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How 3 Companies Are Appealing to Gen Z

Teens today are inundated with hundreds of brands vying for their attention. As the owner of a company, how do you make yours stand out? Let’s look at three major companies that have rethought their marketing strategy to reach Gen Z.

Taco Bell: Make them feel rebellious and edgy

Over the past few years, Taco Bell, the popular fast-food chain, has been launching campaigns that appeal to teens’ rebellious and edgy natures.

For example, “Promposals” was a campaign to get teens to incorporate Taco Bell in asking someone to prom.

They initially pushed out the campaign by promoting it on their social media channels, including a funny Vine with an example. But after the first few teens asked their dates to prom and tweeted the hilarity, Promposals went viral.


Using Taco Bell hot sauce pockets as part of a “promposal.” Posted by @JerSwan28.

In another recent campaign, Taco Bell took to Periscope to reveal their new breakfast food, the biscuit taco, and announce a free giveaway for every customer in America on Cinco de Mayo.

They called it their “Breakfast Defectors” campaign and encouraged their audience to “rebel” from traditional breakfast foods by trying the new taco.

Fans were encouraged to share photos with their biscuit tacos on social media, and the most active fans received “Influencer Kits,” consisting of T-shirts, bandanas, and posters of the campaign.

Taco Bell didn’t have to spend money on expensive outside influencers to promote their product. Excited by the possibility of rewards, free swag and elevated status, their fans became the influencers and promoted their product for them.

Ivivva: Attach your brand to a social mission

According to a report by Piper Jaffrey, brands like Aeropostale, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Hollister are on the decline with teens, while brands like Nike, Victoria’s Secret and Lululemon are on the rise.

Why is this? It turns out that teens are starting to turn to brands that show they’re socially conscious.

For example, Ivivva, the sister brand of Lululemon, encourages girls to upload photos of themselves wearing the brand’s clothing while doing an activity. The best photos are then reposted to Ivivva’s Instagram account.

A teen wearing Ivivva athletic clothing. Posted by @ivivva.

This in turn has a powerful effect on the followers of Ivivva’s Instagram. The “models” are just regular teens, not professionals painstakingly photoshopped to try to appeal to young people.

Teens relate to the brand because they associate it with young people who are just like them, and who might even be their friends.

The account not only promotes an active lifestyle; it also promotes realistic body images. Teens feel empowered and a part of the community when they upload photos of themselves wearing Ivivva clothing.

Target: Turn your products into art

As more content overflows teenagers’ newsfeeds, brands must make their posts more eye-catching to draw attention. Target is one company that has managed to do this while retaining their brand identity.

On their social media pages, they display their products being used in creative and stylish ways in order to catch teenagers’ interest as they scroll through their feeds.

Method soap bottles being used to hold flowers. Posted by @target.

For example, they displayed empty Method soap bottles being used to hold flowers in honor of Earth Day. On Man Crush Monday, they showcased a bunch of their products for men with the hashtag #MCM.

Scroll through Target’s Instagram feed and they seem more like a photography account than a discount retailer. Their advertisements don’t look like advertisements.

Instead, they’re attractive images that feel like creative art that you could recreate if you had their products.

Taco Bell, Ivivva, and Target have nailed it. By thinking creatively and recognizing what catches the eye of Gen Zers, they’ve managed to snag the interest of the latest crop of teens.

If your company wants to achieve similar success in this key demographic, you would do well to follow their lead.

Written by Erick Pinos

Erick Pinos is an ambitious senior at MIT studying management and computer science. He's worked on building computers that can grow food, augmented reality platforms for optimizing city traffic and reducing emissions, and tools for the City of Boston to increase civic engagement from young adults. Pinos is also the co-founder of Changing Lives, a group of friends who came together to raise money to feed and clothe the homeless and the founder of Tech 101 Kids, an online publication for parents to help them inspire their kids to pursue technology from young ages.

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