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Three brands that get an A+ for creative Gen Z marketing

by John Wheeler
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    So the year is 2018, and Target is suddenly in the business of producing consumer electronics. Meanwhile, Taco Bell is producing its own line of designer apparel. And IKEA, after opening a low-priced boutique hotel in Sweden, is thinking about opening a second one in... Connecticut?

    Remind me again... Whose version of the future are we living in now?

    Gen Z’s, that’s whose.

    At first brush, these may seem like strange moves for each of these brands. After all, they’re pushing the boundaries of what they’ve historically been known for. Regardless, we think they’re doing some seriously amazing marketing — the kind that makes Gen Z notice. Here’s why Target, Taco Bell and IKEA are some of our top picks for global brands that understand what it takes to engage with Generation Z.

    Target: New store brands tailored for Gen Z

    Few major retailers understand Gen Z’s need for authenticity and value better than Target. Over the past year, this global retail giant has gone all-out in making its pitch to younger consumers. First, it’s rolled out two Gen Z-related clothing lines, Wild Fable (for women) and Original Use (for men). Each clothing line comes in a broader, more inclusive range of sizes than most other clothing brands, demonstrating Target’s commitment to a generation that prefers doing business with companies that appreciate its diversity.

    Perhaps even more intriguingly, Target also
    released a brand-new line of consumer electronics, Heyday. It’s a bold leap, but it’s also a shrewd move. Heyday’s portable speakers and wireless headphones hold up nicely against higher-priced competing brands, which appeals to Gen Zers' desire for quality product at lower prices.

    But not only do they sound great, they look great also, serving as fashion accessories unto themselves. With Heyday electronics placed right alongside Wild Fable and Original Use clothing lines at Target stores, Gen Z shoppers have that many more options to curate a look that matches their own lifestyle. When put together, these three new brands form a perfect trifecta for individual self-expression — and no other generation places greater emphasis on individuality more than Gen Z.

    In a year where some retailers find themselves floundering, Target isn’t just thriving, it’s opening a whole new flurry of stores.

    Wonder which generation will be shopping there...

    Taco Bell: Boutique clothing for Gen Zers

    Speaking of new clothing lines… Guess what other company is making a fashion splash with Gen Z? If you guessed Taco Bell… Wait, then you must’ve read the beginning of this blog, because there’s no other way you could’ve possibly guessed that.

    All kidding aside, Taco Bell recently teamed up with Forever 21 (another apparel brand that Zers love) to serve up a fresh batch of boutique fashion wear that’s become absolute fire among Gen Z customers. Bodysuits, tees, hoodies, anoraks… you name it: This collection has it.

    By adding “fashion” to its menu, Taco Bell does away with the notion that a fast-food restaurant is merely a place where people wait for tacos or tortilla chips. Instead, it can be a lifestyle brand that carries its own singular quirks, interests and hobbies that have nothing to do with food — and everything to do with relating to Gen Z at the personal level.

    The fast-food franchise’s embrace of quirky, Z-relatable humor is also something you can see playing out across its different social media channels. Whether it’s highlighting people who decide to get married at Taco Bell’s upscale “Cantina” restaurant in Las Vegas, or simply poking fun at Millennial advertising misses, Taco Bell understands that Gen Z likes its messaging bold, saucy, original, relatable and above all else, honest. Gen Zers who follow Taco Bell’s online antics aren’t just coming there for its food; they’re also coming to feel “included” in the larger conversation the brand’s offering.

    IKEA: Hotels that appeal to Gen Z travelers

    Although IKEA is best known for its well-functioning, value-priced and somewhat minimalist furniture (as well as for its giant, blue-clad stores), the Swedish retailer is making a fresh start of things by getting into the hotel business.

    That’s right. As of now, you can a book yourself a stay at IKEA’s boutique hotel in Älmhult, Sweden (travelers give the new hotel good reviews on Booking.com.) Located just steps away from the official IKEA Museum, and only a 20 minutes’ walk from a genuine Swedish beach, the IKEA hotel gives you all the basic comforts a hotel ought to. You can choose to lounge at the hotel bar or relax in the privacy of your own room (available for as little as £48 per night, which nicely matches IKEA’s emphasis on value pricing).

    Oh, and yeah. All the hotel furniture is the same you can buy for your home at an IKEA store.

    It may seem like an odd marketing strategy for IKEA, but it makes sense when you consider the phenomenon of Instagram and the power of social media. A recent joint UNiDAYS and Ad Age report found 53 percent of Gen Z travelers post pictures of their travel adventures on Instagram at least several times per week. That’s enough times per week that hotels around the world are feeling the pressure to step up their Instagram game in order to appeal to younger vacationers.

    Why do Gen Zers post their travel experiences? There’s an easy answer: They want to present their friends, family and followers with posts that carry an aura of unfamiliarity; that feel unique and off-the-beaten track — in other words, posts that other Gen Zers would deem share-worthy on social media.

    Posting one’s IKEA furniture on Instagram? Not especially unique or share-worthy. But posting a picture of oneself staying at an IKEA-owned boutique hotel with IKEA-only furniture? Now there’s something you don’t get to see every day. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that the hotel also appeals to Gen Z’s budget-consciousness.

    Given the success of their Swedish hotel, IKEA is now considering opening another boutique hotel overseas, this one to be located at the former (and currently abandoned) Pirelli Tire Building in New Haven, Connecticut. By plunking down a boutique hotel at an affordable price in the middle of a well-traveled section of Connecticut, IKEA’s message to Gen Zers couldn’t be more loud and clear: This is a social media experience worth traveling for.

    Three brands that get Gen Z marketing

    It’s good to have a satellite’s-eye view of what to do (and what not to do) when marketing to Gen Z. But it’s also useful to learn why certain individual brands happen to be clicking with Gen Z over their competitors. We think these three are on the right track.

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