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Four brands winning Gen Z’s business through word of mouth

by Laurie Heller
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    Brands looking to engage Gen Z are finding success with word of mouth marketing. These four brands set the standard for how to generate positive buzz both online and off.


    As the first generation to come of age in a digital world where constant connection is the norm, Gen Z has high expectations of the brands with which it chooses to do business. Zs insist that companies represent their values and expectations.

    They trust these messages most when delivered by their peers. Word of mouth (WOM) marketing, while historically always an important marketing strategy, is now essential to succeed in the marketplace.

    Rethink your advertising strategy

    For close to a century, advertising has succeeded on the model of interrupting your day to pitch you a product. A recent study shows that Gen Z is largely dismissive of these tactics, viewing them as wasteful and an invasion of privacy.

    WOM marketing has risen as a more genuine, organic way to win over Gen Z’s eyeballs, wallets, and loyalty. In fact, 83 percent of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends over messages that come directly from brands themselves.

    Here are just a handful of companies that have implemented unique strategies to mobilize the WOM machine.


    This lingerie lifestyle brand used a hashtag and user-generated Instagram photos to empower its Gen Z audience to make a larger difference in the world. It encouraged its followers to post unfiltered swim photos embracing their personal body image. In return, the company donated to such non-profits as the National Eating Disorders Association. The promotion caught WOM fire with hundreds of pictures posted and thousands of dollars raised.

    Authenticity is key for this demographic—78 percent say so—and they can very quickly sniff out if your intentions are less than genuine. Brands like Aerie that give their audience an opportunity to celebrate their authentic selves create an opening for conversation.


    How does a British brand that’s nearly two centuries old attract today’s youngest consumer demographic? With a once-in-a-lifetime experience (that has a limited shelf life). This past spring, Harrods presented a unique pop-up store, Fashion Re-told, in support of National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), a UK-based charity that works to prevent child abuse. In addition to their support of this organization, Harrods also hoped to increase awareness of sustainability, another cause that’s important to Gen Z, and champion pre-worn clothes.

    These temporary brand portals are immersive, short-lived, and create social capital—which visitors are only too happy to share via WOM—for those lucky enough to experience them.

    Download our report, Gen Z: Decoding the Digital Generation, and see  why you  can’t take one-size-fits-all approach with Gen Zs.



    This fitness innovator turned a ridiculously difficult, high-intensity workout regimen into a marketing sensation. It gave its members a platform to share their experiences, both in and out of the gym. These testimonials attract new members and encourage current ones to take their workouts to the next level.

    Crossfit understands that it’s not enough just to invent a great workout. When you allow your digital platform to be a community where people can connect around that workout, you take things to the next level.  Sixty-two percent of Gen Zs have tried out a new workout based on a recommendation from family or friends and 30 percent have passed on a rave review overheard from a stranger.


    Progressive cosmetics retailer Lush doesn’t spend money on ads. In fact, they made waves earlier this year when they completely shut down their social media accounts in the U.K. It instead succeeds on the back of its values—which include fair trade, ethical buying, and animal welfare—and its memorable in-store experience. The latter includes offbeat product names and descriptions, as well as earnest, well-informed sales staff, all of which contribute to killer WOM.

    This commitment to inclusion, diversity, and sustainability are examples of what Gen Zs demand from the world and their brands. Whether it’s ads that feature diverse families, fashion lines for people with disabilities, or cosmetics that offer shades for a wide variety of skin tones, show that you’re truly making a difference and you’ll become part of the conversation.

    Stories, not sales

    Tell stories that are worth repeating. Infuse your brand with purpose, and Gen Z will be far more likely to come on board and share your message widely. Words have power, but they are even more powerful  if backed up by the authentic experiences of fellow customers.


      Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19


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