Branding for Gen Z, according to Gen Z

Gen Z: authenticity police, moral compass wielders, brand critics extraordinaire. They can spot a fake from a mile away, and they're not afraid to call it out. If the brands they interact with don't measure up, they'll hear about it—loudly and publicly. Marketing to them feels like approaching the cool table at the cafeteria, but they’re also largely on the right side of history. Rising to the challenge of their standards just might make our brands, our businesses, and our world a little bit better. We consulted consumer trends, social listening data, and our fabulously talented and gracious Gen Z interns on what makes Gen Z tick, and what gives them the ick.

Gen Z marketing

Who are Gen Z?

Gen Z, nestled between millennials and Generation Alpha, challenges the status quo with a unique blend of resilience and determination. Amidst climate concerns and economic uncertainties, they've grown up in a world marked by turmoil and unpredictability. This backdrop of uncertainty has moulded them into a generation unyielding in their pursuit of the present moment. With the weight of looming environmental crises and financial instability on their shoulders, Gen Z refuses to compromise on their values and aspirations. They demand authenticity, accountability, and action from institutions and brands alike. For them, the future is uncertain, but the urgency of the present is crystal clear. A mix of this pragmatism and idealism makes up Gen Z audiences.

“Lockdown definitely made me appreciate spending time with friends more, I think it somehow made me an extrovert.” - Hannah

Experiential Consumers

Gen Z, the generation of experiences over possessions, thrives on living life to the fullest. Social listening data echoes their preference for spending on enriching experiences like travel, events, and unique activities, reflecting a desire for memorable moments over material acquisitions. Lockdowns during their formative years sparked a profound appreciation for the value of experiences, heightening their eagerness to seize opportunities once restrictions eased. This newfound emphasis on experiences also influences their career choices. Gen Z is less inclined than its predecessors to settle for what they see as dead-end jobs or degrees, with declining enrollment and stagnating graduation rates that predate the pandemic. Instead, they prioritize vocational training, internships, and entrepreneurial endeavours that offer hands-on experiences and immediate returns on investment. For Gen Z, life isn't about accumulating possessions or conforming to societal expectations—it's about embracing meaningful experiences that enrich their lives and shape their futures.

Tip: Create Immersive Experiences 

Explore innovative technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), or interactive storytelling to offer personalized and immersive brand experiences that resonate with Gen Z's digital-first mindset.

“If a brand is engaging in too many trends I assume they’re out of touch. Not every tiktok trend can relate to your product or service, it’s okay!” - Hannah

Gen Z marketing


What do the most scathing Gen Z prescriptions, "cheugy," "basic," and "cringe" have in common? They’re all indictments against a lack of originality, authenticity, and self-awareness. They’ve come of age in an era chillingly named “post-truth”, where the credibility of objective facts is low and “vibes” are paramount. With this comes a healthy skepticism and scrutiny among this demographic of traditional advertising, and an expectation of a more two-way engagement relationship from brands. 

Ironically, the value of authenticity in this taste-making demographic is at odds with the rise of AI-generated content and design templates for branding. While this technology may streamline processes on the marketer’s side, they risk diluting the very essence of authenticity that Gen Z holds dear. By their very nature, they can only produce work that’s been done before. The brand’s apparent lack of self-investment (and it is apparent to savvy zoomers) alienates and demotivates their emotional investment in a brand. For Gen Z, authenticity isn't just a buzzword—it's a litmus test for credibility and trustworthiness. Brands that fail to uphold authenticity risk alienating this discerning demographic, missing out on the opportunity to forge genuine connections and foster brand loyalty.

Tip: Partner with real people 

Instead of working with celebrity influencers, consider collaborating with micro-influencers who have a dedicated and engaged following within niche communities relevant to your brand. Showcase how these influencers authentically integrate your products into their everyday lives, sharing specific, genuine experiences your audience can relate to.

Gen Z marketing

iPad kids all grown up

Gen Z's relationship with technology is as native as breathing—they never transitioned from analog to digital; they were born into it. This unique upbringing shapes their preferences, favoring digital programs that are tactile and intuitive. Despite being perceived as the most tech savvy generation, in reality, Gen Z struggles with some UX hierarchies borrowed from paper, like file structures for example. Gen Z navigates the digital realm in a more tactile, intuitive way. This can be seen in the social media platforms du jour. Where millennials interacted with “albums” and chronological “timelines” of the people they know, Gen Z floats through short-form video and live-streaming platforms in a non-linear way, taking int digestible glimpses of the lives of people all around the world.

This familiarity translates to media literacy and shrewdness for identifying when they are being asked to hand over brand equity for free in the form of their engagement. They won't interact with your brand "just cuz”, especially if it causes any undue inconvenience. They demand easy and rewarding interactions— brands must earn their attention by offering something meaningful in return right away.

Tip: Bite-Sized, Visual Content

Optimize your content strategy for Gen Z's preference for short-form, visually appealing content. TikTok, for example, has become a hub for bite-sized video content that entertains and inspires millions of Gen Z users worldwide. Experiment with video storytelling, animated GIFs, and visually striking graphics to create thumb-stopping content that captures Gen Z's attention and encourages social sharing.

“I hear a lot of my parents' generation say that gen-z is too sensitive to things that don’t matter. I think that maybe it’s just because they were taught that these things are irrelevant.” - Bryar

Gen Z marketing

Social Responsibility and Well-being

Gen Z isn't just scrolling through memes and TikTok dances—they're on a mission for social responsibility and well-being. This generation isn't afraid to tackle the big issues, from climate change to social justice, head-on. They expect the brands they engage with to do the same.

Data-backed insights paint a clear picture: Gen Z supports responsible brands that walk the walk when it comes to values like sustainability and diversity. They're not just paying lip service—they're voting with their wallets, choosing to support companies that align with their values. For Gen Z, it's not just about buying a product—it's about buying into a vision for a better world. They demand transparency, accountability, and action from the brands they engage with.

Tip: "Don't Be Everything to Everyone"

Resist the temptation to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Instead, your team’s passions or your product’s logical context guide your brand's values. Pick a cause or issue that aligns authentically with your brand identity and mission. Whether it's sustainability, diversity, or social justice, choose something you can genuinely talk about and show up for. Don't spread yourself too thin by trying to address every single social issue—focus on what matters most to your brand and your audience.

Gen Z marketing

Adding depth and nuance to our understanding of the audience helps us find our niche and the insights that make a brand irresistible. Gen Z audience personas, while not a monolith, emphasize the experiential possibilities in the present moment, and an unwavering commitment to a better future. Answering to this worldview is a hard, necessary, and rewarding challenge for brands. It's not enough to talk the talk; brands must authentically embody these values in every interaction, from product design to marketing campaigns.

At BOLD LIP, we help you take a ruthlessly empathetic look at your brand from the perspective of your real live audience. Follow us on social media to hear more insights from our unique lens, and contact us to book a BOLD session (aka branding boot camp not for the faint of heart) with us at