Snapchat COO Emily White Covers Gen Z at #FordNAIAS

Each year at the North American International Auto Show, Ford invites about 200-300 bloggers and digital influencers to partake in exclusive sessions, product demonstrations, and more. This year, I was on hand to listen to Snapchat‘s COO, Emily White, DigitTour Co-Founder and CEO Meredith Valiando Rojas, and 12-year-old entrepreneur (and Gen Z’er) Davis Barrow. White, Rojas, and Barrow discussed making way for “Gen Z,” which is anyone currently under the age of 21.

As the event started, it was stated that Gen Z’s mantra is

“Good things come to those who act…”

which means that these budding entrepreneurs, professionals, and decision makers will likely lead companies and conduct businesses in a different way from their parents or even Generation Y/Millenials, the young adults (ages 21-35ish) that came before them.

Here’s some other facts about Gen Z:

  • 52% use YouTube and social media for research assignments
  • 84% of adults under age 35 say that they are interested in the social standpoint and history of a company and its products
  • The internet was created 4 years before they were born
  • They send and receive an average of 109.5 text messages per day; double the amount for those in the 25-36 age range

Generation Z is the first true generation that grew up with the internet, which will affect how they purchase products and services, create or build businesses, and interact with companies and one another online.

Snapchat’s History and Involvement With Gen Z

Emily White spent the first years of her career at Google, before spending four years at Facebook/Instagram. She has been at Snapchat for about a year. White states that, “Our phone is one of our best friends, and we are always looking for new ways to create content.”

White states that most people who use Snapchat are between the ages of 14-30 and are very active in creating and consuming content. Since its inception in 2011, Snapchat has placed a priority on innovation and releasing several new features in the last year, including the ability to add custom location stamps to snaps and to send money to other users via the chat portion of the app.

Going into 2015, Snapchat is working with brands and sponsors to create “Our Stories,” which are live, integrated video and photo snaps stitched together by the Snapchat team to show live content from the event or brand. Because Snapchat requires users to leave their thumb on their screen in order to view stories or snaps, they are likely to be more engaged than a user being forced to watch an ad before a YouTube video loads. This is because Snapchat users are “opting in; they are choosing to hold their thumb down and view something. This is giving users their power back.”

DigiTour and Honeycomb Servers’ Impact on Gen Z

After White spoke with Ford Futurist Sheryl Connelly, Meredith Valiando-Rojas and Davis Barrow joined them on stage to talk about their own involvement with Generation Z. Rojas’ company offers events and tours to well-known YouTube, Vine, Instagram, and other online stars, optimizing and promoting their content in the way that Gen Z absorbs it: through mobile.

Davis Barrow is a young entrepreneur hoping to change the smart watch market with his watch, the Comb 720. He choose to build a project that makes the smart watch interface and OS easier to use. He said White and Rojas’ insight on Generation Z was spot on; that they use the internet and social media to get answers from their friends and peers; as well as communicate and share content on a continual basis.


As the importance of Generation Z continues to grow, it’s important to shape marketing strategies to be better optimized toward how it will best be absorbed. This means thinking about further involvement on platforms like smart watches and Snapchat in order to reach the largest market possible.


Ford Motor Company paid for my travel and accommodations for NAIAS 2015. I was not compensated in any other manner for my time, nor was I expected to write about the event in any way. All opinions are my own. 

Photos taken by author.