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Why your next brand collab should be with Gen Z

Gen Z holds $143 billion in spending power—but if you follow us, you already know that. What you might not know is exactly how Gen Z wants to make its mark on retail and how you can adapt accordingly. For starters: the brand collab with the greatest potential to grab Gen Zs’ attention might just be a collab with Gen Zs themselves.


When planning for a generation with so much spending power and influence, it might be easy to get caught up in the “what” of Gen Z marketing. “They want eco-friendly products.” “They care about quality more than cost.” “They love Instagram-worthy moments.”

Don’t get us wrong—these sorts of snippets are vital to understanding Gen Z’s spending habits, but they fail to answer one key question: How exactly do you build brand awareness and affinity with this hard-to-reach generation?

Don’t panic. The key to reaching Gen Z is right at your fingertips. It’s your brand.

Gen Z wants to interact with brands they love

Gen Z has grown up with a crop of self-made social media influencers who resemble themselves, and with whom they can easily interact on YouTube, Instagram, etc. These interactions have shaped the way Gen Z thinks about commerce, as 36% of Zers’ shopping habits are directly impacted by influencers.

What can your brand learn from influencers, you ask? Authenticity. Approachability. Responsiveness. Unlike previous generations, Gen Z wants to do more than just consume. They want to collaborate. They want their voices to be heard and their ideas to be shared. And what better platform is there than a brand they already know and love?

How your brand goes about this is entirely up to you. You might run a design contest (if given the chance, 44% of Gen Zers would submit product design ideas for their favorite brands). You might host an event (38% would attend an event hosted by a brand). Or you might simply ask them for brand-related creative ideas (36% would submit digital content for a brand). Whatever you do, start taking notes from brands who do it right. Let’s take Nasty Gal, for example.

How Nasty Gal activated its Gen Z audience

Nasty Gal, a popular clothing retailer among Gen Z women, woke up to this generation’s collaborative potential early on. That’s what prompted them to host a t-shirt design contest, wherein they invited Gen Z students to step into the limelight as Nasty Gal designers. Ultimately, Nasty Gal would select and sell up to 20 designs and fly one grand winner to its headquarters in either Los Angeles or Manchester (U.K.).

In partnership with UNiDAYS, Nasty Gal launched its online competition with the slogan: “Fashion is a statement. Time to make yours.” 

As it turns out, understanding your audience really does pay off. With over 18,000 contest page views and 280 design submissions, the t-shirt design contest was a hit. Not only did Nasty Gal select six incredible design winners, but they also built brand awareness and affinity with their core group of consumers.

Said one of the six finalists: “I’m so excited my design won a spot on Nasty Gal’s website. I’m a big fan of Nasty Gal and it’s just surreal to have my own artwork sold on one of their shirts.”

To brands aiming to amp up their engagement with Gen Z: Take notes from Nasty Gal. This generation’s drive to collaborate won’t disappoint.

Christina Germano
Christina Germano
Contributor, Gen Z Insights

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