Gone in 8 Seconds: A Cautionary Tale of Marketing to Gen Z

Gone in 8 Seconds: A Cautionary Tale of Marketing to Gen Z


That may be the most important number that you take away from this story.  You have 8 seconds to grab Gen Z’s attention.  Just let that sink in a little.  Makes you long for the whopping 12 seconds we had with the Millennials, doesn’t it?  

Does this mean Gen Z (generally considered to be born between roughly 1997 and 2012) has the shortest attention span of all time?  Has technology reduced their bandwidth so dramatically that they can’t focus for more than 8 seconds?  Have we ruined our children forever?

Probably not.  

Eight seconds isn’t a lot – no doubt.  But it’s a very powerful window of time that is requiring marketers to up their creative and strategic game exponentially.

Gen Z is our first complete generation of Digital Natives, meaning they’ve been exposed to exceptionally high technology from birth. They have never known a world without hand-held technology delivering a steady, on-demand stream of everything – entertainment, education, news, games, creative platforms – at a rapid rate of speed.  As a result, Gen Z is exceptionally skilled at processing and evaluating digital content – and making rapid but informed decisions.  Because they’ve been doing it their whole lives and they’ve got it down to a science – specifically, an 8-second science.

Speed is everything with Gen Z.  Fast enough isn’t.  Because you have 8 seconds to grab them…or lose them. And it’s not because they’re overly demanding necessarily – they simply have very different expectations formed by a very different experience with digital media.  If they’ve ever heard that weird boingy static of early Internet dial up modems, it’s because it was the punchline of a joke.  Their expectations of your marketing are simply different, so you have to adjust your game to meet them where they are.

How do you do that?  Lots of copy and dense images that take forever to load (think 30 seconds), are not the way to go.  Quick video, bright images and short copy is the way to grab Gen Z.  Some experts even advise that if you can’t get it done with 5 words and a big picture, you’re doing it wrong. 

And mobile optimization is a necessity – like oxygen.  Mobile friendly – when you’re designing for desktop but resizing to fit any device’s dimensions – is over. Not only is it inefficient, Gen Z knows what you’re up to and it irks them. They’re that savvy. Be sure to create for mobile first and lead with clean design, scrolling architecture, single column layout.  And make sure it’s fast. Because 8 seconds flies by.

What Gen Z wants is easily digestible and engaging content that looks the same and feels right across platforms and devices – a seamless experience.  Content needs to be platform-specific yet maintain a strong and appropriate brand message throughout.  So, working with content experts is becoming more and more important when communicating with Gen Z. And that content and design better be fresh and modern.  Part of the seamless experience means anything that looks old or out of date doesn’t merit their attention.

Gen Z is a new type of consumer that we are working fast to understand and appreciate – one that holds enormous power in the palms of their hands, pretty much at all times, ready to reject, accept, research, evaluate, try and review a multitude of products.  They make lightning quick decisions because they value their time and know there are always other options.  They may have been interested in your content but if it doesn’t pay off fast enough, they’ll move on, confident that the next cool thing is likely just a swipe away. When combined with this generation’s size, spending power, industriousness and commitment to positive change, Gen Z is a force to be reckoned with. Eight seconds at a time.

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