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How are brands marketing themselves to Gen Z in 2022?

TikTok, meme Tweets, and online raffles are all being used to appeal to a new generation of digitally native consumers. Here’s a quick rundown of how brands are marketing themselves in 2022.

Wondering how to get your business off the ground with Gen Z in 2022?

With an energy crisis on the way, international conflict, climate change, political turmoil, and a whole lot more, it can be hard to win public favour in these turbulent times. This is especially true with Gen Z, who are digitally savvy, chronically online, and deeply sceptical of marketing ploys and branded content.

Trying to reach this cohort can be a delicate balance of authenticity, humour, and persistence. Here are five steps that many companies have adopted to increase their influence online that could help you out.

Feel free to send us a cheque as a thanks when you make it big.

TikTok, YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels, and short-form video are a priority

Older readers may remember a time when YouTube was the go-to for video content.

A decade ago it was the only real place to post advertisements, gain a sizeable following, and make a decent impression with millennial audiences. This isn’t the case today.

Thanks to platforms like TikTok, short-form content has become absolutely essential for Gen Z audiences, many of whom use it as their primary source of entertainment. Studies have suggested that Gen Zers have an eight second attention span, meaning that the old guard of long-form content simply isn’t going to cut it. Think speed, immediate, obvious messaging, and concise advertising.

If your brand isn’t already on TikTok, you’ll want to jump in as soon as possible. Converting this content to Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts is a good idea too, as both platforms are basically diluted versions of TikTok. Remember too that the average user endlessly scrolls through speedy content, so you’ll need to make a sizeable bang to really stand out.

Starburst has beamed content into space for crying out loud.

Getting involved in meme culture

This one can be challenging to get right, but is very rewarding when done successfully. Gen Z want authenticity and relatability that isn’t forced, especially on social media platforms like Twitter.

Where companies once used very stiff, rigid language to promote their products and services, they now fully immerse themselves in trends, memes, low-brow humour, and influencer gossip.

Take the recent Ryanair Tweet replying to KSI about Jake Paul below, for example. It has nothing to do with planes, but it helps promote brand awareness to young consumers. This is where viral meme content and a genuine understanding of internet discourse works wonders.

One piece of advice here – always assign this work to a young employee or intern that spends their free time online. There’s no point assigning fifty-year-old Derrick from sales the task of following YouTubers. It will be obvious that it’s a marketing ploy and won’t be genuine.

Personal connection through competitions and community building

Another way to bring your brand closer to Gen Z is to offer competitions, reward schemes, and limited time discounts.

We see this a lot with gaming companies and live service products where content changes all the time. There is a sense of ‘missing out’ on trending seasons or items which can create buzz with specific target audiences. Look no further than Fortnite for the best example of this model.

Engaging with communities and creatives around your services is also a great way to build good favour and excitement.

Another excellent case for this is Amazon’s ‘Rings Of Power’ series. A raffle was recently organised on Twitter where fans could win tickets to the London premiere. Thred’s own production manager Elliot went along as a content creator and posted his own video reviewing the show afterwards.

This feedback loop of content and community is a great way to break through to Gen Z – even if the final product’s reception ends up being questionable.

If your brand is less user focused, social media can still be used in ways that encourage active engagement. Consider polls, Q+As, giveaways, shoutout opportunities, follower exchanges, etc. Showing a willingness to listen to your customers can be a key aspect of Gen Z appeal.

Sponsorships through influencer posts and YouTube videos

This one is a tried and tested method of getting your brand out to younger consumers without coming across too corporate. YouTube sponsorships have become a major staple of the platform, and nearly every creator will have an ad read at some point or another.

You’ve likely heard of the big ones.

Hello Fresh, Nord VPN, Squarespace, and Raid Shadow Legends have all pumped tons of investment into large and small creators alike.

Remember, you don’t need to exclusively approach the major channels and in some cases going for micro influencers is actually more effective with young people.

One big benefit to this approach is that it allows plenty of creative freedom. Depending on how stern your marketing team are with rules, you can pretty much let creators say anything they like about your product or campaign.

Giving YouTube creators more freedom is usually best, too, as they can make an ad that fits the tone and style of their regular content. Sponsorships like this can also be used on TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, and you may want to simply run a traditional ad video of your own without an influencer if it works for your brand.

If you do this, make sure to create videos that mix well with the platform you’re on, and be mindful of chasing a trend that’s already outdated. Nothing looks worse than a brand using a meme from twelve months ago.

Investing in genuine social change issues

Remember that skit from Bo Burnham’s ‘INSIDE’ where he pretends to be an advertising expert, hellbent on transforming every company known to man into a bastion for social change?

‘The question isn’t what service you’re providing. The question is – what do you stand for? Who are you, bagel bites?’ This is cynical satire, of course, but it holds some truth.

Gen Z are living in a world where commercialism and corporate greed has wrecked our economies, ecosystems, and personal living standards. They understand that spending cash is inherently a net negative. As the saying goes, there is no ethical consumption under capitalism.

As a result, they will often make purchasing decisions based on brand care and beliefs.

Gen Z need to feel that the companies they’re supporting have values that align with their own, especially when it comes to the climate crisis. If we’re going to purchase products and personally invest in branding, it might as well be with the least evil corporations out there, right?

So, if you haven’t already, consider adopting ethical production practices and focus on being net zero. Source your materials sustainably, pay workers properly, and provide evidence to show that you give a damn. Support LGBTQ+ rights, be progressive, and listen to young consumers.

DIY brand WICKES is a good examples of how this approach can generate engagement.

It’s important to advertise truthfully if you do decide to go down this route, mind.

We’re living through an age of overwhelming greenwashing, where the world’s largest corporations pretend to care for the environment and their employees. I’m talking Shell, Coca Cola, Uber, and many more. Gen Z are not fools and will sniff out disingenuous marketing a mile off. Don’t fall into the trap of cutting corners to save face.

Remember, authenticity is paramount with young consumers. Why do you think the fastest growing social media app is called BeReal? Adapting your brand to show genuine care and understanding is the best way to reach Gen Z.