Brand Purpose Gen Z Brand Strategy

Letter from Gen Z: global brands must play like the Yankees to fend off micro brands

By Sofia Baracskai, Columnist

October 14, 2022 | 6 min read

Micro brands may be cool for a fleeting time, but in order to stand the test of time and become a global brand, they must don Yankee pinstripes, writes Gen Z columnist Sofia Baracksai for The Drum’s Globalization Deep Dive.

new york yankees logo

Certain brands, like the New York Yankees, become iconic on a global scale / Adobe Stock

During a family trip to Paris this summer, my mom and I saw an abundance of Yankees hats on all types of people. There were so many that we decided to count them for fun. In just two days, we saw 102 hats. And while some of them were worn by American tourists, the majority were worn by non-American tourists. This got me thinking: why do so many people who most likely have never watched a baseball game in their lives, love the New York Yankees, or at least the brand? And it’s not only the Yankees. No matter where you go in Europe, you can spot men and women sporting American brands including Levi’s, Supreme and Nike.

Of course, it works both ways. Gen Z in the US are drawn to European brands like Adidas, Ikea and Mercedes-Benz, plus Asian brands like Uniqlo, Samsung and TikTok. A lot of this has to do with discovery on social media. (More on that in a second.)

But what causes a brand’s long-lasting mystique? For American brands, it could be the spirit of independence and opportunity and, much like the Yankees, a history of being number one.

Broadly speaking, the reason a brand travels across borders is rarely just because of its services or goods. Rather, it takes on a symbolic role for Gen Z consumers, representing a certain culture, sensibility or identity. For example, in the US we associate Tiffany & Co with glamor and Starbucks with quality and consistency. But it’s getting harder and harder for these global brands to win.

Micro brands are storming the field

Hats off to the global brands that have grabbed our attention, because it’s not easy. Blame social media, where trends come and go faster than ever and don’t show any signs of slowing down. Because of today’s fast trend cycle, Gen Z are constantly looking to buy the next best thing, regardless of which brand it’s from. Instead, they are exposed to myriad ’micro’ brands or startup, online companies that don’t have enough presence to be considered a real brand.

The lifespan of these shiny, new micro brands is short lived as they don’t have enough individuality to separate themselves from the others in the digital space. Nor do they have a home country for which to call their own. This means they’re gone before can grow on a larger scale and they fail to succeed with a consumer base that has little brand loyalty to begin with.

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In order for a brand to succeed in the global market, it must be able to go beyond the confines of the digital space and immerse oneself in the real world. It must display an authenticity that makes it unique and create a brand identity tied to a specific country or culture. People support brands that display their morals, values and ethics.

So, global brands clearly have a higher chance of winning with us – and those micro brands, we will see. No matter what, they will all have to beat out 102 Yankees hats for our attention.

Sofia Baracskai is a senior at Notre Dame School of Manhattan. She aspires to graduate from college with a degree in marketing. For more on what marketers and their partners need to do to succeed on a global level, check out The Drum’s Globalization Deep Dive.

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