Cracking the Gen Z Code: Authenticity is the Answer By Corrado Summaria
When diving into the mind of Gen Z, the most undeniable thing is their unrelenting demand for authenticity from brands. We're talking about the generation that grew up with ads being thrown at them 24/7, and we, as a generation, have become seasoned professionals at telling the real from the fake. If your brand wants to snag our attention and loyalty, authenticity is your golden ticket, and frankly, the only way to go.
The Authenticity Imperative:
So, what's the deal with Gen Z and authenticity? Well, we've seen it all – glossy, airbrushed marketing campaigns, influencers pushing products they've never touched, and those cringy or tone-deaf ads that make you wonder, "Who greenlit this?" Growing up with every form of advertising thrown in our faces created a finely tuned authenticity radar. We can tell exactly what brands practice what they preach and who doesn’t with just a quick Google search.
Why is that? It's because we've grown up in the era of information overload. We've seen brands trying to be something they're not, and we're having none of it. We crave transparency, honesty, and a genuine connection with the brands we choose to engage with.
So, what does authenticity look like? Let's break it down:
Real People, Real Stories: Forget those picture-perfect models. We want to see real people with real stories. Show us diversity, inclusivity, and the highs and lows of life.
Social Responsibility: We care about the world. Brands that take a stand on social and environmental issues resonate with us. It's not just about profit; it's about making a positive impact.
Engagement Over Sales: Don't just sell to us; engage with us. Respond to comments, take our feedback seriously, and be part of the conversation.
Mistakes are OK: Nobody's perfect, and we get that. When a brand messes up but owns it and fixes it, that's a big win in our book.
One of the best ways to make your brand look super authentic is to partner with public figures who are known for their authenticity. Fenty Beauty by Rihanna is a fantastic example of what an authentic brand can look like by embracing everyone. Fenty Beauty has been a game-changer in the fashion and cosmetics industries, and part of Fenty’s success is thanks to its authentic and inclusive approach to influencer marketing. They collaborate with a diverse range of influencers and beauty gurus who genuinely love and use Fenty products. Rihanna herself takes the lead in showcasing her brand's inclusivity and authenticity, along with using her own authentic brand alongside all the publicity.
H&M is another fantastic example in a different direction. H&M partnered with much smaller, more independently relatable micro-influencers and encouraged them to wear their clothes in their own style. This approach emphasizes individuality and authenticity, showcasing real people and real fashion choices.
Another way brands excel in authenticity is through College Ambassador Programs. Who’s more authentic than the guy sitting two rows behind you in Intro to Accounting? Let’s look at some huge success stories here.
Red Bull's college ambassador program is legendary. They recruit students who embody their brand's high-energy lifestyle and provide them with opportunities to organize events and promotions on campuses. It's all about authenticity, as students genuinely believe in and use Red Bull products, and students come to these events to hang out with their friends. Nobody pretends Red Bull is healthy, it’s not supposed to be. It gives you wings - and they authentically stay behind their brand.
One of my personal favorite college ambassador success stories is that of BeReal. BeReal went a step above the usual college ambassador program. BeReal ambassadors take charge of a marketing budget, host events all over their campus, and get to take their own creative liberties. Why? Because who knows how to hit their own college market like that guy in Accounting? The best part - ambassadors are getting paid the better they do and the more users they acquire. It's like hitting the jackpot for college students looking to earn some extra money – all by repping BeReal at campus events that they would be at anyway. People saw others “BeReal-ing” and asked about it because they just saw one relevant peer using it. That’s the power of a good college ambassador.
Spotify has also engaged college ambassadors to promote their music streaming service on campuses. These ambassadors connect with their peers, sharing music and playlists, creating a sense of community around the brand. It would only make sense for other streaming platforms to jump on this trend right?
What happens when a brand loses the feeling of authenticity? Well, just take a look at how what once was Twitter but now X is doing.
At the end of the day, Gen Z is a discerning group that’s quick to judge but easy to please. We can spot a lie or a fake brand from a mile away. But if you keep it real, if you genuinely care about us and the world, if you're willing to engage and admit when you're wrong, you've got a shot at capturing our loyalty.
In the age of authenticity, it's not just about products; it's about values, connection, and trust. So, show us the real you, and you might just become our next favorite brand.