Most people have trouble even articulating what makes a brand lit (or cool) so creating a brand that’s lit can seem like a daunting task. And if that’s not challenging enough, how do you make your brand lit to Gen Z, the newest generation of consumers and one that’s still a relative mystery to the marketing world?
Fortunately, it can be, and has been, done. Here are four ways to help make your brand lit in the eyes of my generation:
Rethink classic supply and demand
It’s elementary economics: match your product’s supply with the demand of the market. However, this isn’t the best way to make your product lit to my generation. To do that, make your product rare. What’s special about something that anyone can get? People intrinsically place more value on rare goods just because they’re rare. This phenomenon is amplified in my generation, where omnipresent Instagram allows everyone a way of showing off the rare items they’ve somehow managed to get.
So if you want to make your product lit, make it harder to get. Cut your supply and increase the price. Perhaps no company has executed this tactic with Gen Z better than the iconic streetwear brand Supreme. Supreme executes limited “drops” of their products, meaning they release a limited amount of product at a specific time, and products are rarely restocked. This makes its products so in-demand that its website sometimes crashes during drops, and even items like seemingly ordinary T-shirts sell out in minutes and sometimes even seconds. So if you want your product to be in with Gen Z, leave your economics textbook at the door and rev up demand by making your product hard to come by.
Be unapologetically unique
People who confidently stand out from the crowd capture the spotlight and it’s the same way with brands. You have to venture out of the mainstream. Creating something different and unique takes you from being just a brand to becoming a name brand—a name that Gen Z knows and a leader in the industry. The simplest way to do this is, of course, is to make a product that’s truly unique and desirable, but that’s extremely difficult to do. Luckily, to be unique you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. But you do need to have something about your brand that separates it from others and it has to be something that Gen Zers can relate to. One way to do this is to have a distinct personality and reflect it in your advertising. It helps to have a specific target customer in mind.
Chubbies Shorts does a terrific job with this. Chubbies sells short-shorts specifically targeting frat bros—it even has an ambassador program for promoting the brand on college campuses—and brands itself entirely around the “5 PM on Friday” vibe its founders aim for. It adds to its laid-back image with amusing names for its shorts like “The Weekend Warriors” and “The Hammock Helpers.” The brand has since expanded to include an entire ladies’ collection in addition to swim trunks, shirts and more, with similar names like “The I’ll Be Unreachable.” Chubbie’s YouTube channel consists of exactly what you’d expect: college kids having a good time. This unique branding has attracted quite an audience, with nearly half a million followers on Chubbie’s Instagram.
The takeaway? Find what makes your company special, and put that at the heart of your marketing efforts. Gen Z wants to be in the “in” crowd and stand out from the rest. So brand yourself as the bold and unique choice over the boring mainstream brands and watch Gen Z customers flock to your store.
Bring back the good ol’ days.
For Gen Z, the oldies are the goodies. Despite not actually having been alive during these brands’ heydays, Gen Z’s nostalgia for some century-old brands seen as uncool in decades prior has fueled their modern-day rebirth. Centenarians FILA and Champion have each dusted off their cobwebs to become hot once again after years of irrelevance. FILA’s formula for newfound success has stemmed from a trait that, on the surface, seems like a weakness: the average Gen Zer was unfamiliar with FILA. However, this made FILA appealing to those seeking to separate themselves as unique individuals. This allowed the brand to become lit again—instead of a typical product swallowed up by the past, FILA shoes have become a vintage piece perfect for Gen Zers seeking to stand out from a sea of swooshes.
Champion also has used its long history to gain favor with Gen Z, but has taken a slightly different road back to relevance. Champion focused on collaborations with trendy products like Supreme and Undefeated that received media attention, introducing the old-school brand to Gen Z for the first time. The fact celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Chance the Rapper are rocking the brand has only added to Gen Z’s newfound love for their grandparents’ threads.
So if your brand has fallen out of the public eye, don’t rebrand. Stick to your roots and turn your history from a weakness into a strength. Remember, you’re not old. You’re vintage. And vintage is lit.
Become associated with lit people—but not the obvious ones
If you want to be seen as lit by Gen Z, you have to become associated with people Gen Z sees as lit. I know what you’re thinking: well, of course, celebrity endorsements have been used in ads for years. But Gen Z is different. In a survey, more than 60% of Gen Zers said they prefer ads with “real” people to those with celebrities. But the general idea of celebrity endorsements isn’t dead with my generation—it just takes a different form. Instead of valuing the opinions of traditional A-listers, Gen Zers want to see their favorite micro-influencers in their ads. These social-media users with several thousand to around 100,000 followers are seen as more “real” than traditional celebrities, and so their support of products is seen as more authentic. So to be seen as lit, work with lit micro-influencers that make sense for your brand.