In a controversial advertisement, Jenner gained attention as she walked through an agave farm, sporting rustic braids and a cowboy hat. The backlash stemmed from an accusation of cultural appropriation, but it was the lack of authenticity in Jenner’s attempt to connect with Mexican culture that fueled the outrage. However, despite this initial setback, 818 Tequila has successfully established itself as a premium brand with booming domestic and international sales. The brand’s rehabilitation, particularly among Gen Z consumers, can be attributed to its focus on authenticity and social proof.
Jenner, an influential figure in social media, has found a way to give back to the Mexican community where her tequila is produced by creating sustainable bricks from agave waste. By doing so, she aims to contribute to environmental sustainability while also supporting the local community. Jenner states, “Along with saving the planet, it’s important for us to be friendly to the community as well. We’re donating [agave bricks] and building homes for people that need homes.”
However, it’s not just trendy tequila brands that need to appeal to Gen Z. Every business should understand the unique branding strategies that resonate with this digital generation.
Who is Gen Z?
Gen Z consists of individuals born between 1996 and 2010. The older members of this generation now have increased purchasing power and influence in the marketplace as they enter their mid to late twenties. These individuals have grown up immersed in social media, leading to a blurred line between personal identity and brand. From a young age, they have made decisions about their online portrayal, unconsciously branding themselves. As a result, Gen Z is highly savvy and skeptical of transparent marketing efforts. However, brands can still effectively target this demographic and build a loyal following by aligning personal identity and fundamental values with the brand’s outlook and commitments.
Quick Gen Z facts:
– 92% of Gen Zers consider authenticity extremely or very important.
– 60% believe that their preferred brands are an expression of their identity.
– Only 37% exhibit brand loyalty (compared to 56% of Baby Boomers).
– 62% prefer sustainable brands and are willing to pay a higher price for them.
Four essential steps for branding to Gen Z:
1. Prioritize authenticity: Gen Z individuals are constantly immersed in a digital world, making them highly discerning when it comes to branding. They have grown up surrounded by “fake news” and are knowledgeable about traditional marketing tactics. It is vital to practice what you preach, as they can instantly see through any disingenuous efforts. Ensure authenticity is at the core of your brand, from ethical commitments to the brand’s tone. Many businesses fail to meet the authenticity test, with 78% of Gen Zers perceiving brands as disingenuous regarding issues like equity, diversity, and sustainability. Outdoor brands such as Patagonia and North Face have successfully evolved over the years, moving away from their rustic roots to become fashionable brands. They have maintained their ethical positioning by emphasizing environmental sustainability alongside trendy clothing. Gen Z views a brand’s values as aligning with their own, focusing on social responsibility. Establish what your brand stands for, and consistently apply those values in business practices and marketing strategies.
2. Empower personal expression: Gen Z has numerous avenues for self-expression, including fashion, music, identity politics, ethical commitments, and social media representation. As a result, 73% of Gen Zers believe that personal expression is crucial for a happy life. Brands can tap into this aspect by integrating themselves into the way consumers express their identities. Position your product or service as an integral part of how your audience constructs their identity. While this is inherent for fashion brands or styling products, it can be applied by any organization, including fintech apps or household goods. Highlight your brand’s role in enabling individuals to be themselves. Rather than presenting your brand as a tool consumers use, position it as an essential part of who they are.
3. Keep it simple: Dealing with a digitally sophisticated audience that harbors skepticism requires simplicity. Brands like Casper and Ollie have successfully appealed to Gen Z by humanizing their products, even in their brand names. These lifestyle brands focus on products that prioritize the individual, maintaining a clean image and placing emphasis on social media. Avoid getting distracted by virtue signaling or engaging in topics unrelated to your brand. Identify how you enhance the lives of your customers and stick to that message.
4. Build relationships with customers: Peer-to-peer recommendations hold more weight than brand reputation for Gen Z. However, brand reputation still plays a role, albeit in a different way. Gen Z perceives brand reputation in the context of a social web. To effectively build your brand, ensure your target audience encounters it within their visual world, both online and offline. Consider your branding project as a collaboration with your customers, forging relationships that generate personal recommendations and foster a meaningful brand reputation among this demographic.
Becoming an extension of Gen Z’s identity may seem challenging since they are relatively young consumers. However, they are the most digitally sophisticated individuals in the marketplace. Brand reputation remains significant for Generation Z, but strong brands now serve as an extension of an individual’s identity. Brands must conceptualize themselves as part of a wider web of identity. Establishing this connection ensures success in capturing the hearts, minds, and wallets of your target audience.
FAQs about marketing to and building brand loyalty with Gen Z:
1. What are some core values of Gen Z?
Gen Z values communication, individuality, and social justice. They are knowledgeable consumers who are skeptical of brands trying to manipulate or trick them into making purchases.
2. What does Gen Z value most in a brand?
Authenticity and honesty are highly valued by Gen Z. While they are particularly interested in socially conscious and eco-conscious brands, the most crucial factor for young adults is a brand that remains true to itself, with a consistent tone and message.
3. How can I build brand loyalty with Gen Z?
Identify your unique brand image and remain consistent. Clearly communicate your brand values and encourage open communication with Gen Z consumers. Tonally strong brands tend to resonate with this audience, whether through simplicity or a touch of fun. Lean into your brand’s identity.
About the Author:
Grant Polachek is the head of branding for Squadhelp, a disruptive naming agency that has been recognized three times on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies.
LinkedIn: Grant Polachek