Marketing to Gen Z: Insights from Burger King & Jansport Executives

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At the Brand Innovators Marketing to Gen Z livecast event, leaders from Burger King and Jansport talked about reaching this audience.

Gen Z has become an important demographic for brands to reach as their buying power increases and their influence over their parents leads to purchases. This generation is looking for brands to give back to their communities and contribute to society. 

McKinsey has found that 66% of Gen Z consumers are influenced by causes and interests, and 68% expect brands to give back. At the Brand Innovators Marketing to Gen Z livecast event, leaders from Burger King and Jansport talked about reaching this audience.

For Burger King, a brand that is interested in reaching a wide range of audiences, there is a lot of orchestration behind the scenes in their marketing department and with agencies to ensure their campaigns deliver.

When it comes to reaching Gen Z, there is a focus on authenticity and connection rather than straight advertising. 

“What I think is a great opportunity, in my experience, is the very real nature of Gen Z to be cynical towards advertising,” said Richard Guest, Vice President, Head of Marketing Communications, North America at Burger King. “They know we’re trying to sell them stuff, so that opens up huge opportunities that help us relate to other age cohorts as well. One of the things I’ve learned from my days working with Mars and working with a great creative department was that our acts are just as important as our ads.” 


Alex Reveles, Sr. Brand Marketing Manager at JanSport likes to look at Gen Z within life stages. “It’s just this one big pocket and there are so many broad assumptions about Gen Z,” said Reveles. “A messaging strategy looks so much different to a 20 year old than it would to a 10 year old. When you’re defining your target audience with the messaging strategy, we tend to always go first to who is ultimately making the purchase.” 

Jansport takes a different approach depending on who they are talking to, so the brand markets to both parents and kids. Interestingly, the brand has found that kids tend to influence the purchase. JanSport’s data has revealed that 8 out of 10 purchases made are influenced by the kid, telling their parents that they want a JanSport backpack. 

“For top funnels, we focus on that core target which is 14 to 22,” said Reveles. “We have our broad range and we do try to get more targeted with a core demographic. What we found is defining that core target is understanding if they’re the pulse of youth culture and influencing the trend both above and below the age range. We can get granular and get a halo effect to reach our full target. But from a brand perspective and brand affinity, we want to speak and talk to the end user, and that’s to Gen Z specifically. We're looking to them to say: ‘Hey Mom and Dad, I want this,’ and then eventually when they have their own buying power, they’re the one going to purchase the brand.” 

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