Known as the succeeding generation of millennials, Generation Z (Gen Z for short) or centennials consists of people born during 1995-2010. By 2025, Gen Zers will make up 25% of the APAC population, forming a significant audience stratum. Gen Zers got access to the internet, smartphones, and social media from quite an early age, making them the first digital natives generation. And while one might think that targeting Gen Z would be a walk in the park, nothing could be further from the truth.

In the age of information overload and easy content availability, people are spoiled for choice. Being mindful of how they spend their time online, Gen Zers are aware of the paradox of choice and carefully choose how to consume content and whom to engage with. Therefore, many of the traditional marketing tactics are no longer effective for Gen Zers.

On average, Generation Z spends 2 hours, 55 minutes on social media daily. While brands might find the number is lucrative, it is not easy to grab their attention as they know how to navigate through online traps of ads and irrelevant messaging. A reliable way to connect with them is via involving people they trust, i.e., influencers.

In this article, we will look at the quirks of centennials and understand why influencer marketing is a surefire strategy to engage them.

How Gen Z Is Different From Other Generations

Millennials were coming of age during the late web 1.0 and the early web 2.0 era. Internet access wasn’t commonplace, and the Symbian smartphone era was booming.

On the other hand, Gen Zers grew up with these technological advancements. They saw the rise of social media platforms, smartphones, and the development of emerging technologies like the internet of things (IoT) and artificial reality/virtual reality (AR/VR).

The exposure to the technology in its late development and early maturity enabled Gen Zers to use these products during their most developed form.

Here is a glimpse of how Gen Z is different from its previous generations. 


Image source: McKinsey&Company

Gen Z relies less on traditional media and more on online channels. Instead of TV and radio, they prefer OTT and streaming platforms. A research by ClickInsights and Adobe found that the Gen Zers in the SEA region prefer spending 30 minutes daily on digital platforms. 

Image source: Southeast Asia Online Shopping in 2020: GenZs vs. Millennials

It can also be observed that the choice of social media differs among millennials and Gen Zers. For instance, while millennials prefer Facebook, Gen Z prefers Instagram.

Why Influencer Marketing Is the Future of Engagement

Business Insider Intelligence has estimated the global influencer marketing industry to grow from $8 billion in 2019 to $15 billion in 2022, almost doubling its growth within three years.

The pursuit of authenticity, uniqueness, and ethical consumption compels Gen Z to engage with honest, realistic, and rawer content. Influencer marketing adequately addresses these requirements, which signifies its growth in the coming years. In this section, we’ll look at why influencer marketing makes a potent medium for engaging with Gen Z.

1. Gen Zers Are Tough to Reach Via Ads

It’s difficult to impress Gen Z via advertisements considering their pragmatic view of looking at the world.

Centennials are heavy users of smartphones and social media, but they vehemently despise video ads and know how to avoid them, according to Kantar Millward Brown’s AdReaction. Although Gen Z doesn’t spend much time on traditional media, they don’t mind outdoor, cinema, magazines, and newspaper ads.

That doesn’t mean that online ads are entirely ineffective. In fact, AdReaction also identified that Gen Z loves advertisements that feature celebrities and influencers. Especially, ones that feature internet celebrities are well received by them due to the online affinity and the connect influencers have established with their audience.

2. Gen Z Spends More Time on Visual Social Media Platforms

While YouTube has always been a leading platform, in recent years, Gen Z has also flocked to other visual social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Image source: Kantar

The most recent addition to this list is TikTok, which has managed to amass 150 million (40% of its total users) from the SEA region.

The prime reason for using these platforms is that these channels provide individuals to express themselves through videos and photos to a wider audience base.

Brands have scouted this opportunity and are using Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok to connect with the Gen Z audience through influencer marketing campaigns. 

3. Social Media and Influencers Shape Gen Z’s Purchase Decisions

In recent years, influencers have been segregated into categories like celebrities, micro-influencers, and nano-influencers. When it comes to buying products, Gen Z seeks influencers’ opinions on clothing items, beauty products, shoes, games, apps, and other accessories. 

Micro- and nano-Influencers have been successful in striking one-to-one connect with their audience and shaping their purchase decision. Meltwater’s 2019 report titled Beyond Skin Deep analyzed social mentions of top beauty and cosmetics brands. The report states that users rely on niche influencers rather than celebrities due to their honest and credible reviews and storytelling. Similarly, Kantar and Mobile Marketer’s research found that 70% of Gen Zers have purchased products based on a nano-influencer’s recommendation. 

Social media plays a crucial role in the buyer’s journey. While people have been using social media to research and seek opinions about future purchases, the rise of social commerce has enabled users to complete the purchase through social media itself. And Gen Z in SEA is adapting to this shift, where 50% of Gen Zers in ClickInsights and Adobe’s report said that they use social media to shop online

Image source: Southeast Asia Online Shopping in 2020: GenZs vs. Millennials

4. Gen Z Prefers Authenticity Over Boilerplate Messaging

Gen Z values creativity, authenticity, and diversity and inclusion. They expect the brands to have similar values and stand up for a cause. It’s not just the brand voice or quirkiness of the brand’s social media presence. Rather than receiving typical PR-speak or template messaging, centennials appreciate authentic brands with similar values.

While addressing global issues, social movements, and causes, rather than amplifying just social media messages, brands need to engage with venerable personalities involved in the relevant issues. Having a respected figure communicating on behalf of the brand builds trust and respect, ensuring that they are not doing just lip-service but being a catalyst for change.

What Does This Mean to Marketers?

While influencer marketing had muddied the waters a few years back, as the industry is heading towards maturity, brands can agree that influencer marketing is poised to be the future of Gen Z engagement.

In Mediakix’s 2019 Influencer Marketing Survey, respondents preferred Instagram (89%), YouTube (70%), and Facebook (45%) as the most useful social media channels. In short, brands looking to connect with Gen Z through influencer marketing need to bank on visual platforms. 

While evaluating such trends and stats, don’t forget to consider the niche you work in. For instance, although Twitch isn’t as massive as Instagram, it’s undoubtedly the best platform to connect with avid gamers. Similarly, TikTok is all the rage among the Gen Z segment in SEA.

Gen Z stands up for causes that matter and challenges stereotypes and outdated beliefs. OK boomer is considered a snarky response to dismiss controversial views held by baby boomers, Gen Zers are doing their part to enlighten their seniors of the pressing concerns of society.

Brands need to be aware of Gen Zers’ this mindset and ideate their campaigns accordingly. Prioritizing honest communication, roping in the right influencers, and using the results to optimize the campaign will ensure that your target audience stays appropriately engaged with your brand.

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