Influencer marketing is a fantastic way to engage young audiences and communicate with them in a relatable, accessible way. And we love discussing the pros and cons of it over at Student Beans. But who are the influencers that Gen Z are loving right now, and why? And how have brands been working with these social media stars to form killer partnerships?
A recent survey by the Student Beans insights agency, Voxburner, revealed Gen Z’s favourite influencers are: Molly-Mae Hague, Emma Chamberlain, Bretman Rock, KSI and Anastasia Kingsnorth. So, naturally, we’ve decided to take a look at these big name influencers and their work, as well as looking at the massive impact that smaller creators are having and sharing how your brand can connect with Gen Z in an authentic, genuine way.
1.75M YouTube subscribers, 7.1M Instagram followers, 48.6M TikTok likes
Whatever criticism Molly-Mae faces, her loyal followers stand by this influencer’s side every step of the way. Voted ‘most inspirational influencer’ in a recent Voxburner survey, 23-year-old Molly Mae Hague shot to fame during the fifth series of reality TV show Love Island, in which she was runner-up with her partner Tommy Fury. Molly-Mae is somewhat of a business mogul and runs an empire dedicated to fashion and lifestyle. As one of the most-followed influencers in the UK and easily the most successful ex-Love Island contestant, Molly-Mae is admired by thousands of young people.
Molly-Mae has had her fair share of criticism in the past, but this doesn’t seem to have much of a negative impact on her future. Her appointment as Creative Director of fast fashion brand Pretty Little Thing was met with backlash, and her questionable comments on entrepreneur Steven Bartlett’s Diary of a CEO podcast led to chaos on the internet. But this iconic influencer just bounces right back again. Whether it’s her epic baby showers, her fairytale relationship with Tommy or her ‘girl boss’ attitude, Molly-Mae has a host of loyal Gen Z followers.
Molly-Mae’s brand collaborations
This famous influencer is known for her bouncy, blonde curls which have Gen Zers across the country trying to emulate the look. Hair care and accessory brand Beauty Works have collaborated with Molly-Mae to release her own collection on the site, which includes straighteners, hair extensions and shampoos. Molly-Mae also shares exclusive discounts on her social media pages to help her loyal fans purchase the products and copy her looks.
12M YouTube subscribers, 16.1M Instagram followers
21-year-old Emma Chamberlain is the embodiment of Gen Z culture, from her language and humour to her references and fashion. Emma started her social media channel whilst suffering from depression in high school, and is now very open about her struggles with mental health – something which Gen Z really admires (particularly when we consider that 79% of UK 16-24s describe their generation as anxious). As well as being a fashion icon to thousands, Emma also made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in 2021.
Alongside her incredibly successful YouTube channel, Emma has a podcast, Anything Goes with Emma Chamberlain, in which she discusses personal topics such as female friendships, her relationship with alcohol and much more. Her USP? She makes listeners and viewers feel like they’re interacting with a close friend, thus creating that trusted influencer-follower relationship that’s so important.
60% of Gen Z would describe their generation as entrepreneurial, and much like Molly-Mae, Emma falls into this category. Emma’s business, Chamberlain Coffee, is her main focus, and when she took a short break from YouTube to focus on her business and mental health she was honest and upfront with her fans, proving to them that she’s relatable and humble, and that it’s okay to put wellness over fame.
Emma’s brand collaborations
PacSun (Spring 2022)
Emma partnered up with fashion brand PacSun for their Spring 2022 range, which centred around ‘looking to the future and the dream of escapism’. Alongside aesthetic photographs of Emma, the campaign featured augmented reality and virtual experiences, including the brand’s first video game, PacSun the Game. Commenting on the partnership, Brieane Olson, president of PacSun, said: “[Emma] is such an authentic voice and style icon for our youth community, and we are thrilled to continue our journey together as PacSun steps further into the metaverse.”
8.86M YouTube subscribers, 18.5M Instagram followers, 394.2M TikTok likes
A 24-year-old Filipino social media star who shot to fame on Vine and YouTube, Bretman Rock specialises in make-up and fashion content. He’s all about LGBTQ+ solidarity and being true to yourself. Notably, Bretman has been the face of Nike’s Pride campaign and has worked with designers including Michael Kors and Stella McCartney. Bretman also appeared on the cover of Playboy in 2021 as its first openly gay male.
Aside from his witty humour, sassy attitude and infamous quotes, Bretman passionately discusses topics that are incredibly important to Gen Z, including LGBTQ+ issues, racism, the environment and much more. Bretman makes these issues accessible and lighthearted, meaning his audience is wide, varied and loyal.
Brett’s brand collaborations
In 2021, Bretman teamed up with Crocs to release his own set of Jibbitz (featuring some of his most iconic catchphrases, of course). We already know that Crocs are regaining popularity amongst this generation, with international superstars such as Justin Bieber fronting campaigns, so the Bretman-Crocs partnership seems like a Gen Zer’s dream come true.
Interestingly, fans couldn’t just buy these accessories – quantities were limited and the drop was held via a drawing system, making them even more exclusive and desired.
12.2M YouTube subscribers, 380M Instagram followers, 1.1B TikTok likes
How could we leave out the OG Queen of social media?
Kylie Jenner is no stranger to the limelight, having been broadcast from a young age on Keeping Up With The Kardashians along with her superstar siblings, Kendall Jenner and Kim Kardashian.
At just 25-years-old, Kylie Jenner is running her own international empire and shares every moment of her life on her social media channels, from the birth of her children (although ‘Stormi baby’ was a complete surprise to even her most dedicated followers) to her new business ventures. And whilst her lifestyle is completely unrelatable to the vast majority of Gen Zers, we’d argue that’s why they love her so much. Her aesthetic, carefully crafted and unimaginable lifestyle is something that they can look on from afar (whether that be in admiration or distaste), whilst fans also feel a sense of familiarity towards her having watched her grow up on screens.
Kylie has had a number of businesses over the years, including Kylie Cosmetics, Kylie Skin and Kylie Baby. She even briefly ventured into the world of writing with her sister Kendall Jenner.
Kylie’s brand collaborations
This influencer owns so many businesses that the world of brand collabs is almost beyond her; aside from taking her own brands into stores such as Ulta Beauty, this woman is her own business boss!
1.35M YouTube subscribers, 1M Instagram followers, 71.3M TikTok likes
21-year-old Manchester-based influencer Anastasia shot to fame when she was 13 on YouTube, and her popularity has continued to grow since then. Anastasia’s family make regular appearances in her videos (particularly her younger brother Atticus), and this family-orientated attitude makes her a relatable and friendly figure to her audiences.
Anastasia’s videos mainly focus on beauty, fashion and her personal life, and she also co-hosts a podcast called Friends Without Benefits, as well as having her own clothing line with the hugely popular In The Style (formerly known for styling the Love Island contestants).
Anastasia’s brand collaborations
In The Style (2021)
In 2021, Anastasia teamed up with In The Style as a brand ambassador, releasing her own range. The collection features everything from jeans and dresses to co-ords and halter-neck tops.
This was a big move for the influencer, as the brand has previously collaborated with household names including Charlotte Crosby, Stacey Solomon and Billie Faiers.
Okay, enough about the big-name influencers – what about the creators *really* connecting with Gen Z?
It’s not just international names who are making a difference. The creator landscape is constantly evolving, and creators with smaller audiences and close-knit communities can offer young people the authenticity and engagement that macro influencers cannot.
In fact, 46% of Gen Z believe having less than 20,000 followers makes you more trustworthy! Make sure you check out Student Beans Creators to find out how you can run leading multi-channel campaigns, tap into the student network and grow your brand!
Want more stories like this?Download our new guide, ‘Grow Your e-Commerce With Creator Marketing’ guide to discover the tips and tools you need to succeed with Gen Z.