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What's in a name? For Gen Z, it's trust...

More and more, companies are using human-sounding brand names to appeal to Gen Zs. These names are easy to relate to—just like wrapping yourself in a brand blanket of warmth and familiarity.



Ollie (fresh dog food delivery).

Billie (women’s shaving and personal care products).  

Casper (sleep products).

Each brand offers nicely curated social feeds, lively banter and a deep understanding of what Gen Z cares about (your dog, your self, sleep)—they sound more like buddies than brands. And that’s exactly the point.

For each of these companies, the brand-as-buddy effect seems to be working. Casper, a mattress startup that has branched out into dog beds, night lights, and even an experiential napping activation, is now valued at $1.1bn and reportedly working towards an IPO.

“If you don’t want to become commoditized, you need to have something special,” Neil Parikh, co-founder and chief operating officer of Casper, told Bloomberg recently. “The [brands] that have a sense of depth—where you can understand who that person might be like—those are the ones you want to interact with”

Brand personality goes a long way with Gen Z

To get noticed by Gen Z, you need an engaging brand persona. Gen Z has little tolerance for the aspirational marketing of generations past, and instead gravitates towards brands that are authentic, relatable and purpose—just like you’d want your best friend to be.

It stands to reason that human-named brands do this well, parsing out comms that bristle with cuteness and/or cheekiness, plus a strong, ownable aesthetic that spans from their logo to their social posts.

Why does this route work? Gen Z responds when a brand seems to mirror their own persona. This thirst for relatability extends beyond mere brand names: Gen Z also wants to see relatable talent in your marketing. When it comes to advertising, Zs want to see people portrayed in a way that’s real (vs. ideal). And on social media, faces from the demographic earn more trust than famous faces (see our piece on nano-influencers versus celebrity ambassadors).

Not to go overboard with the sleep industry references, but Aussie mattress/furniture brand Koala (admittedly, not a person’s name, but indulge us) is a case in point: adorable name; strong content game; donates a percentage of sales to the conservation of real koalas (more on authenticity below); uses a combo of referrals and low/mid-range influencers to push its products.  

Enough about sleep, let’s talk wokeness

Authenticity—a know thyself/be thyself approach—is of the utmost importance if you want to build trust and a good rep with Gen Z.

If you’ve got a swoosh for a logo, there are associations that carries and assumptions that will be made. Likewise, if your company has a human name, there’s an expectation you’ll act like a human at every touchpoint; e.g. your customer service will be affable/empathetic and your content will be a vibe.

Along with customer service and content, there’s also what your human-named brand believes in. Gen Z respects authenticity and a brand that stands for something more than what they’re selling. Additionally, 76 per cent of Gen Zers want brands to respond to their voices and feedback—and view “responsiveness” as a metric of a brand’s “authenticity”.

This can be a tightrope walk. Get it wrong and it reeks of virtue-signalling, which Gen Z can sniff out a mile away and will roast you for on social. Be real, and don't merely jump on a cause because everyone else is—your intentions should be genuine.

It helps to have a catchy name, but you'll need to listen to your demographic and live your values if you want to win over and forge a deeper relationship with Gen Z.

Dan Steiner
Dan Steiner
Sydney-based copywriter for UNiDAYS ANZ who likes Diet Coke, Roger Federer, and fresh sheets.

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