear or social pressures.

2. Their online communities have become analogous to Gen Z's identity 

Anonymity is a must for Gen Z, and online communities are the vehicle for this movement. As digital natives, Gen Zers have grown up in a highly connected world, with access to social media and other online platforms that allow them to connect with people from all over the world. While most people from senior generations were raised with access to the internet, Gen Z was raised “on” the internet. This is why 61% percent of Gen-Zers say online communities are a big part of their identity. 

Take Discord, for example. On the popular community platform, you can find people passionate about similar subjects on topical “servers,” where anyone can message, share live video, or voice chat with their community. 

3. Gen Z will choose raw authenticity over perfection, everytime

In a recent study, 67% of Gen Z agreed that being true to one’s values and beliefs makes a brand cool. What is the result of having the coveted “coolness” factor? Money in the bank. A 2022 report from EY found that 89% of Gen Z would purchase from a company whose brands align with their values over one that doesn’t, regardless of cost or quality. Read that again.

Gen Z values authenticity because they grew up with technology and social media totally underpinning their most formidable years. Gen Z has seen firsthand how platforms can be used to present and elevate skewed or inauthentic versions of reality. This is why 60% of Gen Z believe brands cannot be trusted. 

They research each brand they support and can easily sniff out when they are being duped—and they will most certainly let their friends know what they find. This underlying, initial distrust Gen Z has for brands means the more authentic and transparent—the more human—your brand is, the more willing they are to invest in your products. Again: Money in the bank.

4. Privacy is a major factor that drives Gen Z’s online behaviors

A report by FreedomPay found that for Gen Z, the average willingness to share data (on a scale where 1 equals ‘extremely unlikely to share,’ and 6 equals ‘extremely likely to share,’) ranged from a score of 5.24 for gender data to just below 2 for GPS location, social security number, and medical record data.

Because Gen Zers are growing up in a world where the internet is a core part of daily life and personal information can be shared (or leaked) with total ease, they’ve observed the positive and negative implications of sharing or storing information online, such as credit card info, current location, and passwords. 

As a result, Gen Zers are more aware of the potential risks and drawbacks of sharing certain personal information online and hold what they can close to their heart to mitigate possible hacks or theft. This means companies must demonstrate total security and respect for privacy if they want Gen Z to disclose their personal information without risk or worry.

5. Social Media gives Gen Z their creative edge 

83% of Gen Z would describe their generation as “creative.” So, where do these young creatives turn for inspiration? Social media, squarely. More than half (55%) report that they find social apps to be a more creative space than their offline experiences. This would make sense, as social media is an easy facilitator for discovering, co-creating, and sharing with a broad audience. 

For example, just look at TikTok or Pinterest. Whether it’s cooking, painting, dancing, or interior design, a search like “Italian dinner recipes with chicken” results in a thousand different ideas that Gen Z can modify and share back to the platform. Their recipe could inspire another community member, and a creative, collaborative cycle is born. The process continues as members of the Gen Z community empower each other through co-creation and discovery.

Because they see social media as a collaborative place for creativity, they are given a creative edge that other generations have not tapped into yet.

In all, what do Gen Z's online traits and behaviors mean for you?

As you know, Gen Z is complex to define. Yet, when you push through the internet-jargon, meme language, algo-speaking, and contradictory hot takes surrounding Gen Z, what they want is ultimately uniquely simple: 

  • Gen Z wants brands to reach them where they are without falsely amplifying their values. 
  • Gen Z wants to be embraced for the creative, dynamic community members that they are. 

There you have it. The keys to the Gen Z kingdom. As a company full of members of the Gen Z community, we understand exactly what Gen Z wants and how to reach them. Send these four insights, as well as these two closing bullet points, to your team, and refer back to them when you start thinking about connecting with Gen Z in the future. 

Interested in talking in more detail about how to integrate these insights into your future campaigns? Hit reply, and let’s start a conversation today.

Close this Article

Hey! Let's chat

We're digital natives dropping the brands of the future.

Send us a message

💬 Message Sent
Oops! Please check your connection.

More to Explore

No items found.