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The secrets of success

how to win over Gen Z

Which brands won the attention of Gen Z last year? In this article we zone-in on the companies, viral trends and missteps that caught the attention of young people in 2022.

Josephine Hansom VP Youth 08/03/2023
Only 2% of 16-24s would value being ‘on-trend / fashionable’ as the most important attribute in a brand

Who stood out in 2022

All press is good press, right? This may have been relevant 10+ years ago, but the consumers of today – and tomorrow – buy from companies they trust, and who standout for the right reasons.

Last year, many leading brands missed the mark when it came to standing out and audiences were not shy about calling them out for it. Consider the backlash of Balenciaga’s Autumn campaign, which fuelled allegations that the brand condoned child exploitation. The hashtag #cancelbalenciaga had over 300 million views on TikTok and many influencers took to their social channels to encourage their following to boycott the brand.

Young consumers are savvy. They’ll spot brands that are not acting ethically or being disingenuous, and they have access to platforms that can spread their views, widely and quickly.

Why purpose matters

On the flip side, several companies caught the attention of Gen Z for the right reasons – namely, their positive impact.

Young people are less interested in brands that are on-trend, and instead will support companies that align with their values. According to our Gen Z insight tracker (State of the Youth Nation), only 2% of 16-24s would value being ‘on-trend / fashionable’ as the most important attribute in a brand, compared to 17% who say an ‘ethical company’ is what they value the most.

Selena Gomez’s beauty brand, Rare Beauty is a good example of a company that has found a common purpose with its consumers. Rare Beauty is committed to breaking the stigma around mental health and addressing self-acceptance; a purpose which has been built into the centre of its business model. The brand advocates for mental health services in education, and has created a mental health toolkit that users can share on social media. Furthermore, 1% of all sales go directly to the Rare Impact Fund.

In its first year alone, Rare Beauty boasted a revenue of $60 million.

Best of 2022

Hear more about the memorable moments of 2022, directly from young people. We asked members from our youth research panel to recall their standout moments of last year. Here’s what they said…


Gen Z may not chase trends, but they do enjoy a viral one…

The above video is a great example of how viral trends can effectively cut-through to young audiences. For many young people, channels such as TikTok offer escapism. It’s a space to watch and create content that appeals to the many different sides of their personality – in a highly shareable way.

Over half of Gen Z consumers were on TikTok in 2021 (Fanbytes) and almost 70% said they’d find it difficult to give TikTok up (State of the Youth Nation).

If brands can tap into the success galavanised in these TikTok trends, they could create more memorable moments that cut-through with young people.

How to succeed in 2023

Drawing upon the examples of last year, the brands who hit the right notes with Gen Z were the ones making a difference in the world. It’s no longer enough to expect that good marketing, products and/or services will win over the next generation of consumers.

To build brand advocacy, you need to tell a more powerful story.

So, how do you standout in 2023? What pitfalls should you avoid? And what values are most important to Gen Z?

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