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The next consumer-powerhouse generation can be summed up in just one letter: Z. And though its youngest members might be just now becoming teenagers, Gen Z makes up 26% of the US TV audience—the largest segment of our population.

Unfortunately, marketing to this younger audience isn't easy. For one, it's made up of tech-savvy digital natives, and the way they shop strays from what's considered traditional. Even loyalty programs and coupons, which influence the purchase decisions of nearly 75% of Millennials, have little effect on Gen Z.

But if you can hook a youthful consumer, chances are you can integrate your brand into this person's identity and eventually establish a lifelong customer. (Come to think of it, I've still got a pair of Doc Martens from when I was 18. Sure, I don't wear them anymore, but those boots were very much a part of my identity.)

And members of this generation, like those of any other generation, define themselves by their tastes in everything from clothes to music to food.

The Subculture Culture

To really understand what motivates Gen Z to buy one thing over another, you need to look beyond its demographics and dive into the subcultures it identifies with. For these consumers, it's about assuming a badge and telling the world, "Hey, this is me."

Not that there isn't any fluidity, however: They can easily move from geek to emo and back again. As a result, there are nodes of subcultures. And if you're able to tap into them, Gen Z members are much more likely to pay attention to you.

Another differentiator of Gen Z is its desire to always be online. Even if Gen Z individuals are in a mall, they'll pull out their mobile devices to look for those cool shoes someone was wearing. In fact, 50% of Gen Z consumers say they'll be doing more research on clothes this coming year.

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image of Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is the president of Bradley and Montgomery (BaM), an independent creative agency that has provided marketing services for JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, and Xbox, among other brands.

LinkedIn: Mark Bradley