3 Essential Strategies for Marketing to Gen Z

Now that more and more buying journeys are completed online, brands should be taking their digital presence seriously in order to connect with their specific audiences.

Due to meme culture, trending content and virality being instrumental in beating algorithms and getting eyes on your posts, you may find more engagement by tailoring your content to digital-native audiences, otherwise known as ‘Gen Z’.

Since Gen Z is currently dominating online spaces, brands that speak their language may see a higher rate of engagement on their posts. Ultimately, this increases your brand’s reputation and online presence.

In this article, we’ll run through three stages of marketing and advertising: value identification, campaigns and community building to explore how Gen Z is revolutionising the online space and how you can forge deeper connections with the next generation.

In a Nutshell

  • Gen Z is the dominant force online right now so brands need to adapt their digital marketing strategies to align with Gen Z values and preferences.
  • Authenticity is key for Gen Z. Brands should showcase their values and commitments to social/environmental causes, but avoid “rainbow washing” or “greenwashing”.
  • Content style should feel real and inclusive, moving away from unattainable perfection. Reels and TikTok-style videos tend to perform well.
  • Brands should aim to build community with Gen Z by engaging conversationally on social media, using relevant language/memes, and considering hiring Gen Z community managers.
  • We explore how brands like Levi’s, Estrid, and Ryanair have successfully tailored their marketing to appeal to Gen Z.

Who is Gen Z?

Gen Z is the generation born between 1996 and 2010 so includes anyone between the ages of 27 years old and 13 years old. While there is a huge diversity among these ages, they are generally characterised by their identity as ‘digital natives’. They are the first generation to grow up with the internet as a key presence in their daily lives. They’ve attracted a bit of a bad rap for being more online than their Boomer grandparents, less work-obsessed than their Gen X parents and less people-pleasing than their Millennial older siblings – but it would be a mistake to dismiss them as simply lazy, rude TikTok addicts.

Did You Know?

A 2023 study showed that 91% of Gen-Z employees are stressed, compared to 84% on average. Moreover, 98% of Gen-Z employees are struggling with burnout in the workplace.

Throughout their formative years, Gen Z has experienced a global pandemic, political and economic unrest, and the ever-growing threat of climate change. This means that social and environmental issues are never far from many Gen Z-er’s minds. Gen Z also came of age with the immediacy of social media, which is a vastly different experience to those who grew up with TV or radio as their primary media source. While millennials were introduced to social media in their late teens, Gen Z has always known it, which has generally encouraged Gen Z to be more participatory online and less camera-shy.

Ultimately, the main characteristics that define Gen Z are authenticity and truth. They are generally comfortable displaying themselves online, saying how they really feel and standing up for what they believe in – and brands can strike a chord with them by matching this energy.

Gen Z Marketing Agencies

While the media landscape is always evolving, the age of Generation Z has seen more rapid advancements than ever before. Social media moves at a much quicker pace than previous media forms, such as print or TV advertising. To match this pace of change, there are a number of agencies dedicated to the individual nature of Gen Z marketing.

We spoke with three agencies that specialise in connecting with Gen Z.

  • Luke Hodson, NERDS Collective: Luke Hodson is recognised as an award-winning culture marketer by Forbes and Campaign’s 30 Under 30. He founded NERDS Collective, a leading youth culture agency partnering with some of the world’s most iconic brands, including Nike, The North Face, Hugo Boss, Levi’s, and Budweiser. NERDS Collective’s primary focus is to build compelling cultural positioning for these brands by delivering culturally attuned brand strategies combined with highly nuanced consumer insights.
  • Charlie Naus, Carson+Doyle: Carson+Doyle is a creative agency bridging the gap between brands and the next generation of consumers through unrivalled insights and killer creative projects – run by Gen Z, for Gen Z. Carson+Doyle counts Spotify, Snapchat, Redbull, Google and Tinder on their roster of clients.
  • Erifili Gounari, The Z Link: The Z Link is a global Gen Z-led social media agency. They have worked on a variety of projects, for clients including Deloitte, Hearst and IKEA, rolling out community-driven marketing and authentic content across platforms with a focus on active engagement and interaction with Gen Z.

We heard what they each had to say about the unique approach brands can adopt when connecting with their Gen Z audiences.

Gen Z’s Values

“If a brand truly is standing up for something it believes in and is doing something about it, we want to know! They should shout it from the rooftops,” says Charlie Naus of Carson+Doyle agency.

Most Gen Zers are acutely aware of issues such as sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion. This means they are drawn to brands that prioritise these issues too. They are likely more drawn to slow fashion over fast fashion. Brands can stand out with Gen Z audiences by investing in fairer, more ethical and sustainable production methods or by giving back to communities through sharing profits or through activistic efforts.

However, green-washers and rainbow-washers beware: “If the brand is just jumping into the conversation to tick a box and appease an audience, it’ll be very obvious and likely backfire,” warns Charlie. Remember that Gen Z has a keen eye for false advertising and can detect attempts to over-sell your philanthropy. This should be an incentive to seek out opportunities to give back within your existing business or to evaluate how your business can be more sustainable. If it is already, you have a great opportunity to weave this into your marketing or advertising strategy.


“Gen Z audiences have heightened support for brands that are culturally attuned, especially concerning pivotal issues such as mental health, social justice, and environmentalism. For these audiences, a brand’s stance on social issues is not just a nice-to-have—it’s expected. It’s crucial, however, for brands to genuinely champion these causes. Before publicly aligning with or advocating for any social issue, brands must introspect and ensure that their internal practices align with their external messaging. Anything less can be perceived as mere virtue signalling, which Gen Z is keenly aware of and critical about.” – Luke, NERDs Collective


A great example of this in action is from Levi’s. Proving that you don’t have to be young yourself to be a hit with Gen Z, the denim brand dates back to 1853, but has repositioned itself in the market with a campaign focused on conscious consumption and slow fashion.

The slogan, “Buy Better, Wear Longer,” headed up the 2021 global campaign along with prominent Gen Z figure, Jaden Smith. The message ties together Levi’s core brand values of quality and timelessness but appeals to Gen Z’s desire to do good and consume less. As the generation most urgently concerned with the impact of over-consumption on climate change, there has been a trend towards thrifting and vintage fashion which Levi’s has smartly capitalised on by distancing itself from millennial-age trend-driven fast fashion.

Image from Levi's

Levi’s campaign works because it establishes a natural link between the brand and its target audience. It doesn’t come across like it’s betraying itself in favour of fitting in with the cool kids. When looking at your own brand, it’s important to establish these existing potential connections so that you can maintain your authenticity while resonating with Gen Zers.

Gen Z Content Style

Social media has had a transformative effect on the way products are brought to the market. Influencer marketing is now an accepted form of advertising, it’s arguably more successful and pervasive than traditional forms of advertising such as print or TV. Within the realm of social media, there are even more subtleties to understand when it comes to being successful with Generation Z.

As millennials came of age with earlier forms of social media such as Myspace, Tumblr, Bebo and early Instagram, they interacted with social media that was ultra-curated, unattainable and aesthetically augmented. Throughout history, the advertising industry has used images of perfection to make sales – for the first time, this is not working with current audiences.

The vertical video revolution means that reel-format content is currently key. “The surging popularity of DIY and ‘creator-styled’ content is a testament to the massive influence of platforms like TikTok,” explains Luke Hodson of NERDs Collective. “This kind of content, which genuinely reflects the consumer’s experiences, cultural codes, and visual language, resonates strongly with Gen Z. It’s not just about being relatable; it’s about building genuine cultural connections,”

Though this does not mean that there is no place for beautifully shot, artistic campaigns – it does mean inclusive models, body positivity and direct copy will work in your favour when marketing to the younger generation.

“While relatability is essential, there’s a space and need for aspirational content as well,” Luke continues. “Many Gen Z individuals are fueled by ambition, by the desire to progress. The brands they align with often become symbols of this aspiration. In essence, while authenticity and transparency remain foundational, there’s also an undeniable space for content that encapsulates aspiration and the drive to progress.”


A great example of this in action is from the Swedish hair removal company, Estrid. Demonstrating our earlier point of upholding sustainability, this company provides a subscription service for razors and shaving equipment. Each month subscribers receive fresh blades for their reusable handles as well as toiletries, reducing the need for single-use plastic razors. Already, they’ve hit the ground running for a Gen Z-appropriate business model.

Focusing on their advertising, Estrid found great success with influencer marketing. They employed carefully chosen creators on social media to make videos featuring their products ‘in the wild’. Where some influencer marketing can feel unnatural with the inclusion of compulsory phrases, Estrid’s marketing came across as organic. Another authentic feature of their Instagram is the presence of real body hair. A hangover from 20th-century taboo around natural female bodily functions, hair removal product advertising has commonly censored body hair entirely.

Estrid has broken this taboo and features brand ambassadors with loud and proud body hair. As a female hair removal company, it could have quickly been overshadowed and absorbed by the massive existing market. It stands out by challenging these industry norms. Estrid also keeps up with the conversation around body hair as a choice, not a necessity, which means that even though it’s a hair removal company, it does not feel oppressive.

Estrid recently launched its new Human Beauty platform, an inclusive beauty site, with a glamorous campaign featuring queer, trans and body positivity activists. To illustrate the point that you don’t have to remove all artistic licence and creativity from your marketing in order to connect with Gen Z, take a look at Estrid’s campaign below:

Image from Estrid

The campaign represents inclusive attainability and shows that everybody is welcome within the brand, while still being aspirational and eye-catching. This goes to show that you don’t have to limit your marketing to ‘creator-style’ TikTok videos in your pyjamas to attract Gen Z audiences.

Gen Z Community Building

An ongoing form of marketing, once you’ve launched and advertised your product, is building a community. Engaging with your audience on social channels is incredibly important for customer retention. Simple actions like responding to comments, making your copy more straightforward, and capitalising on relevant memes and online trends can help you score points with Gen Z audiences.

Sometimes though, it’s not what you say but how you say it. As with any dominant youth culture, Generation Z has developed its own vernacular. There has been a wave in Gen Z-style CRM copywriting over recent years, but sometimes companies can get it wrong and appear woefully behind the times. Misused slang or jumping on a stale meme in the wrong part of its trend cycle can backfire. It can alienate younger audiences and blow your cover as an outsider – which of course is to be avoided when building a community based on trust and authenticity. A millennial equivalent of this can be found on the Twitter account, @BrandsSayingBae.


Employ Gen Zers to run your socials and don’t risk your reputation being lost in translation.

“Gen Z is different from other generations in that we crave authentic, relatable content,” explains Erifili Gounari from The Z Link. “Traditional marketing approaches often feel too pushy and sales-y, so brands need to adjust their tone and approach”.

“Having grown up in the digital age, we are very good at seeing a brand message and sniffing out the BS. We’re looking for brands to not just give us an elevator pitch on the features and benefits of their product. Why? Because we’re overstimulated by the amount of products, brands, and content at our disposal 24/7 and are constantly being ‘sold’ the next best thing. We just want a little bit of a brain break – and if a brand can tap into that, they’re on the right path. The more a brand can lean into humour, satire, and human dialogue…the better,” adds Carson+Doyle’s Charlie Naus, giving the example of Ryanair’s viral TikTok approach.


A first look at the Irish budget airline’s TikTok bio: “Catch flights, not feelings 💅” immediately shows that the company is meme-fluent and speaks the same language as its Gen Z customers. A further scroll down the page shows that Ryanair’s content team has cleverly decided to make fun of its notoriously cheap and (not so) cheerful service. Its content playfully addresses Ryanair’s reputation for basic and penny-pinching service in sassy and timely meme formats.

@ryanair We sell seats, not windows 💅 #11a #ryanair ♬ nhạc nền - Funny-🤣
@ryanair Yes you will, it’s only a matter of time 💅 #pingu #ryanair ♬ original sound - Ryr Trumpets

It works for Ryanair to poke fun at itself and its customers as it’s not known for being a reliable, trustworthy brand. The same approach would possibly not land with a competitor airline such as British Airways, which has a much more serious image. And again, it can be risky to jump on meme trends as they move so fast that you run the risk of showing yourself up as an imposter in the space if your timing is not bang-on. But it can work well if it suits your brand and you’re witty enough to participate in meme culture, as demonstrated by Ryanair.

Another key element of community building online is engaging with your followers in comments or over direct messages. This demonstrates to your audience that there are real human beings behind an often faceless brand and furthers the all-important value of transparency. It helps to avoid generic, corporate-speak and embrace relaxed, conversational dialogue. Of course, take this with a grain of salt and always refer back to your own brand values to determine what sort of tone of voice works best for your brand.


By embracing authenticity, inclusivity, and Gen Z’s specific flavour of meme-worthy humour, brands have an opportunity to build strong connections with this influential audience.

While brands must hold onto their core values, it will benefit them to showcase those values in line with current social causes. Your campaigns should aim to authentically champion diversity.

Remember, empty gestures without action will not go unnoticed by this generation’s audiences. By making small but meaningful changes to how you identify yourself, creating campaigns and fostering online communities, brands can remain relevant and forge lasting bonds with their Gen Z audiences.

Written by:
Alice is one of Expert Market's resident software experts, helping businesses improve their efficiency or reach, with an emphasis on productivity software, CRM and telecommunications.