Gen Z, the New Marketing Tool
The scrolling may be mindless but it’s hard to miss how an app suddenly became a cultural reset.
If I knew any better, my day wouldn't consist of mindlessly scrolling through Tik Tok for hours. And then, once Tik Tok starts to lose its amusement - switching over to Instagram reels for the next hour or so. Now I like to think a good chunk of our generation left Facebook to the ones before us… But even there we’ve got Facebook reels too. Not to mention Youtube shorts.
The scrolling may be mindless but it’s hard to miss how an app we knew as Musical.ly that was just used to make silly lip sync videos and cool transitions suddenly became a cultural reset. Bite size videos became a staple form of entertainment we can’t go without consuming, and slowly but surely, everyone hopped on the bandwagon to seem more “relatable”.
What works wonders though, is the algorithm. As a GenZ myself, I can proudly say that we are so tech savvy and well informed, it's really hard for brands to get through to us with their traditional marketing tactics. Dressing up the seemingly “trending” celebrity of the hour in their theme colors for one ad campaign doesn't really appeal to us. For all we know they could be trending for some drama they caused with a Youtuber!
So while brand’s attempts at targeting us are painfully easy to see through, they do have one silent soldier that we keep well fed - the content algorithm.
The algorithms that serve us our entertainment fix for the day on our “for you page” might know us better than we know ourselves sometimes. They either point out a suppressed want we didn’t know we needed or they entirely give us something completely new to obsess over for days before it eventually takes the shape of “demand” - or both!
It doesn’t always have to be a paid partnership post, or anything with the #ad in the caption, it’s not even a promoted advertisement. It's simply what I like to call “zoomers see zoomers do” (yes that is apparently an official way to address GenZ-ers). And by doing so, we make the best marketing tools as well as consumers.
When it comes to the algorithms themselves, they are not particularly designed to “market”. They are designed to figure out what you like and what type of content can get you to stick to the app longer - so basically the algorithms just want to get you to increase your watch time. However, if a brand knows its audience, potential consumers and can tell them apart from their current customers, all it takes is a step towards a few niche influencers and a few videos till it reaches the right people.
Think of it this way - when the L’Oreal powder foundation went viral in the beauty industry. L’Oreal is not a new run of the mill brand, it's the world's largest cosmetics company! Did it need a viral moment on Tik Tok to get sales? No, they’ve been around long enough to be a trusted brand! So even if the product itself did not go viral, their sales wouldn’t go exceptionally low. But that one viral video from Angela Trakoshis did offset a chain reaction that resonated throughout the beauty industry and had makeup lovers sell out the products!
Essentially the “Zoomer see zoomer do” mindset ticks off a domino effect. Angela Trakoshis, being a beauty commerce reviewer is well acquainted with all the beauty products that circulate in the mainstream. From there, other micro beauty influencers picked it up, reviewed the product and then it reached more beauty influencers with bigger audiences. The video from the original creator did not show up on my for you page, better known as fyp, but it did find me through Stephanie Valentine who also goes by “glamzilla” after she dueted another influencer on my explore page - or the instagram fyp.
These trends repeat themselves in all genres on these platforms and accumulate together in a “subgenre” of sorts - known and loved by most as “Tik Tok made me buy it”. So while Tik Tok made someone buy fifteen different products, that video itself made a few thousand people buy at least one product.
In hindsight, the companies and name brands can level-up their marketing by creating interesting content and then trusting the algorithm. Consciously or not, GenZ can take it from there.
This article was written by Fahmida Mridha. Fahmida is a student at Macquarie University that is curious about all aspects involved in the world of business.