The Elusive Gen Z

Generation Z is classified as people born between 1995 and 2015 with ages ranging from 4-24. These people are typically high school or college students. What sets this demographic apart from the rest of the age classifications? They have all grown up entirely in the digital age. It may sound strange when you first hear it since most of us have adapted to the ever-present technological devices that consume our everyday life. Although we may use them now, non-Gen Zs remember a day without it. For instance, I am 26 years-old and did not receive my first phone until I was a freshman in high school. No, it was not a brand-new iPhone that you can connect your email to, surf the web, and tweet at all hours of the day. It was a Nokia flip phone that only made calls since my parents thought that text messaging was of the devil. It is unreal to think that my neighbor, upon entering the fifth grade, received an iPhone 6 so that he could communicate with his parents to pick him up from various sporting practices.

This is the generation that the current market must penetrate. They are our next consumer base and some of them have already entered the workforce using their dollars in our economy. These consumers do not remember a day when they were at an age to make informed decisions, that they did not have the world’s information inside of a front pocket. So, what do these people like? How do we get them to by our stuff? I will tell you that most research can attest to this fact, they do not like advertisements. According to Alex Gallagher in his article 4 QSR marketing tactics to take on the Gen Z challenge, 69% of Gen Z said the best ads are ones they can skip. This generation has been tagged as elusive and unmarketable due to their natural filter to advertisements. That is a huge problem for marketing agents and advertisers. How do we reach these people?

Gallagher attempts to tackle this conundrum through a trial survey of 1,800 Gen Z students in the U.S. Gallagher based his study on advertisements in the food items and services industry. His hypothesis to cracking the code to Gen Z’s is very interesting. His first tactic for catching the elusive Gen Z is to make it social (Gallagher 2018). This demographic tends to rely on family and friends for recommendations of foods and services. Gen Zs are more likely to trust the opinions of friends and family than an advertisement seen in passing. They are so bombarded with information across all media that they rely on people they trust to sift through choices.

Gen Z is also very non-traditional when it comes to advertising. As mentioned previously, the best ad to them is one that can be skipped. With advances in ad-blocking applications in browsers and alternative media options for users to toggle between, the odds are stacked against advertising. Gallagher suggests making it non-traditional. Use campaigns on social media creating user-interactive content that drives traffic to your pages. If the content is shared, the youngsters will come. Use actual pictures of your food and create content generated campaigns and contests that get Gen Z’s into the door (Gallagher 2018).

Another tip to take into consideration, make your advertising spontaneous. Gen Zs as a whole are on the lookout to try new restaurants almost monthly. This is incredible when only 5% plan their meals on a daily basis (Gallagher 2018). Their lack of planning creates a big opportunity for advertisers to be spontaneous considering almost every Gen Z-er carries a smart phone with them every day. Targeted advertising through social media is an incredible tool. You can also send banners and alert messages through application software for your business. This generates an interest in your restaurant during meal hours when Gen Zs begin weighing their food options.

Lastly, and probably most importantly, Gallagher says to make it quick (2018). Gen Zs on average have the shortest attention span of all current generations. Advertisers have an incredibly small window of opportunity, around 8 seconds, to make an impression on this demographic. Be sure to make it fast and make it enticing to get the Gen Zs in the door!

Jennings Johnson is a last semester senior at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington pursuing a degree in Communication Studies with a concentration in integrated marketing communication and organizational communication. Johnson also completed a business minor.


Gallagher, A. (2018, Mar 07). 4 QSR marketing tactics to take on the gen Z challenge. QSR Web.News Features Retrieved from