Lisa Wolleon
Lisa Wolleon

The most sought-after generation of consumers and the centerpiece of so many marketing efforts is officially no longer the "it" generation. Move over Millennials, because there's a new kid in town: the savvy, social generation who values individuality that we all know as Gen Z.

Some may say there's been a slow creep in their journey to the top, but they've been sharing their views, literally and figuratively, for quite some time. They've lambasted Millennials for their side parts and skinny jeans and even called them "cheugy." They've personally caused me to take a few double takes as I noticed fashion flashes of my younger years suddenly slide back into trend. Why did I ever toss those claw clips?

Gen Z is a generation like no other. Despite having some members still in grade school, Gen Z already commands an impressive $143 billion in purchasing power. Wielding significant sway over family purchases, their indirect influence is even larger. More than 93 percent of parents say their kids affect household spend, this mom of two included. And when it comes to what defines this generation, their habits and preferences can be mystifying for brands. Diversity is their norm. They're our first digital natives. They're pragmatic and financially minded. They're driven by purpose. And when it comes to their approach to wellness, although wellness-conscious, their habits and preferences are different from those of previous generations.

This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Oct. '22 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine.
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The health and wellness industry, once dominated by KOLs in white coats educating on the clinical science and benefits of a brand, was necessary to gain credibility and consumer trust. Then we witnessed the natural era usher in, as brands looked to offer up more of a holistic view of wellness beyond primary care. And now we see the game-changing once again, as those white coats have taken their education in the form of entertainment to TikTok and other social platforms to reach the Gen Z consumer.

Let's start with their approach to wellness and what wellness means to them. Gen Z doesn't limit wellness to physical health; mental and social well-being get equal airtime, and that's really no surprise, considering this is a generation that has grown up with a global pandemic, global warming, political turmoil and a financial crisis. Gen Z in particular, has played a large role in opening the dialogue around wellness, verbalizing their mental health struggles and asking for help. They've been dubbed the "anxiety generation" and for them, it's okay to say they're not okay. They integrate health and wellness into their day-to-day life but, as digital natives, will heavily vet the brands they select into their routines.

So, what does this mean for brands who are either seeking to capture the hearts and minds of these zoomers or keep them engaged as so many brands fight for their attention? Grab your green smoothie, and let's jump in on how brands can effectively and authentically reach the beloved Gen Z consumer.

Lean into their peer-oriented nature

According to a Pew Research survey, 95 percent of Gen Z have access to a smartphone, and specifically in the wellness sector, 71 percent of this generation discovers new health and wellness opportunities on social media. The message is clear. If you're not where they are, you're missing this consumer. But, be there authentically and with peers they trust. Partnering with like-minded influencers who speak, not mimic, their language is critical. Making sure the authentic Gen Z voice comes through loud and clear is what will resonate most with them and because they act as the liaison between the brand and the consumer, take time to find and vet relevant, brand-loyal, influencers.

Be mindful of their mindfulness

It's no surprise that mental health continues to dominate headlines as society grapples with what health and wellness is supposed to look like in a post-pandemic era, and for Gen Z, the struggle is real. In fact, 72 percent of Gen Z say managing stress and mental health is their most important health and wellness concern, with only 45 percent saying they would consider their mental health in a good state. Gen Z finds it essential to have resources available to cope with these risen stress levels, and brands that can show support to them are more likely to be a part of their consideration. They believe that mental health is a holistic state of well-being that grows from the inside out. Offering up products, services and partnerships to help them along their mindfulness journey will demonstrate just how well you understand their needs.

Get ready with 'them'

Wellness is woven into the everyday lives of this generation. They have their morning routine that's been posted on TikTok, know how much and how well they slept, did a workout on a digital platform and maybe even scheduled an online therapy appointment. To say they're connected to their health and wellness is an understatement. They believe any brand can talk about wellness and all brands need to understand what wellness truly means to younger consumers to appeal to their ever-evolving ideas of self-care. They are a generation that is proactively working on their journey, and demonstrating where you fit along the way is the missing puzzle piece.

So what, now what?

Gen Z is an incredibly savvy generation of consumers who bring a new level of expectation for the brands they buy. They're stressed and under pressure but they're paving their own paths and want brands to help them on their journey. They believe wellness is all-encompassing and inclusive, giving so many brands an opportunity to join in on the journey. They reward brands that speak their language but leave the rest behind. Don't be the brand that's left in the dust!


Lisa Wolleon is Executive Vice President, Food, Nutrition and Consumer Health at Coyne PR.