Insights / May 2018

True to Self(ie) Part 1: Z DNA - Uncovering what makes Gen Z, Gen Z

Generation Z is the largest and most diverse generation in US history. For marketers and advertisers, here’s why that matters.

While Gen Z teens may be young (age 13-17), they’re a hugely influential group that’s already redefining both societal norms and brand-consumer relationships.

Today, Gen Z commands $44 billion in buying power, and they influence an additional $600 billion in how their households spend money.1 In fact, 96% of Gen Z parents say their teens influence family spending.2

96% of Gen Z parents say their teens influence family spending.

Gen Z plays an important role within their households, but they arguably play an even bigger one within their circles of friends. 70% of Gen Z consider their friends to be like family,3 and when it comes to their inner circle, 85% would prefer having a few very close friends rather than a large group they’re not as close to (15%).4 And with friends being the most influential factor in purchasing decisions, marketers should think about how close friend networks will influence their advertising campaigns.  

When we look more closely into who Gen Z is, their makeup is radically different from the generations before. In the US, 50% of Zs will be part of a minority race or ethnic group by 2020.5 This generation not only embraces inclusiveness, but they expect it from the people they meet and the brands they interact with.   

How Gen Z spends their “me time” differs from earlier generations as well. On average, the typical teen has seven hours of free time per weekday, and more than eleven hours on the weekends.3  The majority of them spend their ”me time” on social media (19%), listening to music (19%), or streaming their favorite shows or movies (18%).6 Surprisingly, how they spend their free time doesn’t change much when they’re hanging out with friends.3

How Gen Zs Spend Their Time
How Gen Zs Spend Their Time

When it comes to messaging Gen Z, advertisers should take note of the personality traits they value. The common misconception of this generation as entitled, beauty over brains, teen phone zombies stands in stark contrast to what teens actually believe to be important: smarts, authenticity, and spontaneity.3

Gen Z would rather...
Gen Z would rather...

Unsurprisingly, these attributes also mirror the qualities that Generation Z look for in the influencers they’d like to meet. This generation values qualities like being real, genuine, creative, innovative, and unique.3 This stands at odds with the popular advertising traits of the past, like sexy or glamorous.


Like every generation that’s come before, Zs have their own “slanguage” that they use on the regular. If it’s tastefully done, advertisers can tailor messaging to appeal to all bruhs, baes, and Gen Z-ers alike. Remember not to be extra — teens can sense inauthenticity from a mile away, and there’s nothing more cringe-inducing than a “How do you do, fellow kids?” advertisement. Do you understand, fam? Just kidding. But really. Bet.

With the friends they keep, values they live by, and the influence they hold, Gen Z has redefined the status quo. Advertisers looking to reach them have to understand that what  worked in the past may not work today, so changes in creative and strategy may be in order. To learn more about Gen Z, check out part 2, Technophiles, and Part 3, So on Brand, from our “True to Self(ie)” series where we uncover teens’ relationship with tech and reveal their top brands, attitudes towards advertising, and spending habits.

  1. Mintel, Activities Of Kids and Teens, November 2013
  2. Cassandra, The Modern Parents Report, 2016
  3. 2018 U.S. True To Self(ie) Cassandra Study commissioned by Snap Inc.
  4. Cassandra, The Gen Z Effect, 2017
  5. U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey 2017
  6. Cassandra, The Entertainers, 2016