Gen Z has always expected transparency and authenticity from brands, and COVID-19 has only reinforced these values. As sellers of non-essential items, beauty brands must be especially cautious when marketing to Zs during this time.
According to Vogue Business, Gen Z is the generation most likely to delay purchases during the pandemic, which means that marketers need to adapt. Right now, your marketing efforts should be more focused on nurturing this audience than pushing sales.
Gen Z cares deeply about how brands are responding during the crisis, and they’re also paying attention to how companies are treating their employees. A recent DoSomething.org survey shows that, more than anything, Gen Z wants brands to share content that outlines how they’re keeping their employees safe and protected financially during this time. Other top content priorities include how brands are helping local communities and resources to help those impacted. What they don’t want is tone-deaf, business-as-usual promotions that ignore the current state of affairs.
Gen Z brands that come off as opportunistic or uncaring during this time are going to lose points with younger consumers, who want to see what brands are doing to help, but not if this messaging feels promotional or boastful. Zs value authenticity, and that hasn’t changed in a time of crisis—if anything, it’s been amplified. Sharing positive messages without backing it up with action? That’s definitely not the way to win over Gen Z.
To that end, playfully encouraging this frugal generation to spend their stimulus or unemployment funds (half of ‘older’ Gen Zs are currently either unemployed or live with someone who is) on beauty or fashion purchases is absolutely not a smart approach for Gen Z brands right now. Any brand that is seen as trying to profit from this crisis risks losing trust from these young consumers who—it's worth mentioning—have major purchasing power both now and in the future.
Here’s the good news: After the onset of the pandemic, UNiDAYS surveyed our students and analyzed their shopping activity on our app. And in our COVID-19 Performance Impact Report, we found that beauty brands in the U.S. actually saw a 71 percent spike in popularity among students during the pandemic. Surprising, right?
In the U.K. and Ireland, pandemic beauty sales have been centered around skincare and self-care, while in France, big-ticket beauty items are on the rise right now. This indicates that the appetite for spending on beauty is there, but in a more goal-oriented and specific way than before.
We’ve also found that brand-sponsored pay-it-forward schemes have been successful with Gen Z at this time. Which makes sense, since those campaigns align with Gen Z’s desire to make a positive impact, especially in times of crisis.
As digital natives, Gen Z continues to be highly engaged online. Social media campaigns that empower Zs to play a positive role in the crisis are a great option, as are interactive campaigns that incorporate content generation and invite them to make an impact.
To sum it all up: Right now, brands should focus on demonstrating that they care about their customers and employees in a genuine way. For example, content that encourages people to shop safely, stay home, and wear masks in public has been well-received by Gen Z.
Here are a few examples of fashion and beauty brands that are excelling at connecting with Gen Z through their actions, not just their words:
When people can’t physically gather in the same place for photo shoots, keeping fashion inventory updated on a website can be challenging. Asos has overcome this hurdle with augmented reality to digitally fit models with new clothes and keep content fresh, while protecting their employees at the same time.
MAC also used augmented reality to help housebound Gen Zs find just the right shade of foundation for those who want to look their best for Zoom classes and conference calls.
MAC Cosmetics proves to be a pioneer both in real life and in the gaming world. Black gamers have long struggled with a lack of options for avatars, but a recent MAC/Sims collaboration aims to change that with virtual makeup options that are well-suited for darker skin tones.
In response to the pandemic, fashion brand Rag & Bone acted fast to make stylish face masks, but they do more than just look good. For every purchase of a set of upcycled masks, the brand donates $5 to the New York charity City Harvest.
Gen Z beauty brands have a unique opportunity to connect with younger consumers in this time of crisis—but only if they aren’t seen as being opportunistic. This audience can see through gimmicks, and they don’t react well when a brand isn’t genuine. To learn more about how to reach this powerful group of young consumers, download our Gen Z Marketing Playbook.
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