For generations, brands have relied on their target demographic to keep coming back for more. Relationships between brands and their customers have historically been strong, which means that Gen Z threw quite the curveball when it became clear that brand loyalty wasn’t something they valued with the same allegiance as their predecessors.
“I don’t really focus on brands for clothes. I just look for good looking clothes that fits me well and will last,” said a member of our youth panel, Generation Wattpad. This sentiment was repeatedly echoed by other members. So how does a brand earn an evergreen stamp of approval from Gen Z in 2020?
As every fully-formed adult knows, the path to finding yourself and identifying what facets of culture you align with can be far from linear. The shapeshifting associated with building one's self and finding one's place takes time, careful consideration, experimentation, and risk.
Right now, we observe this stage of life at its strongest in members of Gen Z. However, unlike previous generations who were pressured to conform to stereotypical ideas of gender, style, and sexuality, Gen Z embraces their uniqueness and they expect the brands they shop from to do so as well.
The beauty industry provides a powerful case study for how this headstrong generation gravitates towards brands that they feel represent who they are and what they stand for, here’s why:
While subcultures were once considered fringe, the internet has exposed Gen Z to more ideas of how they can live than their parents ever had access to. In the past, conventional pop culture references, such as The Breakfast Club’s gang of troublemakers, provided teenagers with aspirational focal points. Throughout their own lives, however, Gen Z has had access to an increasingly varied pool of role models.
Due to this, a Forbes study found that Gen Z enjoys brands that mirror subculture mentality and dedicate their marketing efforts towards smaller and more defined markets, leaving the stereotypes of yore in the rearview.
Wattpad’s youth panel, Generation Wattpad, echoed these sentiments. When asked which beauty brands they used, many participants stated companies that possess a strong niche that sets them apart.
For instance, Glossier, a preferred Generation Wattpad brand, achieved cult status when it flipped a modestly successful beauty blog, Into the Gloss, into a makeup and skincare juggernaut valued at over a billion dollars. With unretouched and simple makeup advertisements that celebrated the natural beauty that appeals to individuals who wish to achieve a “no-makeup makeup” look, Glossier became the beauty brand for effortlessly cool It Girls everywhere.
And don’t even begin to start thinking about marketing your brand to Gen Z if you’re not invested in their future. Gen Z’s environmental footprint is something that they won’t cut corners on. Therefore, participants expressed an affinity for companies that use natural ingredients from ethical sources with eco-friendly packaging. Eco-conscious companies like Bare Minerals and Lush were an attractive option to many participants who were adamant about demanding sustainable practices from the brands they buy from.
Walking into Sephora, the mega-popular beauty and skincare store adored by Gen Z, it’s not uncommon to find sales associates of all genders wearing brilliant hues of makeup waiting to enthusiastically help you find what you’re looking for. Plus, it’s at Sephora that you can find the products of another Generation Wattpad favourite, Fenty Beauty.
While women of colour once struggled to find makeup shades that accurately matched their skin tone, Fenty Beauty, Rihanna’s makeup line, rose to the occasion by releasing a line that included an expansive selection of shades for darker skin tones.
By rising up to reach Gen Z at their level, beauty brands have captured segments of the demographic that had previously been ignored for far too long, an admirable stride!
Showcasing What Gen Z Stands For
Gen Z just wants to be accepted for who they are, and instead of sheepishly waiting for that day to come, they’ve inspired social change by harnessing their purchasing power to encourage brands to get with their unique program.
In both the beauty industry and beyond, Wattpad has enabled brands to connect with Gen Z through powerful partnership campaigns that encourage the cohort to showcase what they stand for. Download the Clean & Clear case study to learn how they teamed up with Wattpad to launch the #BeYou Short Story Challenge, resulting in 1,906 passionate story submissions!