Marketing

Want to sell to Generation Z? Here’s how tween streetwear label Real Pretty Kind does it

Katie Rockliff /

selling to Gen Z

Real Pretty Kind founder Katie Rockliff.

Global living standards are arguably better than they have ever been.

Thanks to booming globalisation in the 90s and early-2000s, we’ve seen a rise of the middle classes in emerging nations, overall longer life expectancy and higher standards of living, as well as increased access to goods and services, information, education and travel opportunities.

We are connected as never before. We are 24/7 as never before. And growing up against this backdrop of hope and opportunity is the next generation.

A little about Generation Z

  • Born (by the Bloomberg definition) between the years 1997 and 2012;
  • Representing almost 30% of the world population;
  • Blazing their own trail like no other generation before them; and
  • Aided by technology and connectivity that’s never before existed;
  • Crossing cultural, gender and political divides;
  • Reimagining their worlds and their future; and
  • Doing all this alongside us, and also, defiantly, without us.

And here’s why.

Alongside the positives in today’s social climate there sit bleak negatives. Eco-anxiety, and anxiety in general, have never been so high. Generation Z has never known a world in peace. The financial debts encumbering Generation Y before them are spurring them towards a new view of where to invest both their money and their energy.

And they’re holding the generations before them accountable for the state of things.

On the one hand, with all the creativity and freedom of self-expression that technology provides, a search for escape is being sought. And social media and gaming have proved useful channels for this.

And on the other hand, a deeper quest for meaning and purpose is being looked for.

Today’s youth are not willing to look only as far as instant gratification — the hallmark of Gen Y — they want long-term and fundamental change. They don’t want to conform to narrow stereotypes they want to break them. They don’t want a seat at the table, they want to rebuild the table — and in their more fluid and flexible likeness.
To pull a quote from The Gen Z Equation: “Their approach to labels is loud and clear — they don’t care about them and neither should society.”

The defining trademark of Gen Z is their willingness to act. Call it urgency, bravery or gumption, they’ve got it. And they do it. As 20-year-old Emma Gonzalez, posterchild for the End Gun Violence movement, said: “We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks.”

How to sell to teens

As a brand selling to Gen Z, we had to consider, early, on, how we reached them and why they should listen to us. This is what we learnt.

First, their defining traits:

  • Authentic;
  • Empowered;
  • Self-determining;
  • Emotionally aware;
  • Imaginative and innovative; and
  • Socially conscious and connected.

It is worth noting they’re savvy about being advertised to. Let’s face it, that’s been happening since they were in nappies. They’re comfortable with the concept but have high standards on their time.

But you have to be quick. Members of Gen Z have an eight-second attention span. So if you don’t wow them in the first 10 seconds, the opportunity is gone.

Remember, authenticity rules. Gen Z spot a lack of integrity a mile off. They’re fine with opinions, but brands need to walk the walk and actually demonstrate their beliefs beyond advertisement.

And content is key. If you’re going to advertise, then prioritise storytelling and deprioritise over-selling.

Online, on-trend, on-brand

Armed with smartphones, Gen Z is reshaping the worlds, both digitally and in real-time, for fun and for real. To reach them, you need to be online too.

They are on YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat and Spotify, and use these platforms to create, adapt, play and, importantly, socialise. So, it goes without saying, you need to be on these platforms too.

But let’s remember Gen Z are not all yet of the age where they have unlimited device use. Or even financial access. While they rise they are still being ‘raised’. Their parents are often gatekeepers.

So for brand owners and marketers success lies in a two-prong approach. One that respects Gen Z’s young-adult status, and one that respects their parents too.

For Gen Z there’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach. But consistency is key.

At Real Pretty Kind, we harness Instagram as our primary tool to speak to tweens (our audience) and their parents (also our audience). We connect with them every couple of days. We don’t speak to them like they’re ‘kids’, but we are optimistic and playful. And we are guilty of the usual social media suspects: spelling shorthand, emojis and GIFs.

In line with our own personal values, but also the values of this very values-led generation, we’re unapologetically real about who we are in the equation and what we stand for. And this comes through in message, imagery and product. But at the same time, we don’t make the conversation always about us.

We’re about tweens. Cheering them on. Providing them with inspiration and resources is our primary purpose for being. Adding value for us is about adding joy. Keeping tweens and their parents ‘in the know’ about what matters to them, and also amplifying their own voices and successes.

So we mix our messages up between topical, humorous and values-led. We may be dropping a message about friendship, about what’s on in the city or promoting a thought piece from one of our tween squad members in our tween zine. But equally, we could be telling a joke or promoting an artist’s work. Last on this list, we could be promoting a product. Because we know tweens are buying our product because of our authenticity— as a badge to say they represent us because we represent them. That they’re aligned with what we stand for because we’re aligned with what they stand for.

And this only works for us because of the way everything we do lives and breathes our brand name.

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REAL PRETTY Marsai Martin (Little) was told she was too young to be an executive producer. She then went on to become the youngest EP in history. What motivates her? The fact that there are so few young black girls on TV: "I can count on my hand how many there are." "It's important for young people to get involved to tell their stories….. because they won't hear it from anybody else." Got a story or want to be inspired by them?? You can sit with us! Young people with stories coming soon c/o the Reality Bites ZINE. Sign Up 4 your free copy via link in bio????Monday motivation delivered ????⚡️????#realprettykindlovesyou +  @marsaimartin @littlethemovie ???? Pinterest source unknown

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From here though, we need to mix our media channels more discreetly and speak in the places and spaces we find our peeps.

Parents will likely be on Facebook or consuming more traditional print, magazine, blogs and TV channels. Our tween audience, as stated previously, will be on YouTube, Spotify and TikTok.

For us, partnering with a PR consultancy that understands the subtleties of these two distinctly separate worlds and that can engage with both has been paramount to again help us bridge both audience strands.

The power tweens have over their parent’s spend cannot be overstated. So it is key to engage with both parties equally and respectfully in their language and their natural habitats.

What do we think Gen Z really want?

Clothes, music, the latest schoolyard accessory. To some degree, it’s the latest and greatest ‘same as it ever was’. But above all, this generation wants to be heard. They have a voice. And they’re optimistic, driven and enthused to use it. I believe success in reaching Gen Z’s in respecting and amplifying that. Being the brand that has their back. 

NOW READ: Your future customers: How to crack the gen Z code

NOW READ: Generation Z will transform parcel delivery processes — so businesses must adapt

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Katie Rockliff

Katie is the founder of teen-focused, anti-bullying streetwear label Real Pretty Kind.