#9: Trendspotting in the Gen Z zeitgeist
A quick look into the Gen Z marketing trends catching my eye in 2022 ✨
Hi, I’m Erifili Gounari, and this is issue #9 of The Digital Native. This newsletter is aimed at driven, curious and inspired Gen Zers, interested in mindset, entrepreneurship, business, marketing, and more!
Is this really a new Digital Native issue in your inbox? Maybe you're dreaming, maybe not… 👀
In this issue, I wanted to take a quick dive into a couple of trends in the world of Gen Z social media marketing, that brands have increasingly been tapping into.
Rediscovering the 80s 🕺🏻
Firstly, there’s a trend that I’ve mentioned a couple of times already on our agency’s TikTok and my own Twitter, which got tons of engagement each time so I assume people are excited about it… And that’s 80s-inspired design in ads.
Brands such as New Balance, Vacation Inc., Skims, and more, have seen significant engagement on ads and graphics that are clearly inspired by 80s/retro design. It’s a recurring pattern among Gen Z audiences that we just respond well to nostalgia / 80s / 90s vibes in advertising and branding. So much so, in fact, that research has been done specifically to address why Gen Z feels so connected to nostalgic aesthetics - see here, here and here.
When looking into this, I found this great article by Eye on Design, that dives deeply into this topic and highlights the role of Gen Z in bringing back everything vintage, establishing the cycle of vintage trends going out of fashion and then coming back in.
The positive responses to each social media post I’ve made in the past couple of weeks about this topic, mainly coming from Gen Z users, have shown me that this is a trend that our generation is still excited about and keen to see more of. Not yet too close to making its exit and going out of fashion again, it seems that Gen Z is embracing this maximalist aesthetic characterised by bright colors, bold retro-inspired fonts, and funky designs. It appears to me that if your brand has the ability to throw some 80s and 90s nostalgia vibes in that ad or product description, it will be a guaranteed way to attract Gen Z’s eye. Counter-intuitive as it may be, it’s been proven time and time again that nostalgia and romanticizing the past is something that our generation of digital natives responds well to.
Personification all the way 🥸
The second trend I want to highlight is one that every Gen Zer reading this has definitely noticed the rise of, and that’s the personification of brands and products. Adopting a human-first approach to social media marketing has always been an effective way to create better connections with a brand’s audience, and in the past year, in large part thanks to TikTok, brands have taken that one step further.
Starting with TikTok, brands like Duolingo, Ryanair, and even the Empire State Building, have found massive success among Gen Z by personifying their brand/product in fun ways and engaging with our generation through that. It’s no longer a priority for those brands to create content that directly relates to their brand in the traditional sense; now, it’s all about playing around with the character created around the brand and acquiring huge Gen Z followings as a result of that. If you’re unfamiliar with what I mean, see three examples below:
Duolingo doing their usual thing on TikTok and going after Dua Lipa (it’s a whole love story that their Gen Z followers have become well-acquainted with ❤️)
Ryanair’s take. A super easy way for them to grow their account organically, that has worked wonders for them to improve their reputation among Gen Z.
The Empire State Building’s own TikTok strategy is similar as well, with so much of their content being just the Empire State character making fun of other buildings in NYC. Honestly making social media strategies simple again. We’re not mad about it (it’s fun to follow the building drama so don’t judge us 😤).
For brands focused on static content, personification has also worked wonders on Instagram without the need for videos. A great example of this and an all-time favorite of ours at my agency, is Recess. Why is their Instagram account so fun to scroll through?! Why is every Gen Zer on Instagram much more likely to follow an account about canned drinks that looks like this, rather than any account by other drink brands that are trying to market their product traditionally? Because it’s simply so much more interesting and engaging, and a lot more likely to capture our attention among the hundreds of ads we’re bombarded with every day. See two examples of Recess’ Instagram posts below:
So, what does it all mean? 🧐
The key insight you should take away from this is that Gen Z is tired of boring ads, and so much more likely to engage with brands that are creative, don’t take themselves too seriously, and are ready to experiment in fun ways and break the mould. It’s almost impossible for brands that don’t differentiate in any creative way to grab the attention of a digital generation. Even if these trends go out of fashion soon, this core point will remain true in the next cycle of trends that emerge in the future.
Creative experimentation in marketing should be a part of every brand’s activities right now if their aim is to connect with our generation; besides, these trends are led by brands first, so you never know what the next thing that will really hit the mark with this digital audience will be. If you deconstruct them, the trends above can help shine some light on the core elements that currently appeal to Gen Z, for example: maximalism, creativity, bold/primary colors, and human connection. The question to lead your experimentation can therefore be how these core elements can be applied elsewhere, and what differentiation you can create based on the key features that provide some insightful starting point.
The bookmark of the week in this issue is a bit of a self-plug, but I hope you don’t mind. 👀 Only featuring it because I think you’d be interested! 😁
It’s the Gen Z Club. If you’ve been following for a while, you might remember the Gen Z community we had started on Clubhouse in January 2021 which amassed 18,000 members in under a year and even collaborated with the United Nations. When Clubhouse died down, our community paused its activities too, until now. We’re ready to revive the Gen Z Club in a whole new way, and we’ll be making the announcement on our Twitter within the next week! So, if you’re a Gen Zer who would like to connect with tons of inspiring people from our generation, I recommend you give the account a follow and stay in the loop to make sure you join our re-launched community once the announcement is up!
Thank you so much for reading this issue of The Digital Native, and for being patient during the long pauses between each issue! I hope you enjoyed it and learned something new. Feel free to comment any thoughts below or email me! ☺️
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If you’d like some Gen Z insights…
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Drop me a note on firstname.lastname@example.org. 💌