Gen Z & AI: A Complicated Relationship For Brands To Tap

With so many exciting new generative AI tools available, brands are eager to jump in and apply them in their marketing. But while the opportunities to shape storytelling and imagery, not to mention data and targeting are boundless, the questions marketers need to ask is “How does my audience feel about AI?”

If GenZ is your target, it’s clear that they have a complicated relationship with AI and that brands looking to adopt more AI tools in their advertising should proceed with caution. In conversations with 40 diverse Gen Z tastemakers and opinion leaders around the country on the subject of AI and advertising, they revealed the following insights:

Where’s the me in AI?  For Gen Z, the process of creation is just as, if not more, important than the final product. The time and energy they put in a project produces a sense of pride and ownership. This thinking also applies to brands’ use of AI. It has to be used to amplify an idea. This market is more invested in a product or ad when they understand its source. One marketer getting it right is NotCo, which incorporates the use of AI into its storytelling to bring a concept to life.



AI is Ok for play and productivity, but not to move the cultural dial. While Gen Z recognize AI’s promise of greater productivity and support with work-related tasks, they wouldn’t qualify any product of AI as truly creative. However, from a “play” perspective, when brands like Heinz are asking an AI generator to create images of ketchup, the novelty of the technology does invite experimentation and these early encounters can be entertaining.   

It’s hard for AI to feel empathy and compassion. As a non-human, AI has no lived experience, emotions, compassion, perspective, intention, passion, or energy. There is nothing authentic there with which Gen Z can identify, purpose to rally behind, nor process to make it relatable or appealing.

More frightening than promising. Gen Z is worried about AI’s potential for harm. Employment is a salient concern for those about to join the workforce or just in the nascent phase of their careers, and many fear AI will eliminate jobs.

As one of our panelists said: “I am going to be looking for work after graduation, so of course I want there to be opportunities when I get there.” We saw the Gen Z attributes of socially conscious and pro-labor emerge as well. They are concerned about the marketplace, in general, and how other people might be displaced.

Walk, don’t run. Brands should approach generative AI with caution. At this point, Gen Z doesn’t seem to show an overwhelming interest in it. Hence, brands should only consider adopting it if it aligns with their strategy. Enthusiastically embracing the technology without a clear advantage might make brands seem out-of-touch and unrelatable.

So does Gen Z want to put the breaks on AI? Not really, but the inclusion of AI in advertising should thus be done purposefully, and make sure to appeal to humans as opposed to tech enthusiasts.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications