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New SC&I Research Shows Brands How to Earn Loyalty from Gen Z
Assistant Professor of Professional Practice Mark Beal’s new research focus is on how Gen Z, the “purpose generation,” chooses the brands they are loyal to.
Assistant Professor of Professional Practice Mark Beal’s new research focus is on how Gen Z, the “purpose generation,” chooses the brands they are loyal to.

Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in Communication Mark Beal recently conducted research on Gen Z exploring how and why they develop loyalty to certain brands. In a survey of 500 Gen Zers ages 13 to 24 across the United States, Beal asked them about various topics including social media, technology, and sports.

Throughout his extensive research on Gen Z, Beal describes Gen Z as the “purpose generation,” meaning that they care about doing good for the world and making impactful decisions. His new research found that 86% of Gen Zers “conduct research on a brand before purchasing a product to learn if the brand is purposeful and contributes to a better society.” More specifically,

  • 23%  check to see if the company/brand is environmentally friendly in their business practices
  • 20% want to know if they support causes and charities that are important to Gen Z (such as racial equality, homelessness, and mental health)
  • 18% want to learn if they have taken purposeful action during this time of the pandemic and increased public demands for social justice
  • 15% want to know if the company has a track record of diversity and inclusion

Beal’s research also found that if they learn a company or brand is not purposeful, 27% will identify a competitive brand that is and purchase from them; 22% will share their research with their Gen Z friends; 21% will not become a customer and 13% will share their brand research on their social media channels. When it comes to purposeful brands, Beal said his research shows these are the top 20 brands that the Gen Zers he surveyed said they “loved”:

#1: Netflix  

#2: YouTube 

#3: Disney 

#4: Disney+ 

#5: Apple 

#6: Apple iPhone 

#7: McDonald’s

#8: Spotify 

#9: Instagram 

#10: Google 

According to the research, Beal found that the most effective way to reach Gen Z is evolving from marketing to engaging with them by creating “unique experiences and access and events they can participate in and share on social media.” Examples include interactive, “Instagrammable” experiences such as campaigns developed by the Color Factory and 29rooms; brand partnerships like McDonald’s who have collaborations with artists Travis Scott and J Balvin, and Dunkin’ Donuts’ collaboration with TikTok star Charli D’Amelio; and programs that support Gen Zers, such as the Capital One First-Gen Focus program, Converse’s All Star Captains program, and Target’s startup incubator program.

From Beal’s research, here are six ways marketers can successfully engage Gen Z:

  1. Earn the loyalty of Gen Z, the purpose generation, by acting and marketing with purpose
  2. Don’t talk at Gen Z, engage their entrepreneurial mindset: incubators + insights = innovation
  3. Leverage all your assets & access: give Gen Z the Instagrammable experiences they crave to use to socialize
  4. Transform your media mix to engage the Gen Z content solar system
  5. Engage those whom Gen Z listens to & learns from: their Gen Z friends - nano influencers and brand ambassadors
  6. It’s all about digital: make content and experiences accessible, convenient, faster, and immediate

It’s not surprising that social media rules Gen Z. The survey found that social media is where Gen Zers get their news and information, with Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat as the top platforms. While 56% of Gen Zers surveyed said they get their news and information from Instagram, only 16% get news from TV, and 13% from news apps. Gen Zers also seek “inspirational creative content” from social media, with YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat being the top platforms in this area.

The survey also found that amongst Gen Zers, their favorite social media platform is Instagram, followed by TikTok and Snapchat. In the past year since the start of the pandemic, 62% have joined TikTok or became more active on the platform, according to Beal.

Beal recently launched a YouTube series titled “Mark Beal Gen Z: From A to Z.” According to Beal, the series will feature “Gen Zers ages 14 to 24 informing today’s marketing and public relations executives how to most effectively engage them.” Check out the first episode where Beal interviews Rayyan Ahmed, a 16-year-old high school student who is the CEO of a marketing agency.

Beal has also authored two books on Gen Z, "Decoding Gen Z" in 2018 and "Engaging Gen Z" in 2020.

More information about the Communication Department at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information is on the website

Photo and video: Courtesy of Mark Beal 

In the Media

Ad Age published a report, "Brands as Citizens,"  featuring Beal's Gen Z research (found on pages 8, 11, 12) as a special insert for paid subscribers. 


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