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Gen Z Marketing

Deciphering gen Z: Targeting and segmentation must evolve with the times

By Luke Hodson, Founder

NERDS Collective


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January 8, 2024 | 6 min read

Are old-school methods of segmentation in the face of gen Z’s diversity of thought and identity? Luke Hodson of Nerds Collective thinks so.

A young woman wearing sunglasses on a train

Will gen Z change the rules of segmentation? / Sofia Lyu via Unsplash

Brand strategists and marketers face the challenge of achieving authentic and culturally informed engagement with gen Z.

Usually, we’re brought in by brands to help them understand who their core youth customer is, and then to help identify a strategic target that can drive their sales forecast. But what’s always surprising is the incredibly shallow, misaligned, and conflicting consumer understanding across various business units. Product teams design based on one idea; marketing teams create communications against another consumer target; and sales teams sell against yet another.

These consumer insights are often so broad, unfocused, and outdated that it’s no surprise to see brands finding themselves misaligned, lacking wholesaler confidence, and struggling with poorly engaged marketing campaigns and product sell-through.

We know that gen Z breaks down the conventional frameworks of consumer behavior that brands have traditionally relied on, which necessitates an innovative rethinking of our industry's approach to youth understanding and engagement. Traditional demographic indicators like age, gender, and location are now secondary to a more intricate understanding of young consumers. To succeed in product development and connection planning, all business units must have a clear, unified, and multifaceted understanding of their entire consumer hierarchy.

The multifaceted nature of gen Z

We are at the cusp of a paradigm shift around the diverse and complex personalities within young audiences. Gen Z exhibits a rich spectrum of behavioral, cognitive, and emotional characteristics – all influenced by a blend of biological and environmental factors. This complexity renders outdated marketing models obsolete, urging us to adopt a more sophisticated strategy that delves into the depths of individual identities, preferences, and aspirations.

Our research underscores the importance of individual personality traits in effectively segmenting, profiling, and identifying the most effective connection routes and cultural touchpoints to engage with gen Z. Cultural values, ethical beliefs, familial ties, and peer dynamics all significantly influence their character and identity formation. This intricate interplay of elements shapes their viewpoints, preferences, and brand loyalties, resulting in a variety of interests unique to each gen Z individual.

Strategies for engaging gen Z

Gen Z is characterized by an extraordinary diversity of thought, expression, and interests. Our work reveals a generation immersed in a variety of activities and cultural pursuits, each reflecting facets of their identity and cultural preferences. Engaging this generation demands a sophisticated approach that appreciates the subtle interplay of internal motivations, external influences, and cultural aspirations that mold their worldviews.

As we venture into this new territory, we have to evolve methodologies that transcend traditional marketing tactics. Our goal is to cultivate a dialogue that authentically resonates with the core of gen Z’s complex identity in environments, both physical and digital, that are native to them, using communications and creative that reflect their cultural cues. We recognize that authenticity and narrow-casted engagement are not just preferred but essential in cutting through the attention economy. Understanding the nuances surrounding your strategic targets’ multifaceted identities – their unique mix of influences and interests – is key to forging meaningful connections on their terms.

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Beyond segmentation

The new era of understanding young audiences involves a profound, nuanced approach that goes beyond the superficiality of traditional demographic segmentation. It acknowledges the rich, varied, and intricate tapestry of factors shaping Gen Z: peer groups, contemporary and ancestral culture, lived experiences, family influence, cultural influences, and status aspirations, opening pathways for more consumer-centric and impactful interactions.

For brands and marketers aiming to authentically connect with this dynamic generation, it starts with a deep understanding of the individuals within it, each with their distinct story, aspirations, cultural standing, and worldviews.

Gen Z Marketing

Content by The Drum Network member:

NERDS Collective

NERDS Collective was founded by Luke Hodson In 2013 as a specialist agency that places brands at the frontline of street culture through hyper-nuanced consumer insights,...

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