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5 Marketing Myths About Gen Z – From A Member Of Gen Z

Brand loyalty and brick-and-mortar stores? You might want to update your Gen Z playbook. By Michael Pankowski

Marketing to Gen Z is a hot topic these days among companies looking to engage America’s newest generation of consumers. But with so much talk about such a relatively new consumer base, there’s bound to be some misinformation flying around about us. Here are the five biggest myths about marketing to Gen Z, debunked:

Myth: Everything has to look perfect

You may think, with so many brands competing for Gen Z’s hearts and dollars, your brand’s advertising has to be picture-perfect, right? With “flawless” models rocking your clothes, and A-list celebs endorsing your products? Not with Gen Z.

In a time when Photoshopped images of “perfect” bodies flood Instagram, my generation yearns for brands that are truly authentic. And being real really pays. After American Eagle stopped using Photoshop on their models’ photos, their sales skyrocketed; and nearly two-thirds of Gen Z surveyed said they’d rather see ads with “real” people than celebrities. “Perfection” in ads is ubiquitous but Gen Z is tired of seeing that. What we really want to see is reality—something that often seems to be in short supply online today.

Myth: Wokeness always wins

Gen Z is definitely woke: We’re very attuned to societal injustices such as racism, and we support brands that share the same values as us. So, of course, brands should create ads showing that they’re woke too, right? Well, yes, but… carefully. If done right, standing up for social justice will resonate with Gen Z. For example, Nike took a chance with its controversial ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. Some didn’t like it, but Gen Z definitely did, and Nike’s increased sales showed they nailed it among their customers.

But other brands that didn’t tread as tactfully received scorn instead. The most famous—or infamous—of these is, of course, Pepsi’s protest ad featuring Kendall Jenner that was mocked nationwide for trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement. A well-made woke ad supporting our causes can go a long way towards gaining the loyalty of Gen Z, but beware: Basing ads on delicate subjects can go wrong, very easily and very fast. 

Myth: Gen Z isn’t brand loyal at all

My generation loves uniqueness, so it would make sense that we don’t care about brands. And it’s true that Gen Z cares less about branding than other generations—60 percent of Gen Zers surveyed are neutral when choosing between name brands and no-name brands. But here’s a fact that you almost never hear: My generation can still be loyal to a brand if that brand can earn our trust. No company has cracked the Gen Z brand-loyalty code more successfully than Apple—a survey found that as of spring of this year, a new high of 83 percent of U.S. teens own an iPhone, and 86 percent plan on their next smartphone being an iPhone. My generation is clearly capable of loyalty—your brand just has to be good enough to earn it and continue making products that keep it.

Myth: Gen Z loves showing off our expensive brands

In this Instagram era where we all live our lives online, you’d think that my generation would want big, eye-catching logos on our clothes to show off our high-priced high fashion. Instead, Gen Z places a premium on individuality, and while we still appreciate expensive clothes, we don’t want our clothes’ branding overshadowing our personal brands. Gen Zers want our Instagrams to be a reflection of our uniqueness—not just free advertising for a luxury brand. (There’s even a specific insult for those who care too much about branding: hypebeasts.)

Myth: Gen Z doesn’t shop in-store

You’ve heard a million times that Gen Z is the most tech-savvy generation and that we’re always in front of a screen. So, of course, we do all of our shopping online and would never step foot into a brick-and-mortar store, right? Wrong. Gen Z is all about the experience. We want to be doing something that’s worth posting on Snapchat, after all—and it’s an experience to shop in-store. Indeed, 42 percent of Gen Z members surveyed prefer in-store shopping to online, while just 23 percent prefer only shopping online. But to get Gen Zers coming into your store, it has to be a fun time—56 percent of said an enjoyable in-store experience impacts where they shop. So, think about what can make your store Snap-worthy, and you’ll have my generation packing your aisles.

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