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Inclusivity and diversity in Gen Z marketing

by Joni Sweet
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    How to approach Gen Z marketing in the midst of a crisis

    Is your brand grappling with how to connect with Gen Z in light of how serious COVID-19 has become? If so, you’re not alone.

    Gen Z is the most diverse generation in history. Shifting your marketing strategy to be more inclusive will engage them more than all the Instagram ads you can buy. Here’s how to do it.


    No other generation has championed diversity quite like Gen Z. As the most ethnically diverse group in history, they know what it means to celebrate uniqueness.

    Older generations may have accepted the stereotypes of ideal beauty portrayed in mass media, but Gen Z catches glimpses of people from all walks of life every time they pick up their smartphones. Exposure to a wide variety of faces, body types, cultures and norms is part of everyday life for Gen Z.

    For brands that want to appeal to Gen Z, it’s critical to show them you encourage and support diversity. Here’s what you need to know about incorporating diversity and inclusion into your Gen Z marketing.

    Inclusive, authentic advertising works

    Take a hard look at your current marketing collateral. If the models you’re using in advertisements look a little culturally homogeneous, you might be turning off Gen Zs. Zs celebrate individuality, and they want to engage with visual media that’s as varied and diverse as the real world. In fact, more than six in 10 Gen Zs say they like seeing ads that show diverse families. They want to see people that look like them and the people they love, as well as those they engage with from around the globe.

    Don’t just swap in stock images of diverse, yet idealized models in your advertisements, though. Authenticity is key. Studies show that Gen Zs overwhelmingly prefer ads that “show real people in real situations”, and which don’t try to paint an idealized view of the world. Remember: you’re talking to digital natives, who are constantly bombarded with perfectly imperfect pictures of their peers on social media. Anything that looks too perfect comes off as artificial.

    Gone are the days of the “perfect body” and an ideal sense of beauty—Gen Z connects most with models who look like they do, not models who marketers think they might aspire to be. Find ways to celebrate diversity in its many forms—from different size bodies and a variety of skin tones to varied ages and physical abilities. The more you can reflect the melting pot of Gen Z life, the better.

    Create products for everyone 

    If you want to do business with Gen Z, you’ve got to think bigger and design in a way that embraces your customers’ differences, as well as their similarities. Inclusivity is critical to this group, and their favorite brands have created expansive product lines that have something for everyone.

    Case in point: Fenty Beauty. When Rihanna debuted her cosmetics brand, she didn’t just come out with a handful of shades of makeup—she launched with 40 different foundation colors that can fit just about any of her shoppers’ diverse skin tones. The brand has continued to earn loyalty with Gen Z by developing even more shades on all ends of the spectrum.

    Apparel companies have also started to become more inclusive in effort to tap into the Gen Z market. Extended sizing designed to fit a breadth of heights and frames is no longer a nice-to-have—it’s mandatory. But that’s just the start. A number of big brands, including Tommy Hilfiger, have won over Gen Zs by creating stylish yet functional fashion lines for people with disabilities. Zs feel good knowing that people with all body types can shop together.

    Consider taking a step back from separate lines for men and women. The majority of Gen Zs believe that people can be "born one gender and feel like another." Brands can acknowledge that “people exist beyond the gender binary” by designing gender-neutral clothing that anyone can wear.

    Find missions to support

    Tech-savvy digital natives can sniff out a fake a mile away. Your efforts to develop a diverse and inclusive brand must extend far beyond your advertising and products—they should make a social impact, as well. Six in 10 Gen Zs say they prefer brands that support issues regarding “human rights, race, sexual orientation and poverty.” They also expect brands that advertise diversity to incorporate diverse hiring practices (and they definitely notice when they fail to do so).

    Find ways to create a more inclusive workplace and put your brand behind diverse causes. When it comes to showing Gen Z you care about diversity, authenticity is everything. Show young consumers that you walk the talk, and they’ll come running.  


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