Gen Z—those born between 1995 and 2010—now makes up 35 percent of the population and represent $143 billion dollars in spending power. This episode is all about how brands can better understand, collaborate with, and resonate with this hugely influential segment of consumers.
Our guest, Tiffany Zhong, is the 23-year-old CEO of Zebra IQ, a company that helps brands interpret the wants of Gen Z consumers and helps Gen Z creators turn their content into businesses. In its recent Gen Z Trends Report, her company highlights important cultural trends and Gen Z behaviors based on a trove of proprietary research. In this conversation, Tiffany and a16z general partner Connie Chan discuss the key differences between Gen Z and millennials, the growing power of short-form video on platforms like TikTok and YouTube, our changing perception of luxury, and how Gen Z is shifting the paradigm around money, education, and work.
The pair breaks down how brands can partner with Gen Z influencers in a way that’s compelling, not cringeworthy, and why when it comes to memes and the art of emoji, you’re probably doing it wrong.
The importance of marketing to Gen Z, their unique characteristics [1:22], and the platforms influencers use most [3:05]
The rise of TikTok and text vs. video [6:20]
How Gen Z creates different personas for different platforms [9:22]
Tips for finding the right influencer [11:31], and a discussion of how many influencers have become company founders [14:16]
Common mistakes when marketing to Gen Z [17:20] and the importance of corporate branding [20:21]
Gen Z’s view of money, work, and higher education [22:06], as well as shopping and luxury [25:01]
How Gen Z finds friendships and tribes [28:44] and the potential of texting [31:04]
Tiffany Zhong: If you don’t have the youth using your product or talking about your product or sharing your product, I hate to break it to you: you’re irrelevant. And so that’s why every single company that is targeting consumers needs to care about Gen Zs, whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or whether you’re a startup.
Connie Chan: Are there perceptions that Gen Z has around millennials?
Tiffany: Gen Z considers anyone who is not really speaking their language or not understanding their trend, a boomer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a millennial, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Gen X, it doesn’t matter if you’re a boomer, Gen Zs are going to call you boomers anyway.
Connie: Do you think, though, given how personalized Gen Z’s preferences are, that there is a definitive “this is cool,” “this is not cool”?
Tiffany: It changes weekly. So you have to keep up if you want to understand what’s cool or not.
Connie: That’s really hard on the wardrobe, man. [laughs] Would you say that the difference between Gen Z and millennials is a much bigger gap than between millennials and older generations?
Tiffany: I would say so, because Gen Z is the first generation that’s mobile-first and mobile-native.
Connie: I totally agree. Millennials will say we’re mobile first, but there’s a lot of stuff that we still feel much more comfortable going to a computer to do. Big ticket purchases, we still feel like we’re safer on the browser, for some reason.
Tiffany: Whereas Gen Zs do everything from their phone. We’re used to that. We’re used to buying things from our phone, signing documents from our phone. For better or for worse.
Connie: Requiring much more instant gratification, I’d say. Even the YouTube videos now feel too long to me, if the first minute is the person apologizing and trying to be politically correct. They just need to get to the point, or the ROI has to be real.
Tiffany: Yeah, if it’s good content, if it’s entertaining content. If not, then boom, we’re out. And you’ve lost us.
Connie: When people say “Okay, I want to go be an influencer now.” Before, for millennials, you became a YouTube star. Now is it more desirable to be a TikTok influencer versus a YouTube influencer? Certain [platforms] are clearly easier to go viral on.
Tiffany: Twenty-nine percent of youth in America want to become vloggers or YouTubers, versus 23 percent want to become professional athletes. So more people want to become YouTubers than athletes, which is a massive shift.
On the platforms that Gen Z wants to be an influencer on, TikTok seems the easiest for people because we’ve obviously seen Charli D’Amelio becoming one of the biggest influencers in under a year.
Connie: Totally. The conversations around the actual TikToks right now are living on other platforms, but it’s super valuable.
Tiffany: Exactly. TikTok stars are all spending time on YouTube now. It’s a natural growth phase. So when you say: are TikTok stars the new YouTube stars? There’s a whole correlation there, in the sense that if you’re big on TikTok, the way you can really continuously build an audience that is sustainable is on YouTube.
Connie: But many have not been able to be as successful on YouTube. It’s more likely they will not be successful, actually.
Tiffany: Because they haven’t really adapted on how to make long form content. They’re used to making 60-second videos, which doesn’t translate well to YouTube. On YouTube you want to be making 10 minute videos, because that’s how you monetize. There is no easy virality factor. You just have to be really good at distribution and marketing, honestly.
Connie: Especially on TikTok, there’s so much remix meme culture. It’s not necessarily 100 percent original. And maybe that’s part of why it’s so hard to translate [TikTok content] to YouTube: for the most part you have to come up with something completely original.
Tiffany: People who are really, really good storytellers will be able to do so across different mediums, whether it’s TikTok, whether it’s YouTube, whether it’s Instagram, whether it’s Twitch.
Connie: I think for short-form video, especially the stuff on TikTok, it’s about: what’s the punch line? What’s the actual point of the video that makes it interesting? And that’s why it so democratizes video creation. You don’t need a ring light to be a good TikTok creator. You literally just need your phone.
Tiffany: Yeah, on TikTok, you get 30 seconds, you can record it with your phone, you can have whatever quality of video, and as long as you have a good storyline people will watch it and people will share it. Or if you’re adding value to the viewer’s life.
Connie: Yeah, short videos are not just jokes. I mean, I cringe whenever people say TikTok is a bunch of people dancing to music, because I’m like: you clearly have not used this thing. [laughs] There’s educational stuff on it. There’s financial advice on TikTok. There is stuff that teaches you how to cook. So short video is a really powerful format, I think. And it’s basically getting rid of the fluff that you don’t need and delivering maximum value per second—literally, per second because you can lose the person after three or four seconds if it’s not good enough.
Tiffany: To your point, people think TikTok is just a fun lip-synching app or dancing app. And it’s not. It’s a place where you can learn anything you ever wanted to learn, whether it’s about cars, whether it’s how to take photos, how to model. I’ve watched so many TikTok videos about videography tips and iPhone tricks, all sorts of stuff. It’s just endless amounts of short-form education.
Connie: I think that phrase has never been used to describe TikTok: short-form education. I’m curious on your thoughts about on the kind of content that historically people would argue works better in text. How does Gen Z react to, you know, that super thoughtful op-ed on the New York Times, or product reviews—things that you can actually read much faster than you can watch?
Tiffany: Gen Zs prefer video over text for like 99 percent of things.
Connie: How do you balance that with efficiency, though, where you can actually read some of these things much faster than you can watch for some of these things?
Tiffany: True. But not only do we want to be able to consume the content in a reasonable amount of time, we also want to be entertained at the same time, which is why video is such a huge format for Gen Z. Text is less relevant because there are less emotions. You can’t see someone talking. Sixty-five percent of Gen Z prefers FaceTime to any other form of communication to keep in touch with friends.
Connie: And people don’t realize that when Gen Z is doing a FaceTime phone call, it’s not like they have to hold the phone the whole time.
Tiffany: Oh, yeah. They might be video chatting their friend or their parents while simultaneously doing like three other things. Multitasking is what we were born into because of smartphones. We’re used to switching between tabs quickly, switching between apps quickly.
Connie: I definitely see different communication behaviors across different generations. One thing I think people don’t realize is just how many young folks have multiple Instagram accounts, for example, or multiple Twitter accounts, because they have to show different aspects of their personality and segment parts of their lives.
Tiffany: Every person has dual personalities. You have a personality that you bring to work, you have a personality that you bring to your friends, you have a personality that you bring to your family.
Connie: I have many more than that, but yes.
Tiffany: And, and so that’s how Gen Zs have started to establish themselves. They want to be able to be super fluid and switch across these different identities. This finsta—fake Insta account—which is really just for personal friends, this one’s for this set of friends, or this one’s for this set of interest-based friends. This one’s for this community. That’s how these finstas start being created.
Connie: But it’s more like on TikTok, they can be a different version of themselves. On Instagram, they might still keep that polished version of themselves. You have different personas on different spectrums of that authenticity scale. And on different [platforms], you’re going to reveal more information or less information about yourself, too. Some you’ll reveal your actual name, where you live. Some it’s all random usernames, on purpose. There’s more control over what people can see and how they would use it.
Tiffany: Gen Z is definitely very smart about the perception that they put out there across different social media networks. Gen Zs are brand strategists from age 10. They learn: okay, my Instagram needs to be like this, my YouTube needs to be like this, my TikTok needs to be like this, my Twitter needs to be like this. It’s so different than how millennials and Gen X perceive content.
Connie: I definitely think the way that millennials grew up on social was to put our best foot forward. You always wanted to make sure the photos that you were posting reflected well on you, or you would untag yourself on the Facebook photo so it wouldn’t be linked back to your profile. We used to all do that. And just think about all the filters that we use on our photos, all the photo apps. But I do feel like there is this change swinging back to: don’t put a filter on everything. Or: it doesn’t have to be in the most flattering angle. But it’s not necessarily that they will do that across all social media.
Tiffany: Your main Instagram, you still care about your follower count, you still care about your likes, you still care about your comments. For finstas, it doesn’t matter as much. If you get one “like,” it doesn’t matter. Because it’s really just where you can be your real self.
Connie: Something I’ve noticed on Gen Z and TikTok is there’s less of a fear of being on video; there’s less of a fear around creating in general.
Tiffany: Totally. TikTok has made people really comfortable with being themselves.
Connie: Showing the no filter life.
Tiffany: Yeah. Because the weirder you are, the more chances you will go viral. The YouTuber Emma Chamberlain is one of the fastest growing Gen Z influencers. She has one of the highest engagement rates across young influencers. Now, her content is all very authentic, she’s very much herself. She mixes in that very relatable aspect with the very aspirational. And I think the best influencers are able to be both aspirational and relatable.
That’s why raw photos, raw videos are actually bridging the connection between influencer, creator, and fans. A really polished version of yourself doesn’t seem very attainable. When you’re a fan sitting at home, you want to feel like you could be that influencer too, someday.
Connie: How do you find the right influencer to work with? Historically, people just look like at, okay, how big is your following? What should they be thinking?
Tiffany: You look at the type of content they’re posting. Is that similar to the type of content you post on your social media? Is it on brand? Are they in your niche? Are they already talking about products or your space in general? And then there’s the checking if they have real fans and authentic fans by looking at their engagement rate.
SocialBlade is a really simple website that lets you look at any accounts, any pages on social media across YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and see how fast someone is growing, see how many followers they got yesterday, how many followers they got 7 days ago, 30 days ago; how many followers they lost, as well. And so that’s a really authentic way to go and track how fast an account is really growing. You can see their relevance through growth and their engagement through that.
And I think you will see that a lot of these smaller influencers actually have really, really high engagement rates because they have more time to spend, so their fans reciprocate. Recently, an influencer called Bella Poarch started becoming super relevant with her head bobbing TikTok videos. She’s really blown up. Now, you could have spotted that a couple months ago if you just looked at SocialBlade and watched how she literally grew exponentially.
Connie: So for Gen Z, how would you balance brands choosing influencers versus traditional celebrities—people from movies, TV shows? You’re laughing—I feel like you have an answer that’s probably contrarian to what a lot of marketers believe today.
Tiffany: Celebrities still give you that legitimacy factor to a certain extent.
But it better be extremely on-brand to be working with this very specific celebrity that you choose. Not because of their fame, but because maybe they’ve talked about your brand already, or they drink your brand, or wear your brand, or use your brand, or eat at your restaurant, whatever it is. There has to be something like that there. Do not pay a celebrity a million dollars to promote a brand that they don’t give a shit about. I’ve seen many brands that have just burned money on celebrities.
Influencers are good for more authentic collaborations that are closer to home for the fan. Celebrities are not relatable. And so I think there’s a good way to mix in both celebrities, massive influencers, and also micro influencers, if you really want to be strategic in how you utilize your money.
Connie: So celebrities and superstars still exist. It’s just the ones that have lasting power are the ones that feel like they’re your friend and have some level of being relatable.
Tiffany: Aspirational and relatable. Gotta be both.
Connie: On the influencer side, do you believe that the lifespan of someone’s popularity has also shortened in length? Where previously you might have a celebrity or an influencer that you love and you follow for like 10, 20 years, do you feel this new generation is going through them quicker? How do you think about the lifespan of content, movies, TV, influencers themselves?
Tiffany: Your shelf life can actually be extremely long if you think about it from a very strategic standpoint of brand building as an influencer. Now, a lot of influencers aren’t really thinking about a 10-year lifespan. They’re thinking “how can I make as much money in the next year as possible?” And I think that is a huge problem because they aren’t treating themselves like they are their own media companies, they aren’t treating themselves like they are a company and they are the CEO.
The people who have had really long shelf lives are people who have adapted with their audience, people who listen to their audience, the people who engage with their audience and make their fans feel like they are being heard. As your audience grows older, your content adapts, as well. You grow older, your content matures a little, and your fans grow older, as well.
It’s more important to have longer term customer retention and lifetime value than customer growth. It is more important to have 1,000 super-fans than 10 million fans who will never buy anything from you.
Connie: As these short video platforms potentially go into commerce, what are your thoughts around creators and influencers making merchandise themselves—and becoming stores, really?
Tiffany: I think creators are starting the new billion-dollar commerce brands and the new billion-dollar media companies. We’re seeing that with people building tech companies, [like] David Dobrik. He built an app, raised venture financing for it. His merch brand is doing incredibly well.
Connie: But you would also have to say he’s one of the top YouTubers. He’s not indicative of most influencers.
Tiffany: He’s not, but he is a really good role model for a lot of creators and what they can do. Any creator that has a really strong fan base can establish their own commerce brands. They are a media brand already because they are creating content. Now how can they parlay that into something that is relevant to their audience?
Connie: And it’s also very dependent on how the platforms allow you to monetize, either through ecommerce capabilities, or more gifting, more memberships, you name it. The platforms so far in the Western world have not done very much.
Tiffany: A SKU might be a phone call, as SKU might be shoes that they have designed, all sorts of different product lines that they’re coming out with. The YouTuber that I mentioned, Emma Chamberlain—really young, really big audience. She started her own coffee brand and it’s doing really well with Gen Zs.
Connie: What are the big misconceptions or the big mistakes that brands have made when they’re trying to target Gen Z?
Tiffany: I think the biggest mess ups are when brands randomly jump onto bandwagons or trends without fully understanding where the trend has come from, what the trend means.
Connie: And how long it can last.
Tiffany: And how it is relevant to Gen Z. If you don’t speak Gen Z’s language, but you try to without actually spending the time to understand it, you get laughed at and mocked on the internet and turned into a meme, negatively. That is when you become a very cringeworthy brand.
Connie: I find when brands try to use memes, though…
Tiffany: It’s cringe.
Connie: Sometimes they get it wrong; they very often get it wrong. [laughs] So I would say for a brand, if you want to use a meme see what the community comes up with first and then just retweet that kind of stuff. Do not attempt to create your own version of it.
Tiffany: Reproduce it, and it comes out cringe, it comes out awful. You have to understand the origin of it.
Connie: How long does the memory of that cringe reaction last?
Tiffany: Depends on how viral it goes. if it goes really viral and there are press articles about how bad it is, then it may take longer to recover. A recommendation I have for anyone who is trying to understand Gen Z trends per se, is: open TikTok. Don’t just watch the TikToks…
Connie: Make one.
Tiffany: Make a TikTok. Read the comments. That is how you can understand Gen Zs really, really quickly. Put in the work and you’ll actually be able to do an awesome campaign. But reading the comments on Gen Z TikTok pages, reading the comments on TikTok gossip pages like TikTok Room on Instagram. Those are all Gen Zs. That means all the comments you read there are posted by Gen Zs. And that means that is how they’re talking. Whether it’s trends they’re talking about, whether it’s slang terms they’re using, whether it’s emojis they’re using to express themselves.
Connie: So, the art of texting. One of my favorite slides in your deck was actually the emoji dictionary, where it was showing that the traditional happy face is actually not a good thing to send to a Gen Z because it can be [interpreted as] an extremely passive aggressive smile.
Tiffany: It’s part of our personality to be self-deprecating and to be really honest, but masquerade that honesty in a joke.
Connie: This is why sarcasm is now so hard to read through text. It seems very easy to misread a text, and now misread the emoji. I did not know that the cowboy emoji, in your opinion, is actually a negative thing too.
Tiffany: Oh, yeah. It was very surprising for a lot of people. I’ve actually converted a few Gen X friends into Gen Z-style texting. I had to teach a Gen X about how to do text reactions.
Connie: Text reactions, as far as I know, are okay.
Tiffany: Texting the thumbs up emoji is like…
Connie: It’s an acknowledgement.
Tiffany: …passive aggressive.
Connie: Oh my gosh. [laughs] So you talk about needing to experiment and being willing to figure out how to talk to this generation, or else you could be laughed at. Do you believe there is a correlation between Gen Z, cancel culture, and an increased fear of speaking incorrectly to this group?
Tiffany: One hundred percent. I think with this year has come an increased fear of being canceled on social media, especially when many brands acted incorrectly. Brands who had never thought about how they would engage in a political discussion were suddenly forced to do so. And many just didn’t adapt fast enough. Although some did and some were applauded for it by Gen Zs.
Connie: I’d be curious about your thoughts around the need for companies to be transparent on either how they’re making their money or how much money they’re making.
Tiffany: Gen Z is very perceptive of the brands that they buy from and that they shop from, and also the places that they want to work at. And so they’re very value driven around human rights, and the environment, and political reform, and education. With that, brands need to figure out what they stand for and live by it.
Connie: Do you think brands are able to stay out of that discussion and not have a stance?
Tiffany: Not having a stance is taking a stance. Not having a stance means you don’t care about these things. If you really want to appeal to a wide range of Gen Zs, figure out what your values are and live by it. Talk about it, make that part of your brand. Lean into it and make that part of your whole brand marketing strategy. But don’t jump from value to value really quickly just because it is trendy. Gen Zs will see right through that.
Connie: One thing that people often talk about is how Gen Z is really good at figuring out how to make money on their own to buy the things they want at a younger age, versus relying on parents. I would love to hear your thoughts on money and work as a category.
Tiffany: I think there’s going to be a future where work is more project-based. The new American Dream for Gen Z is being able to work wherever we want, whenever we want. Now, Gen Z is the side hustle generation because from a young age we realized that we can hustle to make money online.
I really break it down into three categories. Freelancing: so, Fiverr, graphic design, etc. Making strategic investments: building a GOAT and Grailed store, building meme pages, selling ads on the meme pages or flipping the meme pages, buying and selling the right kinds of street wear, getting 10X what you paid for. And then the third category is creating content: becoming a fulltime content creator on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, or Twitch. Gen Zs are realizing that we can make money in all sorts of different ways. And we also don’t have to be tied to one place. We don’t have to be tied to one 9 to 5.
Connie: And this has to extend to college, too, as people look at college student debt. One big question has been what is higher education going to look like, as people don’t always see the return on investment? There’s no shortage of curriculum.
Tiffany: I do think that a lot of kids benefit from higher education. I’m not sure if these prestigious colleges are exactly where they should be spending their time and their money, both for opportunity cost, but also debt-wise. You’re spending four years getting a degree that you may or may not end up having your lifetime career in. And you have that debt that you have to pay off for the next 10 years, which is crazy to me. So I think gap years are interesting. All these alternatives: apprenticeships, internships.
Connie: Do you think that desire to try different things also extends to post-college, potentially more job hopping?
Tiffany: With Silicon Valley and millennials, specifically. It is common to be in a job for two years and switch to another one.
I think the gig economy is going to become even more relevant for Gen Zs because it gives Gen Zs the freedom to do whatever they want. So, not having to sit inside an office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every single day, having to request for paid time off. If you work for yourself and if you are in the gig economy, or if you’re flipping shoes, or doing these side hustles, or turning these side hustles into real businesses, then you might have more time to travel or become a content creator. Gen Z really wants to be able to explore different categories, different types of work.
Connie: Yeah, and they need the freedom to do it. Let’s also talk about shopping. What does luxury even mean now? Streetwear can be very, very expensive, actually. A black baseball hat can be very expensive. What do you think about the future of luxury?
Tiffany: Yeah. So thrifting’s becoming cool and relevant again. A lot of influencers who are wealthy are thrift shopping and they’re showing their thrift hauls.
Connie: But that value needed for content—that it better be good value per second—is that also extending to actual purchases?
Tiffany: Value is important, but so is convenience and so is staying on trend. To a certain extent, Gen Z is voting with their dollars. But there’s always that convenience factor that also comes into play. And so brands like Boohoo and SHEIN are really relevant with Gen Z and really popping off with Gen Z because of the fast fashion nature of it. I get these ads from SHEIN and it’s $10 for like, a sweater. This is crazy. Where’s this even from?
Connie: But will you ever grow up and then say, okay, I’m now cool paying $600 for that sweater? Not that sweater, but a sweater.
Tiffany: I think that the future of fashion is going to be a mix. It’s going to be a mix, in my opinion, of people being able to put together things that they buy at the thrift store combined with the latest Off-White shoes, the latest Yeezy shoes.
Connie: But that’s not that different. Millennials also spent a lot on a purse or a belt. Same thing.
Tiffany: Right. But you get embarrassed to wear cheap clothes, as a millennial…
Connie: I’m cool doing it. [laughs]
Tiffany: …which I think is becoming less of a thing. You don’t get shamed for wearing cheap clothes anymore.
Connie: I also want to hear your thoughts overall on how shopping behaviors are changing. How do you make shopping fun?
Tiffany: In regards to shopping, there are more stores doing pop-ups and doing these limited-edition or time-based activations that are really cool, really relevant, to lure Gen Zs to come in, try out the products, and take some cool photos. You’re seeing a lot of direct-to-consumer brands making pop-up stores or even just going brick-and-mortar, more as a marketing expense as opposed to a place to drive sales, which is very interesting. There’s obviously a massive paradigm shift there, when you see these consumer brands that are backed by VC firms spending the capital that they otherwise would have spent on ads to do in-person activations. They realize that having people be able to tangibly see something, touch something, is still just as impactful as being able to order stuff online.
Connie: So brick and mortar still matters?
Tiffany: There’s obviously lots of ways to make your brand fun and interactive. For Gen Zs, their “third places” are all digital, which makes sense. It’s Fortnite, it’s Discord, it’s House Party, it’s Twitch, it’s even apps like Squad. Those are the places where Gen Zs are making new friends, hanging out with their old friends. So, gone are the days where all of your best friends have to be within a mile of you. Now you can have a best friend who is 4,000 miles from you and you can still have as intimate a connection as someone who is a block away from you. Only the internet has made this possible for us. Technology has made it a lot easier for us to make friends with people who are also interested in gaming, or fashion, or basketball—really as niche as you want to go.
Connie: When you’re finding friends, how much of it is people who like the same influencers, the same brands? How much of it is interest-based? Has that changed? How do you even go about finding your tribe online?
Tiffany: Gen Zs are finding their tribe through being able to search in specific hashtags or specific rooms of people who are interested in same things. Going into subreddits, that subreddit leading to a Discord community of people who came from Reddit, to wanting to chat in a room. There are lots of Gen Zs who are tweeting a list of their favorite influencers. And in that tweet it includes, “Hey, if you’re also interested in—insert influencer’s name—DM me and we’ll add you to our group chat.” So, brands, influencers, they all fall under interests now. That is an “interest.” This is the modern-day Facebook pages. You’re co-signing it by buying the merch, by tweeting about it, by making stan pages on Twitter and Instagram.
Connie: I look at trends that are happening in developing countries, specifically China and Southeast Asia, and they’re very, very mobile-first, too. Even older generations are mobile-first there. And I think that has led to the development of more things like the superapp model, where you have one app that does multiple things. Do you think Gen Z will be more receptive to something like that, versus older generations in the Western world that still seem to prefer one app that does one thing, for now?
Tiffany: For this generation, we’re optimizing for convenience. So if things are bundled together, that saves us time. I think that’s really important for Gen Z.
Connie: Fewer taps to do the same thing.
Tiffany: Yeah. I mean, we’re consumed by so many notifications, so many products every day, so many apps every day, so much content to consume that I do think that there is going to be a massive bundling of things. It’s going to be really tricky to get right. But we’re already seeing a lot of bundling happening for Instagram, including Reels, commerce, shopping, etc., that they would not have done five years ago. Even three years ago they wanted separate apps for each kind of function because that’s how we thought about apps.
Connie: I want to talk about texting as a potential new channel. More and more, when I’m shopping on a site, I’m getting a text that gives me a discount code if I purchase it right away. Or it tells me when something’s being shipped. You also hear about Gen Z not opening email. Talk about texting as a channel.
Tiffany: Texting is now becoming a replacement for email. But does that mean that texting is actually becoming less personal of a communication format, now that advertisers and brands are texting us?
Connie: Yeah, so as that increases, do you see the same issues as email where you’re going to want to filter this stuff out, eventually?
Tiffany: One hundred percent. Once we start getting bombarded, we’re going to become more selective, or a new medium will become more relevant for us. SMS shouldn’t be our email inbox.
Connie: Because it’s weird, right? You can do far less on a text than on email. And it’s actually much more invasive.
Tiffany: I barely even give people my number, let alone companies my number.
Connie: But then at the same time, when I receive these texts, they definitely work on me. And I do click in, and I sometimes do complete that purchase.
Tiffany: I guess it’s for the brands that you really, really, really, really love. If they’re texting you, you don’t feel a sense of invasion. Now, you would only feel comfortable with that for very select brands that you’re a huge fan of, where you want to be notified when something has launched. You want to get alerted before it goes out to the public. You can use SMS as a way to facilitate that intimacy between a brand or an influencer and an individual—ideally with two-way communication. And so you’re going to offer some sort of value, whether it’s discounts, whether it’s getting something exclusive that others can’t get or will get later on. So you’re a super-fan of those brands.
Connie: Thank you so much. It’s been so much fun chatting about Gen Z, and I will be much more self aware now the next time I text you with an emoji.
The a16z Podcast discusses the most important ideas within technology with the people building it. Each episode aims to put listeners ahead of the curve, covering topics like AI, energy, genomics, space, and more.