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Flagging Down the Gen Z Client as They Zip Past

It might be hard to believe, but the oldest members of Generation Z were born in 2000. Today, they are nineteen years old and many will soon be graduating college, getting married, and starting families, all major milestones that inspire parties and celebrations.

Within the next five years, it will be important for all event professionals to turn their attention to this generation and begin marketing to them effectively. In reality, there is little difference between younger Millennials and older members of Gen Z. One of the biggest challenges marketers face moving forward is the dreaded 8-second attention span.

The 8-second attention span

You may have heard this statistic when it comes to the newest generation to grace the planet.

Your first reaction may be to throw up your hands, bury your head in the sand, and go party like it's 1999.

To add terror to fear, this statistic is often paired with the fact that a goldfish also has an 8-second attention span. While it all sounds a tad dire, let's step back for a second (or eight) and pull that statistic apart.

What does it mean, especially in practical terms, that the newest generation has such a short attention span, and how can a business owner or marketer adapt?

Why so short?

Let's take it as a given that a potential Gen Z client will only give you eight seconds of their time —at most! The reality is that you may only have a mere second or less to capture their attention. The fact is that Gen Z spends very little time assessing new information, especially from marketers.

The reasons are simple. There have been huge cultural and technological shifts as they were growing up and these changes shaped them in profound ways:

Technology: Their generation grew up with technology and a barrage of ads, info, and entertainment from the moment they were born. They don't even know a world where all the content and distraction you want or need isn't just a click away.

Economic upheaval: Gen Z is the most pragmatic of the last four generations. They grew up in a time of great economic upheaval. The Great Recession of 2008 and the crushing student loan debt faced by their parents and older has prompted this generation to be both entrepreneurial and fiscally conservative. They are more inclined to work hard, save their money and seek out traditionally stable employment than their Millennial predecessors.

Cultural shifts. Generation Z has grown up in a time where the U.S. elected its first African American president and saw Marriage Equality realized across the nation. They are more inclusive than their predecessors and care about values, not just products and services. They are not especially brand loyal, as they are looking for unique and relatable material over brand recognition.

True digital natives: Always connected, always online, always contactable, Gen Z has many calls on their time. They have to determine how they divide that time, what to bother with and what to care about often in fractions of a second. Given that, eight seconds sounds like a luxury!

What to do about this impossibly short attention span

Does that mean they pass over everything that takes more than eight seconds to process?


Those eight seconds are simply when they decide if they want to see more.

Unlike what you may assume, Gen Z is more sincere and engaged and less cynical than the generations before them. This means they expect sincerity and engagement from the brands they do follow. Gen Z knows that technology is a two-way street and that sharing is power. But they do not bestow their recommendations and reach on just anyone.

Related to this is the idea that they can sniff out insincerity online better than any generation.

Just like Gen X scoffed at the cheesy special effects and canned laughter that thrilled the Baby Boomers on TV, Gen Z knows instantly if you are creating fake, empty content. Don't pander to what you think they want—be genuine to yourself and your brand.

Five keys for capturing the client

When it comes to marketing, your job is to grab their attention within that 8-second window and make it worth their while to invest more time—because they can and will. Here's what you need to keep in mind:

1. Be succinct and clear—just like that.

2. Respect their technological prowess—make their experience seamless. Gen Z doesn't have time to fiddle with janky interfaces and broken links.

3. Highlight your values as a company and brand—they care about the environment, about politics, and about social equality and they want you to, as well.

4. Show an interest in them as individuals—that transcends all generations. We all want to be seen as uniquely ourselves. And Gen Z is the generation most transparent when it comes to their choices, so use that information where you can.

5. Be confident in the quality of your product or service. Gen Z chooses based on what works. Feel certain and excited about what you are offering and they will, too.

If you are feeling a bit less like throwing in the towel and giving up on a generation with an "8-second attention span"—kudos. You see, it isn't about how long they linger on your initial offering, it's about the impact you make.

And hasn't that always been the goal of marketing? 

Christie Osborne

Owner | Mountainside Media

Christie Osborne is the owner of Mountainside Media, a company that helps event industry professionals brands develop scalable marketing strategies that brings in more inquiries and leads. Christie is a national educator with recent speaking engagements at NACE Experience, WIPA and the ABC Conference.