The Gen Z Consumer

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Gen Z are changing how brands market themselves and their products, these brands need to be able to reach them first, and it’s not as easy as it looks.

Generation Z has its distinct and unique online behaviour, in turn, brands have needed to pivot and make changes to their marketing strategies. They are beginning to transform how they use their current and other emerging platforms to reach younger audiences. The emerging generation predominantly uses social media as their chosen entertainment but the price to infiltrate these areas have proven to be pricey. These brands have their eyes on the gaming industry and social media and to enter those spaces there has been a rise in dark social media. These changes highlight how the Gen Z consumer is changing the way advertising works in the fashion industry and beauty industry.

Getting into the Gaming Industry

Thanks to Generation Z, the gaming industry has grown exponentially, as have the communities that stem from certain genres and games themselves. This growth is prevalent in the Asia-Pacific and Latin America. I have never been interested in mimicry games or those that opt for paidia, but many gamers are interested in these gaming formats, primarily because they can show their true selves without fear of judgement through avatars. This is in comparison to social media apps, which I have argued are video games, in their own right.

From analysing Snapchat and Instagram, traditional gaming exists in the spaces between traditional social media experiences that employ gaming characteristics in their own right, much like how gaming spaces have networking features as well. Louis Vuitton created a League of Legends capsule collection and included a virtual offering in its gameplay. Moschino designed exclusive outfits for The Sims. Nike had a collection with Fortnite, by launching ‘skins’, whereby hundreds of millions of active users could access the virtual drop. The partnerships with gaming platforms that showcase virtual clothing collections are sold within these games alongside physical apparel outside of gameplay.

With the COVID-19 outbreak and pandemic, many fashion houses couldn’t showcase their collections with physical models and in-person runways, thereby needing to move elsewhere. A prominent location is Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Many brands have gone on to showcase their new collections through gameplay. They are also available for users. The virtual clothing inside gameplay breaks the ‘magic circle’, as proposed by Johan Huizinga, as they influence brand awareness and promote physical sales outside gameplay.

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The fashion industry has also leaned into sponsoring E-Sports teams, which brings their brands to over 500 million E-Sports viewers, which continues to expand as well. These coincide with editorial campaigns that feature fan-favourite gaming characters, such as the Prada editorial campaign which used characters from Final Fantasy to showcase their designs.

There is so much more to say on how the gaming industry is affecting how the fashion industry markets and sells clothing. There once were clear dichotomies between commerce, social media and entertainment. Now, they have come together as a unique force in marketing, as Gen Z is moving marketing to social media apps that are just at the beginning of reaching popularity.

Emerging Social Media & New Forms of Entertainment

We already know that social media is vital to marketing. Although, Gen Z have shifted these marketing trends to make it the crux of any fashion or beauty campaign, and responses are telling. The realm of social media acts as judge, jury and executioner for a campaign and determines whether it should be a success or failure. The reason social media is so important is because these apps are to alleviate our boredom. They provide entertainment more so than communication which can be found on more private apps.

Videos that use YouTube, IGTV and Tik Tok, are the forefront of this trend. The fashion industry capitalises on using internet ‘celebrities’ and personalities to push sales and market their products. These videos drive the majority of internet traffic and YouTube is still the most popular social networking platform for Gen Z. The brands have campaigns built around these personalities, and those personalities use them equally, in turn making it an exchange that benefits both parties. The brand has more consumers at their disposal and the internet personalties chosen gain clout, followers and a possibility of claiming a legitimate status. Louis Vuitton ran a campaign featuring various YouTubers, including Emma Chamberlain and the Dolan Twins, their videos have millions of viewers between them.

Prada ran a similar campaign, instead using Tik Tok ‘stars’, who have proven to be a lucrative source for marketing in recent months. The snagged the most-followed Tik Tok personality, Charli D’Amelio, for a trip to Milan Fashion Week. Again, these videos share millions between each other, driving that equal exchange in marketing.

Tik Tok has virtually taken over 2020, especially under the outbreak of COVID-19, and has enough people from Gen Z at its disposal. Within a few swipes on the For You Page, you have a heightened awareness of the interest in fashion and beauty on Tik Tok, with new influencers emerging from this space. However, it’s hard to get your foot in the door when it comes to advertising on Tik Tok, and it’s not because prices are $10 per 1,000 views. The central ethos of Tik Tok is to be your organic and unfiltered self. Therefore, marketing and advertising from fashion brands must keep in line with the natural and organic nature of Tik Tok, for it to do well with its target audiences. The app, moreover, is democratic and doesn’t priorities any videos on the basis of a creator’s popularity on the For You Page.

It’s hard to understand the correlation between sales and Tik Tok, although it’s still revealing of the nature of how Gen Z have changed marketing standards, and that is to be organic and entertaining on social media.

Hiding From Brands With Dark Socials

While social media is at its height, there is a genuine desire for privacy again, especially with the increase in callout culture and cancel culture. Ergo, exposed networks mean that Gen Z are now ready to head over to private social platforms that offer encryption. That’s where WhatsApp takes over, with the rise of the dark social, in which users can communicate and share content privately. It also makes it harder for brands to find traffic, since they can’t trace discussions about themselves, so companies need to change up their marketing strategies again.

In order to get your name out there, a brands will have to invest in large-scale media campaigns, alongside small-scale campaigns that are shareable in private social media apps. This has been done through GIFs and having dedicated online groups to bolster communities around the brand. There are big changes in the world of advertising and marketing, especially for the fashion industry, and that means brands and companies are flocking to social media. However, to keep ahold of these audiences, the brands must be open to continuously evolving alongside Gen Z fast-moving trends.

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