Gen Z, With Their "Instagram" Lives, Are Driven By Style

According to researcher Jason Dorsey, Gen Z is “the most photographed generation in the world’s history.” Gen Z members 17 and under are also the first multicultural majority generation in America as of 2020, with Hispanics being the largest multicultural segment at roughly half.  Our country’s changeover to a multicultural majority continues with all persons under 35 by 2028 and all persons under 50 by 2033.

Gen Z often looks for style-related brands that provide both savings and sustainability. The current thrifting trend leverages a trio of top values: style, savings, and sustainability.  According to a study by the Hispanic Marketing Council (HMC), 74 percent of Gen Zers and their parents (ages 13 to 49) love to thrift, skewing mostly female among non-Hispanics yet gender-neutral with Hispanics. According to UNIDAYS data, secondhand purchases are up 46% since 2017, largely attributed to Gen Z. 

HMC’s study found that style is more important than price or savings with many.  Among the 92 percent of Gen Zers and their parents who agreed that some things matter more than price, style trumped price with 43 percent of non-Hispanic Black ages 13 to 17s and 36 percent of Hispanic and non-Hispanic white teens, respectively.  Style, as a value, can also override other important Gen Z values, such as sustainability, and if you merge style and savings together, sustainability can lose.



It may spur some Gen Z guilt, but “fast fashion” retailers such as Shein, Zara, Asos and Fashion Nova have enticed teens with disposable fashion at low prices using a mix of pop culture celebrities like Cardi B, leading online fashion and lifestyle influencers and a virtual army of unpaid content creators, mostly on Instagram. Fashion Nova truly stands out among multicultural women. According to Refinery 29, “Fashion Nova cracked the code” due to “its influencer network…a demographic of people often systematically excluded from the fashion industry—more often than not, women of color.”

Fashion & lifestyle (F&L) as a category can be an obsession with Gen Z, much as technology was for Millennials and Gen X.  How they look, the lifestyle they portray and the brands they associate with on social media are all mega-important, forging their identity as they seek “social” security. Gen Z is quick to share whether they are a Nike or Vans aficionado, but unlike Millennials who declared their allegiance to Android or iPhone in an adversarial way, whatever you choose is “all good” with Gen Zers.

HMC’s research also found that F&L celebs and influencers spur brand trial and purchase, in both F&L and non-F&L categories, particularly among Hispanics.  Fifty-five percent of Hispanic and 37 percent of non-Hispanic teens said they are “more likely to try, buy and use” an influencer-endorsed product or service “versus a traditional ad.”  If that endorsement is known to be unpaid, the numbers rise to 69 percent for Hispanics and 52 percent for non-Hispanics.  Additionally, the majority of influencers followed by everyone ages 13 to 34 were people of color; eight out of 10 for non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics and 53 percent for Non-Hispanic whites.  

Brands need to woo the young and style-focused multicultural majority Gen Z.  After all, they wield a surprising amount of purchasing power—a whopping $143 billion (ages  7 to 21) in direct spending plus up to an additional $333 billion in indirect spending influence within their families, according to a data analysis by Barkley. According to the Cassandra Report, 93 percent of parents say their children influence family and household purchases. Hispanic Gen Zers wield a unique power over the pocketbook due to heightened family responsibility roles in their households, with 28 percent more likely to have made a household online purchase in the last week than non-Hispanic teens and 89 percent more likely to have made a purchase yesterday.

It is critical that brands embed cultural marketing specialists into their marketing team and process from the start to fully grasp the cultural insights, drivers, values, and behaviors of the powerful multicultural majority segment. After all, just like Fashion Nova “cracked the code,” don’t miss out on the $5 trillion opportunity multicultural communities provide.

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