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It’s lit: The three things Gen Z wants from your brand

Katie Gatti

Don’t overcomplicate it. Own your voice. Be mission-driven in whatever way that applies to your brand. And embrace common sense when refining your brand experience

Katie Gatti, Southwest Airlines


You could probably close your eyes, point at the homepage of any communications-related publication, and find an article purporting to teach you everything you need to know about this slippery, increasingly valuable demographic dubbed Generation Z.

These treasured tips and tricks range from the obvious to the eyebrow-raising. Virality. Memes. The word “lit.”

And a lot of it is well meaning. In most cases, there are kernels of truth buried under the slang and GIFs. And this 23-year-old is not trying to knock the undoubtedly successful professionals who pen these pieces – recognizing the value of this age group is, in and of itself, a brand win.

However, the problem with the majority of the advice is that it suggests tactics that aren’t a natural brand fit for readership, which inherently violates the first and foremost Gen Z marketing principle:

Know who the heck you are

The buzzword I hear a lot in reference to this notion is authenticity. Nothing turns Gen Z off more than a brand that seems to be having an identity crisis. What’s your voice? If your brand voice isn’t someone who says lit, don’t you dare try to tell me your product, service, or experience is lit.

Gen Z’ers are unique in that we’ve been inundated with multimedia content since elementary school. We can see through shoddy brands in ways our parents and grandparents can’t, simply thanks to the frequency of exposure to the good and the bad. It doesn’t matter what we’re saying in our texts and tweets to one another if that’s not a brand fit for you.

Another popular piece of advice for impressing the Gen Z consumer is to embrace corporate social responsibility. But this phrase conjures an image of a bunch of suits sitting around a mahogany table and allotting small portions of revenue to local nonprofits. Instead…

Be a brand driven by mission, not your bottom line

Again, Gen Z can smell phony, press release-driven charity work through the screens of their iPhone Xs. If I see one more corporation tweet a photo of smiling, T-shirt-clad people aimlessly digging in a riverbed, I’m going off the grid.

The idea of being mission driven is less about where you donate your earmarked charity funds and more about the purpose behind the company itself.

Sephora is a brand that emphasizes making women feel empowered and beautiful. Its holiday storefronts are plastered with close-ups of diverse faces wearing equally diverse makeup – and I found out, via a presumed Gen Z’er on Twitter – that the featured women are Sephora employees. That kind of mission-driven branding that comes through in advertising speaks for itself.

That said, having a mission-driven brand only gets you halfway. To really clinch a Gen Z consumer, you have to…

Make the experience make sense

You know those things in life that are just irritatingly inefficient? They leave you wondering, “Why isn’t there a better way to do this?” After purchasing my first mattress a few months ago, I see why companies such as Casper appeal to Gen Z.

Traipsing from discount furniture stores to Mattress Firms – and lying awkwardly on bare mattresses next to an eager salesperson – monopolized the majority of my treasured Sunday. Then scheduling delivery and waiting for the truck to show up so I could usher in my overpriced mattress consumed another Sunday afternoon.

It wasn’t a stellar experience. I didn’t leave Mattress Firm thinking, “Wow, I’m going to follow this brand on Twitter, and I can’t wait to buy another mattress and go through this whole ordeal again!” There were a lot of choices. It was expensive. It was time consuming.

So the alternative: a company that makes only three options with a simple website and ships you a mattress in a box, sans burly deliverymen? It’s inspired.

Gen Z values a straightforward, enjoyable purchasing experience more than their predecessors. Gen Z is more willing to pay for that ease of use. We’re incredibly averse to frustrating, inefficient experiences – we simply don’t have the patience for it.

Don’t overcomplicate it. Own your voice. Be mission-driven in whatever way that applies to your brand. And embrace common sense when refining your brand experience.

Employ these ideals and, before long, your brand will be lit.

Katie Gatti, PRWeek’s 2017 Outstanding Student Honorable Mention, is the in-house copywriter at Southwest Airlines on all owned channels. The 23-year-old graduated from The University of Alabama with a degree in PR.


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