5 Things Gen Z Wishes Brands Would Stop Doing

Here at Student Beans, our mission is to provide you with all the insights and advice you need to nail your youth marketing strategy. Usually we’re sharing tips and tricks to succeed with the youth demographic, but this time we’re focusing on what not to do. And who better to highlight the marketing faux pas to avoid than Gen Z themselves? Here are five common mistakes that marketers make, according to our network of smart and inspiring young influencers, activists, and entrepreneurs.

Shutting out potential customers

You probably have a strong idea of who your target market is, but since Gen Z is so open-minded and experimental, you may be surprised by the broad appeal your products actually have within this generation.

Young activist Pranjal Jain, 19, told us in an interview for our latest Youth Trends Report USA: “It’s important that brands don’t gatekeep via marketing – they can position their branding to a certain demographic, but shouldn’t curtail consumption by others. The more inclusive and purpose-driven the branding is, the more likely I and many other young people are to buy their products.”

Jumping on the activism bandwagon

Everyone has seen the research that says Gen Z wants to buy from brands who share their values, but with so many brands now getting involved in issues from BLM to climate change, young consumers are becoming increasingly cynical.

At our recent YMS:ONLINE USA event, high school student and TikTok influencer Adi Adara explained: “There’s a difference between marketing with pride and “rainbow-washing,” when brands use Pride month and the rainbow flag as a tactic or way to sell more clothes. I believe that with access to a lot more information, Gen Z are moving away from just listening to what marketers are saying, but looking these companies up and doing the background digging.”

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Staying silent on important issues

While young people are getting tired of insincere brand activism campaigns, that doesn’t mean they don’t want brands to speak out against injustice. They expect businesses to use their platform to support communities that need it.

During our latest Youth Trends panel, Instagram influencer Malick Mercier said: “Gen Z believe trans lives matter, and black lives matter, period. In my journalism class we’ve been having this discussion: if you do not say anything, you are on the wrong side of history. Deciding to say nothing doesn’t make you neutral. To our generation, it means you’re doing the wrong thing and you won’t stick up for people based on their identity, which is really important.”

Bombarding them with ads

Gen Z don’t mind seeing ads on social media, as long as they are relevant. Rather than blasting out a one-size-fits-all campaign, target your ads to each group you want to reach, grabbing their attention with a tailored message.

Young entrepreneur and student Josh Akapo advised at our YMS:ONLINE UK event: “The main thing that matters is the quality of ads themselves, as students are bombarded with careers/university-related content on a daily basis. Concepts more targeted to specific groups you’re trying to reach out to might prove cheaper and more effective.”

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Promote unrealistic body image ideals

Young people are increasingly conscious of how marketing and social media can impact their mental health, especially on the issue of body image. They are rejecting brands they feel promote a negative message on this topic.

In an interview for our Youth Trends US 2020 report, Stanford student Sophia Latessa said: “There is a very interesting trend happening in the social media sphere surrounding body image, specifically for young women. You will notice more beauty influencers posting natural and organic content and showing “before/after” versions of photos. There is also a strong hashtag movement #NormalizeNormalBodies as well as #Anti-Diet trends that are truly shifting perspective about the content we are consuming through these platforms.“

Learn more about how best to market to Gen Z by downloading our latest resources, including reports, white papers, webinars, infographics and much more!

Gen Z and the Future of Ecommerce

Access the interactive report