How digitally native brands are rewriting marketing rules to target Gen Z


Direct-to-consumer and digitally native brands are rewriting their marketing playbooks in order to get into the pockets of the next high-spending demographic cohort: Gen Z.

These 12- to 19-year-olds are spending more on beauty than apparel, and new beauty and wellness brands are trying to win them over early. Subscription services Lola and Angel Shave Club have debuted a First Period Kit and First Shave Kit, respectively, to approach young girls who are just becoming acquainted with lifelong experiences like menstruation and shaving. Blume, another subscription service for period products, has educational content for those entering puberty, while beauty brand Petite ‘n Pretty, which debuted in July, creates premium makeup with specific products Gen Z are interested in, like hair and body glitter, a not-too-heavy eye and cheeks palette, and lip gloss.

Gen Z is a distinctly different type of customer than millennials; they grew up online, eschew email and Facebook in favor of Instagram and YouTube, and consider brand transparency and diversity to be absolute necessities. This is posing challenges to the traditional structure of how young brands market themselves online, where they rely heavily on Facebook retargeting ads for customer acquisition, and email newsletters for driving conversions. And while Gen Z has never lived without the internet, some are still too young for brands to legally acquire their data, meaning that brands have to rethink their social media and marketing approaches and appeal to both the Gen-Z consumers and their parents.

“It’s our goal to be the go-to in terms of [period products],” Taran Ghatrora, co-founder of Blume (formerly Ellebox) said. “It’s important to hone in on [Gen Z] and be what they need but also be a product these women can grow up with.”

For Blume, being what Gen-Z customers need means focusing on the transparency of its products, in addition to educational content that feels conversational and not clinical. According to an April 2018 report from Celebrity Intelligence, 73 percent of the beauty industry say Generation Z is pushing them to be more transparent. Blume creates environmentally friendly tampons and pads that are made of organic cotton and free of chemicals, in addition to deodorant, face wash and acne treatments. There is also Blume University and a first-period guide called “Know Your Flow,” with articles written by contributors that address concerns such as how to navigate your first visit to the gynecologist.

To reach Gen Z, Blume is focusing on Instagram, Facebook Messenger and text messages, as well as physical pop-ups. Visitors to the website can sign up for a newsletter via email, but also through text message, for example.

“One of the things we find is they don’t use email as much as millennials, [but]we see a 90 percent open rate in text and Facebook Messenger,” Ghatrora said. “We also have a better relationship with that consumer, as we can respond faster.”

But parents still maintain the purchasing power for products, in addition to internet-privacy laws that technically prevent people under 13 (in the U.S.) from creating an online profile, such as an Instagram or email account, or have their information collected by companies. This creates a dichotomy for brands that must appeal to two separate end users who interact with brands differently. Blume focuses on email campaigns to reach parents and millennials, while Petite ‘n Pretty uses Instagram and Facebook to reach parents, and YouTube for Gen Z.

Because children as young as 6 are consuming YouTube videos, Petite ‘n Pretty — which is currently only sold online — is focusing on pushing its product out to about 250 influencers and media personnel including female influencers with children, those with large followings like Jeffree Star and Jaclyn Hill, and young micro-influencers like Reuben De Maid and Kheris Rodgers. On Instagram, the brand is targeting parents with information about how the products are pediatrician-approved, in addition to information about its own consumer research in order to build parental trust. But engagement (through likes, comments and views) and brand awareness with Gen Z is designated for YouTube.

“We are focusing on YouTube because the young creatives are on that platform. We are putting more emphasis on YouTube to talk to users as friends rather than an authority,” said Samantha Cutler, CEO and founder of Petite ‘n Pretty.

The common goal is to hook young customers and engage early while skirting common data-collecting practices that digitally native brands typically use to retarget and acquire customers. In order to navigate around Internet laws but still directly connect with customers, Petite ‘n Pretty is including cards in its packages that allow customers to write back to the brand. In the future, Petite ‘n Pretty is looking at more products for body and hair for even younger consumers who aren’t interested yet in makeup, while Blume is looking at how to utilize IGTV in addition to its current influencer relationships.

This article first appeared in

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