The best Gen Z marketing campaigns

Generation Z are the youngest consumers, but do not be mistaken; they are not a demographic to ignore. In fact, they make up 40% of all consumers and their share of retail spend is expected to increase to 48% by 2030. Gen Z is described as anyone born after 1997, which means the generation’s oldest members can be found studying at colleges and universities or entering the workforce.

Just like their Millennial predecessors, Gen Z is not only largely online, but spends a considerable amount of time there: Nearly 100% of Gen Z consumers aged 16-22 own a smartphone and 54% say they spend at least 4 hours per day on social media according to a recent study. When brainstorming about how to market to Gen Z, remember that social media marketing truly epitomizes meeting people where they’re at. Once there, you want to express your message in short, shareable content that resonates with a younger audience. Below are the best Gen Z marketing campaigns that excel at reaching this audience.

1. Cosmetic Instagram filters by Kylie Cosmetics

When thinking of a notable social media personality, look no further than Kylie Jenner. The young “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” personality started her company five years ago and today Kylie Cosmetics boasts 21 million Instagram followers. The brand has stayed ahead of the curve in social media trends, such as in this campaign where users apply Instagram filters to try on, and share, looks.

Since its onset, Kylie Cosmetics has been centered around customer engagement. Practices like utilizing the comment section on posts to attract new ideas or product names have been successful in fostering brand loyalty and recognition.

The takeaway: Kylie Cosmetics further establishes the trust and loyalty it has with fans by engaging with them on social media as much as possible and delivering personalized experiences like its cosmetic filter. Most importantly, the brand obsesses about measuring the results of its marketing efforts. To learn the most important digital marketing metrics to measure, watch our webinar on the subject.

2. Cleo’s “Roast Mode”

The money management assistant Cleo has reimagined the otherwise taxing experience of budgeting. Its AI chats are designed to be personable and have a sense of humor — ultimately, users are able to ask specific questions about their spending habits and get instant responses. The brand’s decision to launch a “Roast Mode” demonstrated its understanding of younger audiences. Avoiding overly cliche words and phrases, chats with the app are light-hearted and often funny.

The takeaway: Show, don’t tell. Creating short and shareable content is going to increase your chances of Gen Zers sending your ad to their friends (which is something they actually do).

3. JaJa Tequila keeps it real online and off

The founders of Jerry Media, the company behind popular Instagram accounts @f**kjerry and @jerrynews, were already well-known on social media and decided to tackle the first full-scale digital launch of a spirit. Jerry Media excels in creating short and shareable content, and they have brought that strategy to their Tequila brand. While the tequila market, and the alcohol industry in general, are often described as being oversaturated, that is not necessarily a disadvantage when appealing to younger markets that have not yet established brand loyalty.

In this campaign, they bring short and shareable content offline. In doing so, they expand their brand beyond their direct followers and point new customers towards their social media profiles. Noting they are looking for “DMs” to help hire a Chief Marketing Officer is a method of steering customers towards their social media profiles.

The takeaway: To resonate with a younger audience, transparency and humor are key. When it comes to being memorable, a good punchline is an easy pathway to success.

4. “Your Army Needs You” by the British Army

Gen Z and Millennials alike have been the recipients of widespread criticism of being the Me Generation (see Time Magazine’s Cover). Young people have been called lazy, obsessed with technology and social media, and of course, unable to buy a house because they've spent all their money on avocado toast. Playing into that ideology is, broadly speaking, something to avoid at all costs in social media marketing.

The British Army’s ads did an excellent job of redefining the perceived flaws of the Me Generation. In doing so, they shed light on the strengths of younger generations that are often overlooked. This is an excellent Gen Z advertising example.

The takeaway: Building a loyal relationship with your audience starts with empowering them.

5. Beyonce, Beychella, & Homecoming

In 2019, Beyonce released her documentary, Homecoming, and suddenly nothing else mattered. What made this release an instant success from a marketing perspective was its seamless engagement on multiple platforms. Her documentary featuring her performance at the Coachella headliner was available on Netflix and the audio for it was put on Spotify in its entirety. This strategy ultimately made her content widely accessible and shareable. As a result, she was able to attain massive attention on social media.

The takeaway: This is another example of go where you will be found. Make your product accessible and give people something to talk about. Social media will take it from there.

6. Pepsi’s “My Music My Way”

While social media platforms are a promising way to reach Gen Z consumers, Pepsi took a different approach. They used audio to reach Gen Z with a mix of music and podcasts in its “My Music My Way” campaign. The beverage brand aimed to inspire Gen Z to express themselves by creating their own music on Pepsi’s digital music platform with AI support.

To put it into perspective, Gen Z Spotify users listened to three billion podcast episodes during the first half of the year and 560 billion songs, which is up 76% from a year ago according to Ann Piper, the Head of North America Ad Sales at Spotify. And if that wasn’t enough, 44% of the same users said they trust ads they hear on podcasts.

The takeaway: It’s important to listen to what Gen Z values, then dig into how your brand aligns with that.

7. Buy better, wear longer by Levi’s

Did you know one in three Gen Z consumers have abandoned a brand in the last 12 months based on the brand’s reputation for sustainably and ethics? Gen Z consumers are known to favor eco-friendly products from sustainable brands, and in an effort to reach Gen Z, Levi’s launched its Buy Better, Wear Longer campaign.

This campaign went viral for a few reasons — taking on a movement to encourage youth to wear their clothes for a longer duration, as they are the top consumers and can make an impact on sustainability. The Levi’s campaign showed the brand’s values of limiting its environmental impact and caring about sustainability while highlighting Levi’s premium features of being able to be used across generations. They also collaborated with sustainability-focused influencers to reach a larger audience.

The takeaway: To stand out among Gen Z ads and win this generation’s loyalty, your brand’s values must align with theirs. And don’t be afraid to take advantage of influencer marketing. To learn more about the impact of influencer marketing and how you can measure it, check out our guide.

8. #AerieREAL

Aerie, an American Eagle Brand, is one of Gen Z’s favorite brands. The AerieReal campaign focuses on encouraging body positivity, diversity, and self-love by featuring models with different body shapes and colors and a commitment to not retouching model images. It was a first of its kind and certainly resonated with this generation.

Brands representing diversity are what today’s youngest consumers are searching for. In fact, American Eagle conducts extensive focus groups among young people to gather feedback on what they want. Moreover, a MyCustomer survey found that out of the Gen Z consumers they surveyed, 82% of them said they would trust a company more if it used images of real customers in its advertising.

The takeaway: Gen Z seeks out authentic brands they can trust, so when advertising to Gen Z, it’s important to just be real.

9. “Supergucci” by Gucci

Gucci set out to differentiate itself by participating in the Metaverse, becoming one of the first luxury brands to use digital fashion, virtual worlds, and non-traditional retailing. It’s known that Gen Z is tech savvy, so with this in mind, Gucci collaborated with Superplastic to release a collection of 500 NFTs, called “Supergucci”. As technology advances, it makes sense for Gucci to try to build a platform that caters to this generation, to whom the future belongs.

For this campaign, Gucci leveraged the power of TikTok, Gen Z’s favorite social media platform. The luxury brand also used Gen Z slang swapping “it’s good” for “it’s gucci” to successfully integrate with the audience. This is a great example of how to quickly become a favorable Gen Z brand.

The takeaway: Embrace technology and the power of social media to speak to this generation. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our Social Media Pocket Guide for brands.

Gen Z Marketing Bottom Line

To effectively market to Gen Z, you should keep these things in mind:

  • Gen Z favors authentic and sustainable brands

  • Using social media and other digital platforms is key to reaching this audience

  • Collaborating with influencers can help drive success

  • Gen Z resonates with brands that have similar values such as inclusivity and diversity

  • Short, shareable, and personalized content does best

  • Humor and transparency can go a long way

It all starts with understanding what Gen Z wants from brands so you can create effective ads and marketing campaigns. If you’re curious to learn more about Gen Z marketing, watch our Gen Z insights and misconceptions webinar.

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