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How brands should be marketing to the $143 billion Gen Z market if they want their products to go wild on social media

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Gen z teens teenagers generation z boys fashion youth Gen Z has a spending power of $143 billion and can be a loyal customer base for direct-to-consumer brands.

  • Companies are marketing for Gen Z’s attention — the 8- to 25-year-olds with a total spending power of $143 billion.
  • If targeted effectively, this age group can become a loyal customer base for many direct-to-consumer brands.
  • Business Insider gathered insight from experts, reports, and founders to find out what it takes to earn Gen Z’s loyalty.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Younger generations tend to set trends and determine which brands are cool — and which are passé. 

Right now, companies are vying for Gen Z’s attention, the age group of 8- to 25-year-olds who have recently fueled the rise of TikTok, F’Real Foods, and Animal Crossing. This audience with a spending power of $143 billion can be a loyal customer base for many direct-to-consumer brands. 

In a recent report, Zebra IQ, a community platform for creators, found that 65% of Gen Zers prefer to stay in touch with friends over FaceTime, calling them a video-first generation. Marketers are increasingly turning to short-form video to cater to this highly visual audience. 

Business Insider gathered insight from experts, reports, and founders to find out what it takes to earn Gen Z’s loyalty. We also give examples of brands successfully utilizing these strategies. 

Here’s our guide to marketing your brand to Gen Z.

TikTok is the breakout platform of Gen Z

More brands are embracing TikTok as the most effective social media platform to engage with Gen Z audiences. 

The clothing brand Ivory Ella has solidified a strong customer base of Gen Zers thanks to its growth on TikTok. About 80% of its content consists of reposts from teen influencers and creators dancing in tie-dye tees and sweatshirts displaying the brand’s signature elephant logo.

Cofounder Richard Henne told Business Insider that the company is community-driven above all. “We’re utilizing these new platforms, TikTok being the most recent, to drive brand awareness and to go where the views and the users are,” he said.

Brands doing this well: Fortnite, Chipotle, and Gymshark

‘Actions speak louder than performative gestures’

Gen Zers are highly engaged in social activism, but they don’t want to see another brand jumping on the bandwagon just to save face. This age group requires brands to show a genuine motivation for change and foster social contribution. In other words, “actions speak louder than performative gestures,” Zebra IQ reported.  

Melissa Lavigne-Delville, founder and CEO of research agency Culture Co-op explained this sentiment in an AdWeek webinar. “Purpose has always been at the core of this generation,” she said. “There’s a deep desire to not just check off all the boxes and accomplish things, but to find true purpose.” 

This sets the bar higher than previous generations. Brands who want to share in this purpose should truly know who they are and communicate their commitment with a sense of gravitas, Lavigne-Delville said. 

As demonstrated following the aftermath and protests of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s deaths, the companies that saw substantial customer trust stood out as part of a movement, rather than taking advantage of a singular moment.

“This generation has always been more about depth than breadth,” Lavigne-Delville said. “They’re expecting brands to do the same.”

Read more: 5 steps to navigate brand messaging in a time of civil unrest so you don’t lose customer trust »

Brands doing this well: Ben & Jerry’s, Nike, and Netflix

Going viral requires a ‘meme-able’ product

Zebra IQ’s report encourages brands to assess the “meme-ability” of their products. Put simply, a product that can be easily shared will be more likely to go viral among Gen Z audiences. Food and beverage is one of the most fitting categories on this front, since it has mass appeal and relies on people trying it themselves. 

For example, Zebra IQ pointed to the apple-juice brand Martinelli’s that went viral when TikTok users discovered biting into a bottle made a sound resembling that of biting into an apple. In The Know reported the price of these apple-shaped bottles of juice temporarily increased because so many people were rushing to try the trend themselves.

Kombucha drink maker GT’s Living Foods, joined TikTok this summer and partnered with the platform for a popular campaign with more than 3 billion views. “We’re a brand that likes to constantly reinvent ourselves,” founder GT Dave said. “You never want to feel like you’re a one-trick pony.” 

Brands doing this well: F’Real Foods, Popeyes, and GT’s Living Foods

Partnering with influencers is the lifeblood of maintaining relevance 

To capitalize on viral moments, place your products in the hands of creators who are not only on top of the latest trends, but who often start them themselves. These influencers know the type of music, dances, and challenges that will get thousands of views. 

But partnering with major influencers is just the beginning. Many brands have found success working their way up, starting with micro influencers, building up an army of brand ambassadors, then reaching out to celebrities as big as Kylie Jenner and Jennifer Lopez.  

Zebra IQ’s report encourages brands to partner with a diverse group of creators and trust influencers to produce the type of content they believe in, since they are closest to what their audiences want.  

Read more: How first-time founders can partner with Instagram influencers for under $50K » 

Brands doing this well: Elf Cosmetics, Ivory Ella , Dunkin’ Donuts