By Julianna Chen
Gen Z can be picky about who it deems worthy of their dollar. Spending so much time online has rendered many of us able to see right through pandering or pretty-but-empty marketing material—we’re annoyed by brands that try too hard on TikTok, and we make fun of corporate tweets that flop.
For brands, finding an appealing balance is tricky. But there are a few ground rules you can follow that will ensure no member of Gen Z comes to cyberbully your social media manager.
Do: Be transparent about your labor practices, sustainability efforts, and diversity and inclusion initiatives. A recent study revealed that “the vast majority of Generation-Z shoppers prefer to buy sustainable brands, and they are most willing to spend 10% more on sustainable products.” Along with millennials, we are also the most likely to make purchase decisions based on social, personal, and environmental values and principles. Gen Z wants things that have been ethically produced in an environmentally friendly manner; Gen Z respects companies with proud histories of diversity and visible efforts toward social justice. I notice when a company does more than release a hollow, pastel-colored statement, and when they do things like make large donations, actively change their hiring practices, or modify their supply chain sourcing.
Don’t: Use outdated, forced memes or language. The meme trend cycle moves quickly, with TikTok trends falling out of favor within weeks. Figuring out what’s out is worth it: nothing turns me off more than seeing a brand reference something from months ago, or, God forbid, years ago. (No “Bad Luck Brian,” please.) This rule extends past visual references and into language as well—make sure your slang is, at best, of-the-moment, and, at least, not forced and borderline appropriative. Strange attempts at imitating AAVE, for instance, are always obvious. It’s best to find a tone that doesn’t require rehearsal—your copy doesn’t need to be all-lowercase and jam-packed with jokes to catch eyes; it just needs to have substance and a clear vision.
Do: Be selective about who you choose to represent your brand. Anyone to whom you send PR packages, anyone with whom you “collab,” should align with the values of your brand as well as those of your target market. Recently, for instance, a large jewelry brand from whom I had previously purchased some rings announced a collaboration with a TikTok creator who had come under fire for making racist jokes. I immediately unfollowed the company and vowed never to purchase from them again. They had made it clear that they didn’t care about the values (or lack thereof?) she held.
Don’t: Rely too heavily on influencer marketing. It’s a powerful tool for reeling in customers, but only to a certain degree. At present, my TikTok is flooded with promoted videos of unfamiliar creators gushing about athletic shorts, slippers, and teeth straighteners; in fact, I’ve seen over five different creators advertise each product. When I see more than just a few well-known names peddling something, I become skeptical about how good it actually is—to myself and other members of Gen Z, a truly good thing won’t need to rely entirely on others because its quality will speak for itself by driving word-of-mouth advertising. Which means that your social media accounts should not be dominated by influencer photos—lean more into telling us the story of your brand, the how and why in addition to the who. We want to hear from you, not just bloggers! Authenticity and a genuine backstory will carry you far with Gen Z.
If you need help making your brand more appealing to Gen Z, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Adolescent Content so we can connect you with one of our many talented creators.