By now, we are all probably familiar with the newest consumers on the scene, Generation Z (Gen Z.) If you aren't, let us introduce you. Pew Research Center defines Gen Z as the group of individuals born from 1997 to 2013, you’ll also sometimes see outlets recognizing people born in 1995 as members of Gen Z. But no matter how you identify Gen Z, there’s no denying that Gen Z is a generation filled with young people not afraid to call it like they see it. There’s a reason why both TikTok and Instagram limited their reports to reflect the opinions of Gen Z users.
Gen Z not only has massive spending power, but are very influential, especially online. Gen Z trends spread like wildfire. Some attribute Gen Z’s impact on pop culture to their ability to make truly relatable content, but we believe it has to do with Gen Z growing up in time of overall progress. Their exposure to social media, the internet, and smartphones makes them one of the most informed generations and natural born content creators.
Gen Z is all about authenticity– no fakes allowed. In this post, we’re covering all the emerging Gen Z marketing trends to follow this year and how your brand or business can leverage them to expand to a younger market.
It’s no secret Gen Z is running social media and pop culture. TikTok wouldn’t exist without this generation. Many of the trends we’ve come and still and remember after its pique in popularity were created by Gen Z. For example, @mukutarhuh a Gen Z creator created one of today’s most popular TikTok sounds and quotable TikTok videos. Many Gen Z social trends we’ve come familiar with take private thoughts most people are afraid to say out loud and blast them over and over again in the form of catchy audio and lofi text. Take for instance this current trend where they take funny audio to share their most cringe memories.
In addition to their relatable content, their spending power attributes a lot of their influence. They use their voice to highlight social issues and if your company or brand doesn’t align with their beliefs they have no problem unfollowing and putting them on blast. For more insight into this check out our Call Out Vs. Cancel Culture blog post.
Hypocrisy is the ultimate turnoff for Gen Z. Yes, they love a brand that supports a good cause– but if you don’t put your money where your mouth is, you’ll be dropped faster than your fav brand of skinny jeans.
Gen Z’s devotion to causes they care about isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Trend reports for 2023 indicate they will take more action in support of the causes they believe in. Now is the time to show what your brand stands for and what you’re doing to uphold those values. In 2023 there’s an emphasis on fighting climate change. Buzzwords like “sustainability” and “eco-friendly” won’t cut it. They want to see companies put people and the planet over profit.
Even if you’re a smaller business with less of a carbon footprint compared to the Amazon of the world, it’s still important to figure out what you can do to fix the problem.
So, how can you be authentic in your marketing? Get dirty. No more greenwashing, rainbow washing, POC washing, or performative marketing of any kind. If your products aren’t sustainable, don’t market them like they are. If they are sustainable, be transparent with your claims. Don’t slap a rainbow on your logo, or release a diversity-themed product line if you aren’t prioritizing inclusivity for LGBTQIA+ and POCs year round. Don’t market your brand as body positive, then stop your size chart at size 10.
And if you are doing the good work, tailor your marketing to be transparent about your contributions.
Prioritizing accountability and transparency is crucial for brands marketing to Gen Z. Unless you want to end up on the blacklist, maintain honest communication with your audience and take accountability whenever issues arise. Show Gen Z you’re willing to take action in response to their feedback.
This trend is all about practicing what you preach. Hold you and your brand responsible for any previous work or marketing campaigns that don’t align with your new mission and beliefs. Even if you’re not called out for it, rewriting your external messaging to represent your current beliefs and society as a whole is necessary. Even taking it as far as making organizational changes like Reformation, the clothing brand did when their CEO and founder with a history of racist remarks resigned. Whether she did it on her own or she was pushed out by her company, this showed accountability.
Parade the Gen Z underwear company is a good example of changing their messaging to be more inclusive of their customer base and audience. Previously they marketed themselves by rewriting the American women’s underwear story, but now they market that they are for everyone no matter how they identify themselves.
Gen Z loves brands with personality. The internet is a crowded place, and building a strong brand personality helps you stand out from your competitors. Create a relatable personality Gen Zers can connect with. Duo Lingo’s done a great job at this. Their quirky, mischievous Duo simultaneously humanizes the brand and makes it relatable.
Another great example of this is Cassey Ho’s activewear brand, POPFLEX. Cassey is the CEO and chief designer of the brand. You may know her from her fitness YouTube channel called Blogilates. Cassey shares content explaining why and how she created each piece of clothing. The brand is all about designing innovative activewear for every type of body, and its inclusive nature is tangible in every post.
Ditch overly curated posts and let your personality shine through. The best and most memorable social media content is when a brand is being themselves. Not only does it build customer and follower loyalty but it allows you to let go of strict brand guidelines and take on the personality of your social media team at the time. Duolingo created content centered around their mascot, but brands these days can leverage their video content creators (aka social media managers) to be the face of their brand.
Relevant Resources: Are Gen Z Influencers Right for Your Brand?
When you involve your audience in the product design process, you strengthen your community by making them feel part of something. Gen Z is unique in that they aren’t afraid to ask for what they want. Listen to them, and you will be rewarded.
If they ask for you to release a product in a new color, do it. If you post a video apologizing that it’s 10 minutes longer than usual and your audience replies that they’d watch you for three hours, hurry up and start filming.
Crowdsource your followers or if you’re trying to expand your customer base to younger audiences. Polls and live streams are the perfect way to build this connection while collecting valuable input.
Gen Z does not want to see your boring ad. In fact, they won’t. The generation grew up surrounded by digital advertisements. They’ve had a lifetime of practice tuning out what does not resonate. If you want your content noticed by Gen Z, you need to make it entertaining. Humor and storytelling are key here, as well as relatability.
Bring your audience along in a #comewithme video, tell a funny story using #storytime, or use Gen Z's affinity for satire in a “5 reasons I’d never buy my product” video.
The more ridiculous the content is, the funnier it is to Gen Z. Creators like Victoria Paris and makeup creator, Monet McMichael have built their brand by being themselves and it’s absolutely entertaining. You’ll find yourself following them and checking their TikTok to see if they posted anything new.
That’s it for our latest installment of Decoding Gen Z. Keep and eye out, you never know when the latest Gen Z trend is going to take over.