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Zoomer Marketing: Why Smart Brands Are Targeting Generation Z

Getting in with Gen Z isn’t just about learning the lingo. As brands like e.l.f. and Hellofresh have expertly shown, it’s an exercise in empathy that requires companies to check their prejudices and preconceptions at the door and lean into the new era of immersive, personalized marketing.

After all, this is a generation that truly balks at disingenuousness. They can smell it a mile away. Memes are valuable assets—and a majority of zoomers do appreciate when companies leverage them—but don’t expect consumer loyalty just because you hopped on to the latest TikTok trend. For brands, this is no longer about appealing to a niche audience.

Gen Z now accounts for over 40% of global consumers, and it looks like that share is only going to continue to rise.


To be successful means building lasting, impactful relationships with this market. Don’t trend hop—meet this generation where they are: physiologically, socially, economically, and culturally. As mentioned in TikTok 2022 playbook, the first and foremost aim of a brand willing to market on the platform should be to authentically integrate within TikTok as one giant culture and community.

Download the 2022 Tiktok Playbook For Challenger Food & Drink Brands

It’s not as difficult as it sounds. But it starts with understanding the major behavior patterns, values, interests, and concerns of these extremely online zoomers.

According to a survey which involved more than 14,000 zoomers across 46 countries, there are a few key issues that are top-of-mind for this generation that every major company should be thinking about. Gen Z is uniquely struggling with the cost of living. They’re not bound by superficial concepts of job loyalty. They care strongly about the environment and seek out sustainable consumption. And, surprise, they’re stressed and anxious.

Deloitte’s 2022 Global Gen Z & Millennial Survey

A successful brand will really understand and internalize those fundamental concerns. Let’s look at a few of these commonalities and break them down, using real-life examples of companies that saw and seized the opportunity to not just “target” this generation, but connect with them in a meaningful way.

An Anxious Generation Is Desperate For Comfort

What better way to tap into that desire for comfort than evoking nostalgia? It’s a tried and true formula, but marketing research suggests that it’s a particularly potent formula when it comes to zoomers. If you’ve spent any time on TikTok, it’s abundantly clear that nostalgia = views and shares.

At a larger scale, Rakuten demonstrated this clearly in its Super Bowl ad, with Alicia Silverstone reprising her iconic role in “Clueless” to market the cash back app that has Gen Z written all over it.

In a sense, the ad was doubly effective—both leveraging nostalgia with an unmistakable 90s character while promoting a product that can literally offset the anxiety that comes with finances and budgeting. It’s a win-win.

As a side note: Don’t mistake Gen Z’s anxiety about the cost of living as a sign that they’ll always be this way. As their buying power grows, all signs point to zoomers becoming a spending powerhouse.

e.l.f. is another great example of a brand identifying this burgeoning market and coming up with a solutions-oriented marketing strategy. The beauty brand has a number of campaign hits under its belt, including its recent collaboration with another celebrity who emanates nostalgia but whose celebrity has only continued to evolve, the Gen Z favorite Jennifer Coolidge.

Coolidge is beloved by this generation, in part, because she exudes authenticity. So it makes perfect sense that e.l.f. would cast her in an ad to deliver a message that a generation longs to hear: Premium quality that doesn’t break the bank.

This represents the trifecta of effective marketing strategy for Gen Z. Nostalgia (brings comfort), cost-saving (brings relief to financial anxiety), and Coolidge herself (brings authenticity).

There’s a reason that Kyra‘s 2022 Gen Z State of Beauty Report ranked e.l.f. as the top makeup brand that people between 18 and 25 said that they use daily. But while their success on the messaging of quality on a budget is a major part of their success, their social media presence, particularly on TikTok, has taken the company to a next level.

It goes without saying that TikTok is a force to be reckoned with in the creative marketing world. But while we’re on the topic, I wanted to share another important insight—specifically, why it’s critical that brands avoid limiting themselves to snackable, short-form content.

popular brands tiktok
Source: Glossy

Meet your audience where they live. Don’t assume they just have one address.

Brands that are hyper-focused on short videos and TikTok might get results, but don’t underestimate this generation’s attention span. Think of TikTok as an appetizer. It tastes delicious, and everyone wants a bit, but Gen Z is still hungry for more.

A whopping 59% of zoomers say that they consume these short-form appetizers and head to the main course. That is to say, they watch a TikTok and pursue more comprehensive content with more information about the topic at hand. That’s according to Google —and if anyone is tracking that transition from bite-sized content to ad revenue-generating long-form, it’s Google.

Think With Google

The meal kit company Hellofresh has clearly recognized the value of long-form advertising content. And it’s demonstrated an acute understanding of the Gen Z audience.

Case in point: Hellofresh is taking learnings about the zoomer desire for comfort and combining it with experimental advertising that doesn’t shy away from long-form. With 83 percent of Gen Z saying they’ve used YouTube to watch soothing content that helps them relax, it’s no wonder why the meal kit brand has taken novel approaches to its campaigns, which include showcasing its product through a partnership with a popular Mukbang creator to produce this instant ASMR classic.

One of Hellofresh’s greatest strengths is that it doesn’t restrict itself to one format or another. It even became one of the biggest food brands in the world to jump into the Twitch world with its own stream, following Gen Z at all of the various addresses that it lives, so to speak.

These are success stories, but these strategies are by no means beyond reach for brands large and small. With this generation positioned to become the center of the marketing world, creativity needs to be responsive, empathetic, and, above all else, authentic. As zoomers grow up, this will become all the more apparent.

Zoomers might not have an exceptional disposable income right now, but don’t sleep on this generation. The quicker brands are to adapt and innovate, the more lucrative they will be in the future.

Ksenia Kurganova

Ksenia Kurganova is a digital marketing professional with over seven years of experience navigating and analyzing the world of tech at companies. She previously worked at YouTube and Yandex, where she managed multiple user surveys to build deeper insights and develop effective marketing strategies, focusing on different audience segments including Gen Z and millennials.

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