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Gen Z Brand Strategy Youth Marketing

Engaging with the gen Z community: a strategic guide for global brands

By Luke Hodson, Founder

NERDS Collective


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August 10, 2023 | 6 min read

Luke Hodson of Nerds Collective argues that community engagement should no longer be an afterthought, but central to brand strategy. Here’s his step-by-step guide.

A group of young people, in silhouette, at a beach at sunset

Nerds Collective's step-by-step guide for putting community building at the heart of brand strategy / Kimson Doan via Unsplash

In the hyper-connected, culturally rich, and diverse landscape of gen Z, community engagement has evolved from a ‘background feature’ to the main event for brands. It's not an add-on but the lifeblood of a brand’s success strategy. Community engagement does more than ignite TikTok trends or expand brand recognition.

It builds authentic connections, ignites cultural relevance, elevates brand loyalty, and aligns a brand’s values with those of gen Z, rather than just broadcasting brand messaging. Young people seek community, shared identity, and expressions. They’re open to brands participating in their community, but they hold the keys. You have to come correct.

1. Find your gen Z tribe

The journey to successful community engagement starts with identifying a tribe that resonates with your brand's core values; there has to be a resonance with your brand’s DNA or proposition.

Tap into communities that mirror your brand's ethos, aspirations, and cultural footprint. Whether it's eco-enthusiasts for a sustainable fashion brand or e-sports aficionados for a gaming startup, finding a gen Z community with shared passions and values is key. Young people can smell it a mile away if a brand doesn’t have an authentic link with the community they pride themselves on being a part of.

2. Carve out your goals

Once you've found your gen Z focus, the next move is outlining clear goals for your engagement strategy. Are you seeking new brand adopters, building your cultural clout, or looking to crowdsource fresh, innovative ideas? Clear objectives drive a focused engagement approach, ensuring that your effort vibes with your broader brand objectives. Community engagement is a long play and requires a significant investment of time and resources.

3. Co-create value

Gen Z values reciprocity. Brands must consider what they can offer the community that they will see as valuable. What do they need? Don't presume product alone is enough. People are aware of their and their communities’ value. This could range from co-creation opportunities, personalization of products, resources for their creative exploits, hosting IRL meet-ups or amplifying their voices on your platform.

By co-creating value, brands earn respect and trust, fostering a stronger connection with gen Z. The goal is to give more than you take.

4. Understand cultural nuances

Every gen Z community has its unique cultural codes, norms, and behaviors. Navigating these nuances fosters genuine interaction and forms an authentic connection. Identifying their digital hangouts, the content they connect with, their shared rituals, and their signature behaviors can guide your engagement strategy.

You’re there to mirror their body language rather than trying to project yours. Don’t be the awkward uncle at the party, and remember you care more about the brand than they do.

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5. Align communication

Syncing your communication with the community’s preferred platforms, tone, and language is vital. Whether they congregate on TikTok or on Discord, meeting them on their turf and understanding the content they connect with allows a brand to deliver value-added, culturally relevant content.

5. Role-play

Insights derived from understanding gen Z’s nuances and communication preferences enable your brand to play a valuable role within the community. From supporting their causes to championing their creativity, your brand’s role should consistently enrich and serve the community.

Through thoughtful, culturally responsive community engagement, brands can transcend corporate personas to become cultural co-creators with gen Z. This transformation takes time, patience, and a deep understanding of the gen Z landscape. The payoff (boosted brand loyalty, cultural relevance, and meaningful relationships) justifies the effort.

In today's dynamic branding landscape, community engagement isn't just a trend; it's a strategic game-changer, especially with gen Z. Communities hold the keys, incubate trends, and decide what's hot.

Gen Z Brand Strategy Youth Marketing

Content by The Drum Network member:

NERDS Collective

NERDS Collective was founded by Luke Hodson In 2013 as a specialist agency that places brands at the frontline of street culture through hyper-nuanced consumer insights,...

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