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Volume 21 No. 6
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The Sit-Down: Candy Lee, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University

Who are the members of Gen Z, what drives them, and how should businesses market to them? A sports marketing professor offers her insights.

When you take a look at their social networks, you’ll see a slight difference between the millennials — especially the older millennials — and the Gen Z’ers.

When I look at their top activities, you will also see how big and important music is for the Gen Z’ers. We try to incorporate music into a lot of what we do.

They actually read and they desire to be kept informed. They care about technology and diversity and are very inclusive themselves, but the Gen Z’ers care a lot about money.


Millennials are a little less conscious about money, while Gen Z’ers are more conscious of money and what it’ll bring them. They care about logos.

When you think about Gen Z’s and their inclusivity, part of it is that they’re the most diverse generation.

Since 2000, there’s been a 50 percent increase in youth who say they’re multiracial. The number of Americans who feel that they’re mixed, even white and Asian, grew by 87 percent. So, this idea that you can’t be typed and that there’s some barrier to your success has gone away.

They’re very interested in entrepreneurship.

[Gen Z’ers] like things customized and personalized to them. … Customization has become very important.

The New York Times’ largest sector of readership is millennials, and 50 percent of traffic comes from this age group. When you think about their need for information, part of it is at their fingertips and part of it comes from traditional media and sources.

It used to be that if you wanted to know the weather, you’d go to or the local news station. You had a certain brand loyalty. Now, you can just ask Alexa the weather and she tells you and you have no loyalty. The worry with voice activation is that it eliminates brand loyalty.

There’s also virtual and augmented reality. I’m a little skeptical — we created a lot of content at school — and this donning of a headset feels awkward. When you’re capable of seeing a great scene without having to put this “Martian” gear on, I think that will make a huge difference.

People wanting to watch sports in a bar, gym or place with other people so that you congregate. … Because of technology, we all feel so isolated that we can use the opportunity to get together and experience things … with our friends.

You need to be tech-savvy. It’s easy to say, but many of us don’t follow that. Fifty-seven percent of Generation Z use messaging apps every time they use their phones. In fact, 50 percent download about four new apps a month.


[Apps] are still going very strongly. It’s interesting that a quarter of them use apps to communicate with a business, so it’s not declining just yet.

There are ways to get the smallest portfolio of customers into a

segment that will receive like-minded communication and ensure that those get scheduled ahead of time with an editorial calendar, etc.

Gaming is important to this generation, and it’s a lot of fun. You should consider badges and streaks. Who visits the venue the most? Who follows the game? Who is a fantasy player? What kind of leaderboards can I make? That can all be done by programming algorithms. If that’s not being done, it should be.

There’s a wonderful billboard in Germany where if you’re smoking on the street and someone passes it, the person on the billboard coughs and says, “Don’t smoke anymore.” This idea of interactivity and personalization happens in a lot of different ways.

Older millennials are using Facebook because they’re consuming material and information about their friends. Younger millennials and older Gen Z’ers are using Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook to communicate and create.

Younger Gen Z’s are really using Snapchat to create and having fun with it. Forty-five percent of young Gen Z’s use Snapchat more than five times a day, and it’s growing.

They think about Snapchat as sharing, mostly with their closest friends. It’s really with less than 15 people, which is really different than Facebook.

The idea that people’s attention span has narrowed is not new to this generation, but it’s particularly true that you don’t want inconvenience. Gen Z switched apps 27 times an hour, so you need to be sure that you’re working through all of the platforms.

There’s a book called “Ten Types of Innovation.” I think we sometimes get stuck on innovation as just a product, but it could be how you market and how you do the customization process or target new audiences.