Jojo Siwa Rebrand

What Jojo Siwa’s Rebrand Can Teach You About Marketing To Gen Z

May 15, 2024·4 min read
Jojo Siwa Rebrand

Siwa had the ingredients to a solid rebrand - so why did it fall apart?

Jojo Siwa’s rebrand is taking the internet by storm. A terrible, cringe-inducing, viral-but-not-in-a-good-way storm. Not a judgment! But certainly an observation. What was meant to evoke a good ‘ole Bangerz-era maturation of Siwa’s previously kid-centered brand has unfolded into a social media circus and many post-haste podcast appearances. In other words, the worst has happened - instead of giving icon, it’s giving meme. But what exactly did this rebrand misunderstand about Gen Z?

What Happened

Beloved Dance Moms smart-alec, family-channel TV personality, international hairbow titan-of-industry - Jojo Siwa has had many eras. According to the internet, this newest one is the worst.

When Siwa released her latest single, Karma, it came with a change in color palette, a sleeve of fake tattoos, and some pretty bold claims of creating a new genre of music for ‘gay pop’ (a genre that, one could argue, already exists). 

During an interview with Billboard, Siwa stated:

"No one has made this dramatic of a change yet. No one has made, in my generation, this extreme of a switch. I am the first of a generation, it is very scary. But, someone's gotta do it.”

This, unfortunately, did not eat the way it was intended to. In part, because it was inaccurate, a fact that Gen Z was quick to point out  (um, hello Britney, Miley, Christina, Justin??). But also, because people were not that into said dramatic change. 

This proved to be a deadly combination.

Jojo Siwa in a jumpsuit

The dramatic change in question.

Why It’s A Little Weird

Here’s the thing - on the surface, this creative switch-up hits all the classic characteristics Gen Z is proven to love. 

  • Edgy 

  • Bold

  • Queer

  • Transgressive 

….But it feels a bit like checking off boxes, doesn’t it?

The problem is, while the intention may be genuine, this execution comes off aggressively inauthentic. The creative direction reads *generically* Gen Z-aligned, a soupy combination of stereotypes and derivative choices thrown into a pot. Someone cooked in here for sure - but it was a really bad PR team, and now everything is burnt.

What This Says About Gen Z

In Gen Z’s eyes, there is no greater insult than inauthenticity. Unfortunately, because our demo is so highly sought after within consumer spaces, it’s one marketers routinely repeat when trying to appeal to our generation. But we know a faker when we see one; age and aesthetic won’t give you a pass.

Let’s look to the 2022 movie Not Okay for a demonstration; the main character, brilliantly played by Zoey Deutch, is a micro-trend wearing, buzzword spewing, social media-addicted Zellenial so into keeping up with current culture, she’s out of touch with it. Aesthetically, the look of this character makes a point; you can be contemporary and disingenuous at the same time. In this case, the whole vibe is like if they skinned Gen Z culture and wore it as an (ugly) dress. Unfortunately, this is also the same vibe many PR teams tend to cook up with their Gen Z-targeted brand strategy; it’s where simply checking the boxes will get you. 

Another great example IRL - the demise of The Tramp Stamps, a pop punk band the 14 - 25 demo ran off the internet for being a patronizingly phony caricature of Gen Z and our love of all things indie. They, too, fell to marketing’s final boss; doing way too much, while not really meaning it. 

What Brands Can Learn From This

If looking Gen Z doesn’t work, and being Gen Z doesn’t cut it, what does this generation of culture-creators actually want in a rebrand?

In the case of Jojo Siwa, it’s not that dramatic of a correction. Though this fumble boiled down to a PR stunt gone wrong, Gen Z is not averse to the use of gimmicks and shock to launch a new project or creative direction; I mean, Lil Nas X trolls the entire internet whenever he drops a new album (and also for fun).

There’s a place in the culture for Jojo’s 180 rebrand - but for this bold of a switch up, the missing ingredient in the execution was self-awareness. This is the difference between cringe and camp - the latter of which Jojo could have tapped into to ease the transition into her adult era of music if she insisted on that sequined KISS jumpsuit.