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Generation Z is the most digitally savvy generation to emerge so far. As the first true digital natives, this cohort, born after the millennials, are adept on social and mobile technologies. They’re comfortable expressing themselves and connecting with friends, family and brands online.

These attributes make Gen Z the perfect group for co-creation projects. Harnessing new-product ideas from Gen Z makes sense given their digital acumen. Companies serious about driving innovation should learn how to engage Gen Z customers more effectively.

To learn about best practices when engaging with Generation Z, we ran a co-creation project to develop fresh ideas for fast food innovation. The study helped us identify some best practices when engaging with this cohort.

Here’s a summary of what we’ve learned from the exercise.

  1. Engage with Gen Z frequently—because they want to contribute.

A majority of Gen Z customers are still very young—in fact, many are not old enough to vote—but that doesn’t mean they’re not willing to contribute their ideas. Our study shows that Gen Z is ready and willing to voice their opinions. An overwhelming majority (71 percent) indicated that they would love to participate in developing new product ideas for a company they really liked. Furthermore, 72 percent said they would support companies that listened to their feedback.

Tweet this!72% of Gen Z say they would support companies that listened to their feedback. (CLICK TO TWEET)

Indeed, other research confirms that this young cohort of customers are armed with great ideas. They’re very entrepreneurial, too, as 50 to 72 percent of them want to run their own startup companies. Companies that are willing to involve Gen Z customers in their business have an enormous opportunity to get creative ideas from these young customers.

  1. Expect a wide range of ideas.

Don’t underestimate the amount and quality of ideas you’ll get. If you engage Gen Z for co-creation, be prepared to receive a wealth of creative ideas and content analysis beyond just the winning idea. Given the diversity of this cohort, you’ll also see a wide range of ideas.

Some ideas we received through our study were vague, with descriptions that were only one to two sentences long. But many were fully fleshed out, complete with paragraphs describing a rationale. Many included details about marketing and roll-out plans, and some even had first drafts of infomercials they would create for their ideas.

Many ideas were also incredibly specific. Many provided comments on specific restaurants and ethnic foods that inspired their ideas. There were also surprising ideas like math-themed food.

While “healthy” is the latest trend for many, we found that’s not the case for Gen Z. They aren’t afraid to indulge and are open to trying new things. What they really want are for food options that they can customize and make their own.

  1. Speak their language.

Much has been said about the dwindling attention span of Gen Z. The assumption is that because these customers are digital natives, they have a hard time focusing on one task for more than just a few minutes. That presents a possible giant challenge when engaging this generation.

Our project, however, shows that that’s not necessarily the case. Gen Z customers are willing to engage, as long as the co-creation project is fun for them. That’s why it’s critical to speak on their level, in their terms and on their devices (mobile is critical for reaching them). Use conversational language and keep it brief. If possible, consider using videos for Gen Z customers who don’t want to read paragraphs of text. Also, seek help from those who are experts at the Gen Z voice to make sure that you’re speaking to this cohort in a way that resonates with them.


Gen Z already makes up a quarter of the population and their spending power continues to grow. As their economic influence increases, it will only become even more critical for companies to engage with this cohort. Companies should start co-creating with Gen Z customers now in order to gain intelligence on their attitudes and behaviors, and start understanding the best way to engage with them.

And just in case you’re wondering, a few of the top ideas generated by Gen Z for fast food innovation include customizable flavors for french fries and meals on a stick.

The Everything Guide to Gen Z

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