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Brands, ‘don’t be perfect, be good-ish’ while marketing to Gen-Z

Marketing to the Gen-Z consumer

As a Gen-Z representative herself, Yashaswini Chhaparwal tells brands what ‘not to do’ while marketing to this prized cohort. She is a young creative strategist, who has worked with the South Asian audience, and is currently the creative lead at The Working Capitol, Singapore.

Who is Gen-Z? Also known as Zoomers, Gen Z is the newest generation, born between 1997 and 2015. It's the cohort succeeding millennials and preceding Generation Alpha.

Who am I? I am an individual who borderline falls in this generic, yet the unique pool of a generation termed “Gen Z”.

I am a young creative/creator inside and outside my profession. Guilty admission- I do not read the news or switch on BBC but I am highly aware of the current affairs because my Instagram feed is up to date. I might quickly scroll through 500 posts a day because I am impatient but only 10% of all consumed content may stick with me because of a short attention span. As a generation that thrives in the digital age, the line between digital and real is fuzzy for me, the two coexist seamlessly by now. I probably post at least one Instagram story a day, but the point is - a click of a button has empowered me to reach people, and share what I feel, at any point in time.

That’s it, these are some traits of an individual belonging to the ‘generation now’. The hyper-cognitive generation that holds great purchasing power today and tomorrow - Gen Z.

Social media today provides marketers with an opportunity to reach Gen Z with the click of a button. But this easy access creates a competitive race for brands to stand out from a big dump of content living online. This competition requires marketers to be bold. The risk factor is real - there is a thin line between what will go viral and what may ‘cancel’ you for the rest of the year.

So here are some dos and don’ts of marketing to Gen Z in 2021 and beyond

Marketing today is not selling the dream

It's selling the truth, without the gimmick. It's selling the genuine to the genuine. It's selling the emotion without sugar-coating the feeling. It's selling ugly with a beautiful story. It's selling the hard work, without hiding the struggle. It's selling authenticity without intimidation.

Brands don’t need to act like god

Brands don’t need to preach. They don’t need to be perfect or outsmart their audience. Brands just need to be good-ish. Akin to humans, they are allowed to make mistakes, but they have to stay vulnerable and own up to their fuck ups (do we use this as is as a policy?) in time.

A good story is not enough

Marketers think good storytelling is all you need. Instead of telling good stories, start telling good relatable stories. Stories with imperfections, stories that are raw, fresh, and deeply resonant with your audience. Have you ever wondered why sometimes an amateur cartoon gets a thousand likes while that studio shot photo just got 100? It's because people related to what the cartoon was depicting - a comparison between a good hair day and a bad hair day.

Does your brand have a fly personality?

Because that’s not enough. Every brand today has a personality of its own. The new skincare brand looks like it's all fun, right out of a tropical holiday. The new sports brand depicts endurance, high spirit, and passion. And they might work, they both look beautiful, with stunning Instagram feeds, good-looking product photography, and models. But what these brands need, to rise in the long run is more than personality- it is empathy. Brands need to feel what the people feel, they need to grieve when people grieve, they need to rejoice when people are feeling joy. They need to renew with changing times.

Brands need more than a high IQ to pass the test

Design your products with a high IQ, design your brand with a high EQ. Products need to be intelligent to sell, they need to work. But brands are simply perceptions. Brands need to be emotionally intelligent to be perceived well. By that I mean brands need to listen, they need to support, they need to have strong values, good ethics - to not just survive but help build a better world today.

Brands have obligations in today’s world

Today, if brands want their audience to listen, they have to add value to the audience in exchange. People believe that brands have a platform, they have resources, and today more than ever brands are not expected but required to be ethically good. They have to speak, they have to take a stand, they have to take action for the better.

Last but not least...one size fits all marketing strategy will not fit at all

Gen Z is a generation that craves authenticity, each individual having a unique expression. It’s not about fitting in or standing out, it’s about being authentically you. Brands cannot market to the masses for such an audience, they need to market to the niche. They need to identify small communities not big generations and craft relevant experiences for them. Experiences that give them the freedom to express, experiences that make them feel seen, experiences that make them share and connect.

Yashaswini Chhaparwal is a Gen-Z consumer and the creative lead at The Working Capitol in Singapore.

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