When it was time to launch this year's back-to-school marketing campaign, the clothing company Old Navy knew it had to switch gears. Typically, the San Francisco- based clothier, which is owned by Gap Inc., devotes its marketing efforts to the moms who purchase clothes for their sons and daughters.

Old Navy knew it also had to effectively address both parents and kids with its back-to-school campaign because, let's face it, kids drive purchase decisions more than ever before. But it's not easy to craft a marketing campaign that simultaneously appeals to parent and child. For many brands, the challenge is particularly acute because school age gen Zers (defined as those born from the mid- 1990s to the mid-2000s) are decidedly unlike the millennials who came before them.

Two key observations regarding generation Z guided Old Navy's approach. "We think of gen Z as a savvy customer who grew up in a digitally connected world," says Julie Luker, director of brand engagement at Old Navy. "She expects a lot from brands, both the content they create and also the impact they make. She wants to be entertained, not advertised to, and she also searches for brands that provide social good."