September 2, 2023

The thin line between cringe and quirky: understanding Gen Z

Brand strategy

Gen Z is quite the generation, and for marketers, they’re pretty hard to understand. What does this fussy generation like? What works? What doesn’t? We’ve gathered all we know about the most ballsy, unfiltered generation yet. 

Gen who 

First things first. Gen Z, also known as Generation Z or Zoomers, was born between 1996 and 2010. They’re the first generation that never knew a world without the internet. They grew up with phones, computers and apps and were basically thrown into their crib with an iPhone. 
Additionally, Gen Z grew up in a world with both financial and political issues. They were confronted with war and crises from early ages, which made them more realistic than earlier generations. They’re worried about the world they live in, but they’re determined to do something about it. This also explains why they care so much about sustainability and prefer to shop second-hand. 
Gen Z grew up in a fast-evolving world, which made them flexible and open to change. They can adapt to situations without losing their sense of identity or compromising their values. They have developed a unique ability to navigate uncertainty and embrace new ideas while staying true to their principles. 

Gen Z’s many subcultures 

Mass marketing? Forget about it. Something that makes Gen Z even harder to understand is the fact that they don’t really believe in “mainstream”. Gen Z thrives in subcultures and niche communities instead. These bring people together through specific interests, beliefs, styles, preferences and more. The five categories which each have submerging subcultures are: gaming, entertainment, fashion, beauty and education.  

Social media apps like TikTok and Discord have adapted to these subcultures completely. The TikTok algorithm for example kind of puts you in some sort of subculture automatically. Once you’ve told the app enough about yourself, you’ll only see things you care about. Discord on the other hand allows users to join servers and create different channels for different interests. This way you can just join servers to find people with the same interests or values and chat in channels you’re interested in. 

 However, the shift to these niche communities and subcultures also means a shift in marketing. Your campaign has to be way more specific. Are you trying to reach the gamer girls? The e-gamers? The cosy gamers? The more specific you get, the better. 


Gen Z do’s and don’ts, according to a Gen Z’er 

Here’s how you can avoid being cringey or irrelevant: 

Tell them who you are and what you stand for 

There’s nothing Gen Z hates more than a brand that pretends to be something they’re not. Take rainbow washing as an example; brands love to jump on the ‘Pride bandwagon’ and sell rainbow t-shirts without actually doing anything for the LGBTQ-community.  

Don’t just see values as a marketing opportunity or temporarily show support because it could get you more money. Explain who you really are, what you really believe in and show it. If Gen Z notices you’re not being sincere, they’ll soon lose interest and move on. In fact, they’ve got guts and are not scared to call you out either. So you better watch out.  

Offer them sweet deals 

Because they grew up in times of crisis, Gen Z is a lot more wary of what they spend their money and time on. And this is exactly what makes convincing them even harder. To win their hearts, you should tell them exactly what they gain by buying your products. Offer them discounts, little gifts on top of their orders, prove to them how durable your products are…  

Don’t beat around the bush 

If you’re growing up in a world that’s basically throwing messages and advertisements at your head, it’s hard to notice the specific messages that are trying to reach you. Gen Z scans through content and if something isn’t clear or exciting from the very beginning, it’s over for your brand. 

Show them what other people think 

As mentioned before, Gen Z is wary of what they spend their money and time on. Before they decide to buy something, they’ll do research and ask others what they experienced. Hence the power of the influencers! However, influencers aren’t the only way to go. By adding reviews from other buyers to your brand’s website, you can make it easier for Gen Z to find trustworthy reviews about the products they’re looking to buy. The more reviews, the more likely Gen Z is to buy from you!  

Be present and stay up to date 

Gen Z moves fast and expects brands to keep up. If you’re not, they’ll get bored and move on. Even worse? If they can’t find you to begin with. As a brand it’s crucial to be where they are. If you’re not on social media, Gen Z’s home ground, you’re missing out. Online contact is almost exactly as important as face-to-face contact for them. So get posting on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter and explore different trends and viral content. 

Make things as easy as possible 

Gen Z likes to keep things simple. Once they’ve decided they want something, they want it as quickly as possible. They don’t want to scroll through complicated websites, follow a thousand steps or read confusing blocks of text… They want clear instructions and as little steps as possible. Don’t make things complicated if it’s not necessary.   

Get all close and personal 

To Gen Z, being original is one of the most important things. They take pride in their individuality and want to be different. They don’t want to blend in. As a brand you jump on this by offering personalised items. Even the littlest things that make their item different than someone else’s makes it just that tad bit more interesting and buy-worthy!  

Have FUN and be bold 

If there’s one thing you can say about Gen Z, it’s that they don’t take themselves too seriously. They like to have fun and appreciate when brands don’t take things too seriously either. Take Duolingo as an example. The app’s mascot, a little green bird, has become a TikTok phenomenon. And Gen Z eats it up. The crazier the content, the better.  

Don’t just copy every trend you see, try to make original content. The only thing that matters is that it shows who you are, and it shows that you’re just a normal human being.  


So yes, sure, Gen Z might be a little tougher than your usual crowd. They’re quirky and have a strong vision and idea of what they want brands to look like. But they’re everything but impossible. Once you get to know them and their unique subcultures, you’ll do just fine. 


Still not ready to tackle Gen Z all by yourself? Reach out! We can help!