Hello, Houston!

Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) is the city’s designated local arts and culture agency.



Nimra Haroon, Communications Intern

The information in this blog post is based on research and not the opinion of Houston Arts Alliance.

Arts marketing has exponentially gained traction over the past several years, as artists, arts organizations, institutions, and media channels all vie for the next consumer. The core of marketing relies on increased income through greater audience engagement and the strategy for doing so constantly shifts as the consumer changes.

Masters of technology and most web-savvy generation. No millennials — not you. Just when the world is beginning to understand millennials, in comes Generation Z. This generation is making waves in the news as they discover new technology, rally social movements, and become agents of change in their communities – all while being on a phone (which FYI they don’t use to call).

As cultural, technological, political and social trends evolve, so do audiences. Sometimes an audience stays with a brand over time, with the brand adapting to the growing age of an audience. Other times, the audience changes, as a brand stays current with trends. Accepting a new audience denotes a new generation. As our 2,000 years move upward, a new generation is here to mark its territory. Welcome, Gen Z.

This generation is doing something right. They are forces in their own regard. Gen Z is the last generation born in the 20th century and the first generation born in the 21st century. Sure they’re small in size, but their constant connectivity and access to the world will exceed any physical number they represent. Gen Z represents about 25% of the US population and has about $44 billion in annual buying power. 

Generation research is a messy process – Gen Xers tried to figure out Millennials, and Millennials are trying to decode Gen Z. Here are a few things we’ve discovered regarding this group, born in 1996 or later:

  • The virtual world is their reality. If it isn’t making waves virtually, this generation won’t see it. A smartphone was the first electronic they were exposed to.

  • Engage this generation – they want to control their content, so allow them to create content. While Gen Zs do rally around causes they cherish, they want to lead in their own regards.

  • They crowdsource information. Their growth will be a process based upon crowdsourcing others’ experiences in their generation and the generations before them from all around the world.

  • Social media isn’t the only “sharing” they do. Social responsibility is a part of the fabric this group wears on a daily basis. 76% are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet.

Cost Less + Means More = Gen Z Customer

  • Growing up in the era of Uber, GrubHub and Airbnb, Gen Z views the sharing economy as an efficient utilization of their limited finances.

  • Gen Z rejects gender, ethnic, racial, class, and sexual-preference intolerance and discrimination. They expect the products they will buy, rent, or share to align with non-monetary values they uphold. They were born into or saw the election of the first black president and witnessed a female run for the first time.
  • SHORT. AND. SWEET. Communication must be concise for this generation. Entire conversations can be achieved simply with gifs and emojis. Less is more. The average Gen Zer has an eight second attention span.

  • They elevate themselves to influencers. Generations prior had the notion that a celebrity was something other than and put on a pedestal. Gen Z, on the contrary, has grown up with influencers and close connectivity to celebrities. For once, they are reachable through platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.

  • Having a shorter attention span than some of their older counterparts, it can be difficult to get Gen Z’s attention. Find fresh ways to introduce content and give them something to talk about.

Millennials had a rep for being optimistic. Gen Z is realistic. Growing up around school shootings, The Great Recession, climate change, terrorism, #BlackLivesMatter and the LGBTQ+ fight for equality, Gen Z is seeing it all. Their voices reflect actual changes they want and will fight to implement. They are smart about their financial purchases, as they are more into financial investments, rather than impulsive purchases. Having seen older siblings move away, this generation embraces parents and family values. (Mom and Dad, you’re cool again!) Awkward and imperfect is in, and this group welcomes it.

The group reflects this in their social media content as well. While content is curated based on channel (with Instagram serving as a personal-brand platform and Snapchat serving the #NoFilter lifestyle quirks), Gen Z does NOT curate content based on the crowd. Subject is always transparent. They want their audiences to hear them loud and proud.

Technology is not new news for Gen Z. Billion-dollar tech inventions are not exciting. They’ve been proficient from birth, so they aren’t excited by it – they expect it. Gen Z expects your business to be on social media and they expect it to have efficient Wi-Fi.

As they finish secondary school, graduate from college, and enter the job market, Gen Z will be the most informed generation to this date. They know caring is in, better known as lit. It’s modern to be involved and to do good. They are forces on the up and rising, and we’ve only seen the tip of their influential iceberg.

As you consider your engagement strategy for reaching and retaining the youngest and most active group out there, Generation Z, remember, this generation is fiscally conservative, socially tolerant, environmentally aware and urgently engaged. They can smell inauthenticity, so focus less on curated perfection across all platforms and focus more on telling your narrative in a way no one has, in a way that only you can.