Branding for the next generation.

October 04, 2015  

Generation Z: They were born after 1996. They have an attention span of eight seconds. And most of them went straight from sucking their thumbs to surfing the web. So if your brand is going to capture their attention (let alone keep it), consider these five tips.

Keep it real.

This generation won’t be ignored—they’re smart, informed, and fearlessly opinionated. But if they sense one ounce of insincerity in your message, they won’t hesitate to ignore you. So be authentic. Show them where your values align, and don’t shy away from polarizing issues. They’ll appreciate your transparency, and more important, they’ll connect with your brand on a deeper, more emotional level. 

aerieNailed it: American Eagle’s undergarment brand, Aerie, is redefining real beauty—refusing to airbrush images of its models, and empowering women through an honest and open brand voice.

Hand over the reins.

Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all brands. Gen Z is made up of self-proclaimed self-reliants, and they need to feel emboldened before they feel connected. So allow them to build, change, tweak, and mess with the things you make—creating their very own brand experience in the process. Not only will they stay engaged, but you’ll find that nothing earns their loyalty like a sense of ownership. 

converseNailed it: Converse—known for its timeless Chuck Taylors—is encouraging customers to redesign the iconic shoe. The Made by You campaign features one-of-a-kind kicks adorned with original drawings, patterns, and other individualized embellishments.

Feed their need for entertainment.

Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat are media mainstays for Gen Z—over half of them visit YouTube multiple times a day. They want entertainment, and they want it now. Share bite-size bits of visual candy and make it easy for them to share it with others. They’ll get the residual credit for your genius, and you’ll get a self-populating army of brand ambassadors. 

red-bullNailed it: When it comes to share-worthy moments, no one is collecting more clicks than Red Bull. Videos and photographs featuring extreme athletes have earned them a cult-like following, all without ever pushing the brand’s actual product.

Talk with them, not at them.

When’s the last time that you could expect any teenager, in any era, to quietly sit and listen? This entire generation has grown up sharing, “liking,” and commenting at will. They don’t want a sermon. They want community. Give them opportunities to engage with your brand and have their voices heard—because the more you’re interested in them, the more they’ll be interested in you. 

t-swiftNailed it: Taylor Swift’s personal brand is all about getting personal with her fans. The music megastar hosts song release parties exclusively for Swifties (the official nickname, natch), chats with them on Instagram, and even sends her fans personalized Christmas gifts based on their social media habits.

Be bold.

For every 24 hours, Gen Z spends 7.5 of them in front of a screen (or two, or three). That’s thousands of images and words flooding their eyes and ears daily. Competing with that sort of clutter requires more than a clever tagline. Stay true to your brand, but also stretch it, pull it, and take it to bold new places. Do it right, and you’ll experience a virtual round of applause—otherwise known as trending. 

old-spiceNailed it: Old Spice got really weird and (as a result) really popular with younger audiences. We’ve tried to describe the brand’s creative platform, but (argyle chest hair? skydiving lions?) you just need to see it for yourself. And if that’s not enough, they also hacked Insta’s native features to create a choose-your-own-adventure storytelling experience.