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Marketers Draw the Attention of Gen Z

Marketers never tire of trying to capture Gen Z’s attention, given the large influence and spending power of this all-important demographic. According to the latest Ad Age-Harris Poll, conducted quarterly to determine how much equity brands hold with Gen Z, several companies are ranked according to different factors like quality or familiarity. Beats by Dre, Jersey Mike’s Subs and Planned Parenthood held the coveted top three spots, respectively, thanks in part to targeted campaigns that embrace authenticity, originality, and the occasional dose of celebrity power. We look at how a few other brands are differentiating themselves to stand out among Gen Z.

Maintaining Authenticity
Liquid Death is undoubtedly one of the coolest water brands on the market, having found success despite an incongruous name that might scare some consumers from drinking it. Much of this victory can be attributed to founder Mike Cessario, who’s long embraced an anti-branding ethos that resonates as genuine with Gen Z consumers. “We’re always just trying to create relevant content that feels more timeless, because our whole thing is entertainment over marketing,” said Andy Pearson, VP of creative strategy. “We’re posting the things that make us laugh, whether they’re relevant or not at that time.” Rather than attempting to chase ever-evolving trends, Liquid Death follows a more timeless approach of crafting content its creators find personally worthwhile, hoping this authenticity will resonate with their target audience. Case in point: The ongoing “People Love Us on the Internet” series, which highlights negative comments made by users, rather than trying to hide them. To date, posts like “sad,” “bankrupt in weeks” and “give it up” carry some of the highest engagement rates—and the brand is currently valued at $700 million.

Wrangler jeans brand is likewise scoring points for its authentic marketing endeavors, managing to draw the attention of Gen Z consumers despite being a 75-year-old denim company most often purchased by older groups. Along with advertising during commercial breaks for Yellowstone, the hit Paramount Network television series, Wrangler invests in product placement during the show. “The good news is from a product placement standpoint, we are the authentic brand in that space,” said Tom Waldron, global brand president. “You can’t do a Yellowstone episode without seeing Wrangler all over the place—it wouldn’t be an authentic representation of the western lifestyle if it wasn’t there.” The brand is also running influencer videos on TikTok while dropping virtual products into the metaverse, as both platforms are places where Gen Z spends time.

Getting Creative
Converse is already in the enviable position of having forged a solid relationship with Gen Z shoppers, and now the footwear company is working to strengthen that bond while attracting new members via its “Create Now. Create Next.” campaign. The endeavor comprises a series of six-second videos, each one spotlighting a unique artist or creator. Individuals come from around the world and boast names that are both recognizable and still emerging, including Australian musician Serwah Attafuah, Parisian choreographer Usha Jey and Turnstile, a Maryland-based punk band, among others. The aim of the campaign is to target consumers on a global level, since Converse chief marketing officer Sejal Shah Miller noted that 70% of Gen Z members don’t identify with just one country or culture. “This is an opportunity for our brand to continue to talk to Gen Z consumers through the lens of creative expression,” said Shah Miller. “We create for Gen Z, but we’re also creating with them.” All 20 videos were combined into a larger 60-second anthem spot that will run on global digital and social channels, as well as via Hulu ads in North America.

Dave’s Hot Chicken is another brand thinking outside the box for its first national TV campaign—and the restaurant chain is taking a slightly darker tone. Boasting the tagline “Don’t die before you try it,” two 30-second spots feature people tearfully talking about a loved one’s untimely death while mourning the fact that the person never got to try the Nashville-style fried chicken. The macabre comedic style aims to entice Dave’s key Gen Z demographic base of young male fans, who until now were used to seeing only Instagram posts and user-generated TikTok content. “As we started to expand, we felt we needed some kind of national campaign to reach all of the different stores that social media can’t reach anymore,” said Arman Oganesyan, Dave’s Hot Chicken founder and chief brand officer.

As of 2019, Gen Z commanded a whopping $143 billion in buying power—a number that’s only expected to increase. As the most ethnically and racially diverse group in US history, Gen Z consumers demand authenticity from brands while placing a premium on creative expression. Marketers can tap into those key trends and behavioral patterns when crafting innovative ways to target this essential group.