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Generation Z and the Future of Print Marketing

Nicholas Brown
Nicholas Brown
Dec 09, 2016

Here comes the most self-reliant and technologically proficient generation in history

Just when marketers and small businesses have finally figured out what millennials want, here comes the most self-reliant and technologically proficient generation in history: Generation Z.

Generation Z is loosely defined as people born after 1997. Most of them are currently in high school and college, but in only a few years Generation Z will make up a full one-fifth of the workforce. Their upbringing was shaped by the Great Recession, low unemployment rates, attentive parenting, and most of all near lifelong access to the Internet and tablet and smartphone technology. These influences have greatly shaped their principles and the way they socialize and make decisions regarding the culture and products that interest them. 

Marketers might initially think that millennials and Gen Z have so much in common that the tactics that work for millennials will also work for Gen Zs. But trends are already showing that’s a big misstep for business owners and marketers alike. How do these two generations differ?

Here are some interesting and sometimes surprising qualities that set Gen Z apart from millennials (and older generations).

    • Focus on career and financial stability. Studies show that Generation Z is quite career-minded and already more concerned about finding a job and establishing financial stability. Not as motivated by money, they are more focused on advancing their career and prefer having a great working relationship with an employer.
    • Strong family influence. They are highly connected with their family, even more so than millennials, and are more likely to follow their parents’ footsteps when it comes to career choices. Most Gen Zs were brought up with a two-way type of communication with their parents. This type of parenting results in a relationship built on mutual respect and trust. Gen Zs appreciate the adult treatment and parents are just glad that the doors of communication are always open with their kids.
    • Realistic. As a generation always tuned in on social media channels, they have a more global perspective and is more aware of the real issues of the world. And as kids who grew up in the recession, Gen Z is not surprisingly more realistic than optimistic as compared to Gen Y.
    • More thrifty. According to Ernst & Young, 57 percent of Gen Z would rather save money than spend it immediately. Gen Z values money more than millennials, therefore thriftier than previous generations and also much more likely to influence their parents’ spending. With Gen Gen Zs, Business Insider writes, “the parents might not be price-sensitive, but the kids are going to educate upwards, whereas [with] millennials, we didn’t see that same type of behavior,” she said. Gen Zs want value from their purchases and are less loyal to underperforming brands than their older millennial counterparts.
    • Value brick-and-mortar experiences. A cursory glance at Generation Z would lead you to believe they are all digital, all the time. But despite being raised around the internet, Gen Z aren’t as likely to shop exclusively online for a product as millennials. Gen Z prefers to engage with products at brick and mortar stores to seek product quality reassurance, trust as well as check out the overall brand experience before buying.
    • An appreciation for physical media. Despite assumptions to the contrary, Generation Z isn’t on board with abandoning the physical space. Another recent survey of 300 college students in four countries found that 92 percent would rather do their coursework in print, rather than on tablets.
    • Prefer personal communication. On the same note, Millennial Branding and Randstad reports that 53 percent of Gen Z respondents prefer personal communications with their managers over emailing or instant messaging.
    • High expectations. Born in an era of ample technology, this generation expects everything to work and gets disappointed if things don’t. They’re used to being treated with respect and equality that anything fewer upsets them. What’s worse is that Gen Z is less forgiving compared to millennials who would give brands a second chance if they fall short. You can say that Gen Z does not have the same sense of brand loyalty like millennials do. It has been said that retailers should use Generation Z’s high standard of quality and value as a barometer to attune your brand across all age demographics.
    • Despite their lifelong access to technology, there’s good reason to believe that Gen Z will appreciate the tangible reassurance of print media based on how they value physical experiences. Let’s take a look at how the benefits of print play on the qualities and preferences of Gen Z.
    • Gen Zs need tools to help them to focus. Growing up surrounded by multiple screens at one time all the time, Gen Z recognizes the need to unplug once in awhile. Call it a valuable skillset but doing homework for two different courses on the laptop and tablet simultaneously, while watching videos, listening to music, or keeping up a conversation on Facebook and text requires a lot of brainpower. Printed media is great in part because of its distance from distraction. Much in the way printed coursework and research articles allow Gen Z to focus their attention on the task, your brand gets their undivided attention once they have your print ad in their hands.
    • Preferred learning media. The Washington Post writes about how digital natives prefer print especially when it comes to studying. A Student Monitor survey reports that 87 percent of student textbook spending were on printed books. The appeal of print may be due to how much better readers comprehend the printed text versus digital copy. Readers tend to skim the onscreen text, whereas physical text encourages more engaged and in-depth reading. Conveying your brand’s message through your demographic’s preferred medium increases the likelihood of a powerful connection.
    • Cross-channel communications. For a generation accustomed to seeing everything digital, print media is something they see as non-traditional marketing. Play on Gen Z’s attraction to variety when you use printed marketing media to provide them with a refreshing outside-the-box perspective of your brand’s message.
    • Authentic media. Young people have a naturally keen smell for inauthentic content. Having grown up with the digital landscape, both Z and millennials value authenticity in a way that previous generations did not. In a world where web publishing is ubiquitous and misleading content is everywhere, print is generally thought of as more authoritative and authentic, which adds to its appeal for young people.
    • Tactile experience. The sensory elements that make print unique, from touch to sight to smell, make it especially appealing for people whose connection with digital deprives them of that very crucial stimulus. For Gen Zs, tangible media gives them a physical way to assess the quality or personality of the product, which correlates to their love of using brick and mortar store experiences for setting value.
    • Longer shelf life. The physical nature of printed marketing media affords it a longer shelf life than digital ads, which come and go in seconds. Whether you’re advertising with flyers, postcards, or magazine ads, the physical artifact is there until it’s put into the recycling bin, which means more time for Gen Zs–who are said to have an eight-second attention span but love finding the best deal–to consider your brand.
    • Personalization. Print is a highly customizable medium on which you can tailor personalized messages that speak to Gen Z. Tactile print leaves room for media interaction (ie. puzzles, quizzes) not to mention the possibilities for different format opportunities. Well laid out print media is straightforward, not cluttered, and can present information respectfully and up front, which plays into Gen Zs instant gratification mentality.
    All this goes to show that no matter the great leaps and bounds technology are undertaking in the 21st century, print seems to be the only media that satisfies something naturally ingrained in our human psyche. And just for that reason, it will likely have a firm place in marketing for generations to come. Though the messaging and design behind print ads will adapt to evolving preferences, the fundamentals of physical media remain the same. The innate attraction that digital natives have towards empirical forms of media confirms the staying power of print.


Photo credit: garagestock/Shutterstock


Nicholas Brown
Nicholas Brown
The proper application of the advancements in print technology can open up opportunities for creativity, efficiency and growth for both individuals and businesses. is driven by the passion to break past the price barrier and make print available and affordable to everyone. Nicholas Brown is a proud member of the LD Products content team which is a group of individuals who share the same goals and is dedicated to researching and writing about how best to utilize print to facilitate productivity in the home and office setting.