How Four Brands Won Gen Z Through Memes, Authenticity, and Community-Building

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Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio

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Building brand awareness isn't just about making noise today — it's about laying the groundwork for generating consistent demand tomorrow.

a marketer using strong marketing tactics to win a gen Z audience.

Also, by reaching a broader audience, your brand can target customers from various backgrounds with different behaviors.

Increased brand visibility means more eyes on your products or service, which translates into heightened interest and curiosity. By expanding this starting point, you're casting a wider net, and scooping up more potential leads who might just turn into loyal customers.

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The Importance of Captivating Gen Z Audiences

This is the era of the tech-savvy and socially conscious Gen Z. They represent a burgeoning consumer demographic with significant purchasing power and a penchant for authenticity in brand messaging.

According to a study by Edelman, more than 70% of Gen Zers said they would stay loyal to and buy from brands that share their values. As such, winning over Gen Z consumers sets you up for success in the coming years. When you capture their loyalty, you put yourself in a great position to reap long-term benefits and secure a sustainable future for your brand.

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    Why You Need to Measure Brand Awareness

    In today's ever-changing (and highly competitive) markets, widespread familiarity with your brand will help keep your sales consistent. However, implementing marketing efforts without measuring brand awareness is like shooting arrows in the dark.

    If you want to maximize the results of your brand campaigns, you must measure brand awareness. Using robust brand tracking solutions will help you understand exactly how successful your marketing campaigns have been with your target audience.

    With the right metrics and regular reports, you'll know exactly which parts of your lead funnels are doing well and which need improvement. This will help you save time, money, and effort, as you'll know where to focus.

    Brand awareness data also allows you to communicate better with stakeholders and partners. You can use this data when pitching for budgets or even when presenting to investors.

    4 Brands That Did a Phenomenal Job of Wooing Gen Z Audiences

    When discussing strategies, it's often a good idea to learn from the very best. Here's a look at how these Australian and American brands — across four different categories — went on to win countless Gen Z hearts with their marketing moves.

    1. tbh Skincare

    This Australian skincare brand was inspired by its co-founder's struggles with acne. tbh skincare products help its customers fight acne and, in turn, increase their confidence. Naturally, it made sense for the brand to target the demographic that suffers from acne the most: Gen Z.

    Acne can also lead to mental health issues such as severe depression and anxiety — something that co-founder Rachael Wilde knows all too well.

    The brand crafted its marketing strategies and awareness programs with Gen Z as the primary focus. For instance, tbh is big on TikTok, mainly because its audience is active on the platform.

    According to eMarketer, more than 44% of TikTok's user base in the US is young adults and teens between the ages of 12 and 27. 

    tbh Skincare chose TikTok as its primary marketing channel to reach out to and serve Gen Z. Tbh skincare tracks their brand with Tracksuit, have a look at their dashboard below — It clearly shows that its efforts paid off, with a huge increase in brand awareness by over 121K Australians in 12 months:

    Brand awareness growth with 18-34-year-olds since April 2023: 5% / +120,000 Australians

    In addition, tbh's guerrilla marketing stunts were particularly memorable. In one instance, the co-founder dressed up as Margot Robbie and walked around Sydney while being followed by the Paparazzi. This was a great move as it capitalized on the immense popularity of the Barbie movie, especially in the target demographic.

    Beyond that, tbh is quick on its feet when faced with unforeseen events. Case in point: When an influencer accidentally leaked tbh's new product, the brand capitalized on the unexpected exposure by launching the product early and turning the situation into a major publicity boost.

    2. Heaps Normal

    Heaps Normal is a non-alcoholic beer brand that's riding the tide of an increasing number of Gen Zs who are choosing to go alcohol-free, with products that taste just as good as the real thing.

    They took a different approach from tbh Skincare. Their main focus is building communities in real life.

    Gen Z is socially aware, health-conscious, and far less likely to consume alcohol than previous generations. In fact, 45% of Gen Zers who are of legal drinking age said that they've never consumed alcohol.

    This is something that Heaps Normal is keenly aware of.

    As Timothy Snape, Marketing Director at Heaps Normal, explains, “Gen Z are the leaders of the mindful drinking movement. They're drinking less than any other generation in history. While this means that they're naturally more open to non-alcoholic drinks, it also means that they haven't grown up with beer in the same way as older generations, so there's a challenge (that we've accepted) to bring those customers into the fold of a new form of beer appreciation that preferences flavor, taste, culture, and experience over alcohol.”

    Heaps Normal's unique marketing activities, built around the message of drinking responsibly, resonated with young audiences. By working with Tracksuit, it was able to verify this. Its brand awareness grew by over 290K people in the Gen Z age range since November 2023:

    Brand awareness growth with 18-34 year-olds since November 2023: 10% / +290K Australians

    Authenticity is also a major reason why Heaps Normal is successful among Gen Z audiences.

    “We look at the broader power of Gen Z as the tastemakers of modern Australian culture," says Tim. "As a brand focused on reimagining Australian drinking culture, Gen Z are powerful agents of change, and we're seeing that reflected in them leading the trend towards more mindful drinking culture."

    He continues, “Gen Z have some of the most fragmented media consumption habits of any demographic segment. With access to more channels and content than any generation in history, it's important to recognize that no one Gen Z human is the same. Rather than focusing on channels or platforms, we focus on the things that we know are important to them — music, culture, partying, authenticity, and purpose.”

    3. Liquid Death

    Liquid Death is a water brand that has transformed into a lifestyle brand. It started selling bottled water and has even released a heavy-metal-inspired make-up collection with Elf Cosmetics that has gone viral.

    Its bizarre and outlandish advertising has been a particular hit with Gen Z audiences. Its entire brand personality is bold and loud, focusing on death and heavy metal. This helps it stand out among the generic content that Gen Z is flooded with.

    Apart from its collaboration with Elf Cosmetics, its core product is something that the alcohol-averse Gen Z appreciates. Instead of reaching for beers and other alcoholic drinks, Gen Z can grab one of its cans of water at clubs, music festivals, and other social gatherings. Liquid Death is an excellent alternative for sober young adults who want to fit in.

    Tracksuit tracks Liquid Death in the American market. The dashboard shows that Liquid Death's brand awareness has increased by 12% in the Gen Z age ranges, thanks to its unique advertisements and branding:

    Liquid Death updated dashboard

    Brand awareness growth with 18-34-year-olds since April 2023: 12% / 7.4 million Americans

    4. Barbie

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    Who hasn't heard of the Barbie movie? Barbie has done a tremendous job at sparking widespread excitement and dominating social media buzz. 

    Mattel, the brand that manufactures Barbie dolls, saw the success of the LEGO movie and decided to adopt LEGO's strategy by creating a feature film that intertwines storytelling with brand legacy. The movie also weaves themes around women's empowerment and diversity, which hit home among many Gen Z viewers.

    As for its marketing initiatives, Barbie capitalized on social media by encouraging shareable memes, graphics, and audio to engage with younger, digitally-native audiences.

    The result? The movie was a runaway hit. In fact, it was the biggest movie of 2023. Its success reinvigorated the toy brand and made it a talking point among a new audience — Gen Z.

    Barbie's brand awareness was already high among Millenials and Gen X, who have fond childhood memories with Barbie. The Barbie movie allowed Mattel to reach out to Gen Z while also revamping the doll as a symbol of female empowerment.

    Brand awareness growth with 18-35-year-olds since May 2023: 8% / 3.2 million Americans

    Embrace Authenticity to Win Over Gen Z

    When it comes to growing brand awareness, what worked for previous generations may not work for Gen Z. Winning this generation's loyalty calls for authentic engagement and value-driven marketing messages. Don't be afraid to be creative and embrace a unique (but genuine) style.

    Another pro tip? Continuously measure your most fundamental brand metrics like awareness, consideration, and preference. This is where a solution like Tracksuit comes into play. Tracksuit offers always-on brand tracking to help you analyze the impact of your brand activity and understand your current brand positioning among Gen Zers. That way, you can ensure that your marketing efforts are on point.

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