Gen Z have set the agenda: Expression, Fluidity & Individuality. How can brands respond?

Charlotte Hurd


Gen Z are the first generation of digital natives – who have grown up alongside technological advancement, social media and a volatile economic and social climate. They have been shaped with an inherent sense of individualism which influences the bonds they make and the way they identify themselves.  

All genders, body shapes and races are celebrated and the appetite for activism and creative licence has grown in abundance. The past few months, for example has seen an explosion of response to climate change, Covid-19, Black Lives Matter and other pertinent political matters worldwide. 

[Gen Z] don’t care about traditional identity markers or the marketing gimmicks that came with them. The future is androgynous, or at least less well defined, and the rise of genderless products is just one piece of that.’ Ty McLaren, Co-Founder, Koa 

So with Gen Z’s appetite for expression – how should brands respond? 

One way to capture this engaged audience is to recreate the beauty of the physical brand experience in the online space, storytelling in new and exciting ways.  

 Look to Balenciaga, for example whose recent game, Afterworld, The Age of Tomorrow offered a brand experience which was much more than the standard e-tail offer. 

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Set in the year 2031, users began their journey in a Balenciaga store within an underground bunker before making their way through futuristic cityscapes. Interacting with the brand in this way offered the opportunity to view the collection in more detail, by examining an avatar in the video game.  

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It-brand Pangaia offer another great example, their virtual world created to showcase their eco- ethical Flwrdwn puffer jackets is set in an Antarctic landscape. Using their mouse to navigate, users could roam the landscape to examine the virtual Pangaia garments, accompanied by a synchronised soundtrack of whistling wind and snow underfoot.  

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Within this virtual world, consumers are encouraged to engage with others or be guided by a brand expert or ambassador. This community style experience extends dwell time and provide audiences opportunity to connect with one another via likeminded passions.  

Alternatively, brands should look to put the creativity back into the hands of the consumer – allowing them to upskill or show off to their peers.   

Look to Dressed, for example, an interactive styling game with gives users opportunity to play at being stylist using virtual clothes which are graded using AI. Again, the emphasis here is on building social and community factors whilst cultivating and validating new fans through play and expression.  

Ultimately, when it comes to communicating with consumers who put individuality first, it is all about allowing opportunity for them to get involved. In all other areas of their lives they feel empowered by their ability to express themselves in new and more fluid ways, so brands should use their expertise to facilitate this creativity and expression in new and exciting ways.  

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