Building a Brand in a Gen Z World

How your brand resonates with Gen Z is vital to long-term success.

Key Takeaways

  1. Your brand should care about Gen Z because as the largest generation, they will undoubtedly take over the consumer market.
  2. It’s important to build an online presence and use social media to connect with GenZ customers as this group is the most digitally savvy.
  3. For successful engagement, incorporating this generation’s values into your brand’s identity is essential.

How your brand resonates with the demands of the consumer-driven market is vital to its longevity and success. Today Generation Z (people born between 1995-2010) is the largest generation with roughly 90 million individuals and accounts for the greatest number of transactions annually. Unique in their complete digital immersion,this demographic has an incredible deal of influence on both the culture and spending habits across all generations. We see this inthe crossover appeal of products marketed to Gen Z that have also found success with Millennials. So whether Gen Z is your intended audience or your aim is a wider target, active engagement and a genuine desire to incorporate their values will ultimately further your brand’s reach.


Unlike the generations that came before, Gen Z spends most of its time on the internet or in a virtual world connecting with people and influences they may never meet in real life.Their ease with technology makes them feel most comfortable shopping onlinewhile liking, sharing, and creating content with other members on various social media platforms. Consequently, it’s vital for your brand to build an online presence in order to both showcase your products and connect with this generation’s consumers. The brands that are able to provide an interactive customer service experience will create a devoted fan base. These marketing tactics that wereinitially implemented for Gen Zers have also found success with older buyers in the age of COVID-19 due to an increase in online shopping.


In order to capture the eye of Gen Z customers, your brand’s identity must reflect Gen Z’s social attitudes which are far more liberal and tolerant than previous generations. According to a 2018 study done by McKinsey & Company, Gen Z members “search for truth”in their interactions. This can be distilled into 4 core behaviors:

  • self-expression is held in high esteem
  • they rally together for a variety of causes
  • they’re optimistic about the power to change the world
  • they have a rational and pragmatic approach to life

The result is a generation that is much more inclusive, socially conscientious, and diverse than everbefore.


These idiosyncratic behaviors extend to Gen Z’s relationship with brands and views on consumption.Their unique ability to borrow from a multi-hyphenate universe of influences both in the virtual world and offline means that Gen Z is inherently different as a consumer from the generations that came before. Notable subcultures that have developed within the generation include VSCO girls: named after the popular photo editing app, these teens are into sustainable products,comfortable clothing, and a natural appearance. E-girls/E-boys: modeled ongamers, these “electronic” girls/boys value artistry and borrow from both punk and hip-hop culture (think Billie Eilish). By analyzing the interests of these youth subcultures and how they present themselves online, we can identify GenZ’s consumption habits as:

  • A signifier of individual identity
  • Entry into a social position
  • Spending power to convey ethics
  • Fulfilling the demand of “freshness” for social media

While other generations were often met with scrutiny or backlash for bucking the norms of mainstream society, Gen Z celebrates its differences. By creating products that allow GenZ to use clothing as a medium through which they can express themselves (and how they feel about the world) your brand will be able to convert passive onlookers into active customers.


Let’s take a look at several brands that have repositioned their marketing strategies in order toappeal to Gen Zers. Aerie, a sub-brand of American Eagle Outfitters has found success with the generation due to its decision to ban photo retouching.Aerie’s alignment with feminist values and its celebration of body positivity in ad campaigns led to growth in this market. Another brand that has seen surprising customer loyalty is the heritage brand Patagonia, which offers an unlimited return policy on unworn items as well as repair services. Providing Gen Z greater value for their purchases has given them confidence in purchasing a more expensive product. The streetwear label Supreme has also caught the eye of post-Millenials, due to its limited releases and multi-brand collaborations.Labels in and of themselves are not the only thing Gen Zers are after, instead,they seek logos that are revamped in new and exciting ways. Small independent labels can find success with Gen Z by incorporating these policies into how they conduct business.


While Gen Z cares about new inexpensive wares in order to remain relevant on social media, the products they buy must ultimately uphold their principles. Their wide scope of interests and drive for social justice sets them apart. Although a lower price point maybe a deciding factor in a one time purchase, in order to encourage repeat business your brand should consider incorporating their other likes.Gender-neutral products and sustainable production practices (whether through secondhand redesigned or environmentally safe manufacturing) are good examples of how your brand can thrive in these turbulent times and beyond. Gen Z has an innate ability to recognize imposters but a genuine desire to impact realchange within the industry will get you far. By understanding how this generation emotionally attaches to products it’s possible to find success in their world.