Fooling Gen Z? Think Again
November 11, 2021

By: Eliza Rudalevige

I can guarantee that Gen Z knows more about the internet than you do. Growing up bombarded by content, advertisements, videos, photo-sharing apps, and a new social media platform every other week, we’ve been submerged in a constantly evolving digital landscape, adapting quickly ourselves in order to fit in with what’s cool, new, and trendy. If you as a brand think you can fool us, think again. 

My number-one tip for appealing to an audience that can see right up your advertising sleeve is to simply be honest. Gen Z knows that we’re being targeted by advertisers—we’ve seen the dozens of articles warning us about the dangers of online data collection—so your brand is already at a disadvantage. Gen Z wants to trust the brands we shop from, so if we catch you engaging in dishonest practices, it’s game over. Convince us by showing us how amazing your product is, not by pulling from the sneaky advertising playbook. One way you can do this is by using real, everyday Gen Zers as models and spokespeople.

Also, be honest with your team about whether your product or brand is a good fit for a Gen-Z audience. Gen Z isn’t close-minded, but we are picky about what we spend our hard-earned money on, especially because over half of us aren’t yet financially independent. It may seem counterintuitive, but don’t try to convince Gen Z to go for your product if it isn’t something that immediately appeals to them. If a specific product isn’t landing with Gen Zers, try a different product that is more in line with Gen Z’s values or current aesthetic—a quick peruse of TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter can give you a good idea of what kids, teens, and young adults are into these days. Another option is to consider a rebrand. One example of a successful rebrand—taking a label from obsolescence among Gen Z to TikTok virality—is the luxury bag brand Coach. In 2021, Coach adopted a brighter, more fun look, and, as a result, their Pillow Tabby bag took over the shoulders of every cool girl on Pinterest. 

Additionally, since 51% of Gen Z has installed ad-blocking software on their devices, you might have to get creative to get through to us. Embed advertising in a way that makes sense for your brand; for example, a cosmetics brand with a natural focus might have better luck sending a PR package to a skincare guru than to a makeup artist who’s known for their wild special effects designs. Additionally, give your spokespeople free reign on what they have to say about your product. Commentary obviously orchestrated by a brand is instantly skipped by the Gen-Z crowd in favor of the next twenty-second viral dance or pasta recipe. Think on a micro level instead of treating influencers as one-size-fits-all billboards, and you’ll have much more success showing Gen Zers that you’re a thoughtful and trustworthy brand. 

Marketing to an audience that knows all of your tricks can be, well, tricky. If you or your brand needs help applying any of these tips, feel free to reach out to Adolescent—and we’ll hook you up with our extensive network of creatives.