September 21, 2023

Digital Marketing Education

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Gen Z communities—why brands have to add value and not just show up

There is, therefore, a distinct opportunity for brands to show up for a generation that is yearning for community. Some brands are already getting it. Resell platform Depop has a strong community at its heart and recognizes the value of this. In May it hosted Depop Night Market, bringing its online sellers together for an immersive pop-up market. Crucially it looked to its community about how to run the event, grouping wares according to themes that Depopers have created such as “exaggerated minimalism,” “romantic grunge” or “alien waters.”

A community-first approach seems even more relevant to brands given audiences’ increasing concerns regarding data privacy (Apple’s recent work shows how brands are already adapting to this) and to the slow but sure demise of third-party cookies. By Q1 of 2024, Google plans to have disabled them for 1% of Chrome users. Speaking to, adding value to and even building communities seems more vital than ever for brands when the data that allows them to target consumers might not be around for much longer.

CBD wellness brand Puresport is another excellent example. Puresport, a product-driven brand, has tapped into the enormous community of Gen Z fitness fanatics—including #runtok devotees (1.9 billion views) and even the mere fitness-curious—through its free run and cycle clubs.

The community aspect of these clubs is vital and Puresport clearly works hard to keep them, well, pure. There’s not a cringy #sponsored post in sight, but attendees frequently vlog their experiences, racking up millions of views on social media. Puresport is reaping the rewards; last year the business secured backing from more than 300 investors, raising £1.3 million ($1.62 million)

The question for brands then becomes: How can we authentically participate in the sometimes-niche communities that Gen Zers are part of and are incessantly creating? The word “participation” here is key. Showing up in a community is not enough; you have to prove you belong there. Unlike the one-to-many broadcasting framework of traditional advertising, communities operate on a many-to-many basis with creators constantly feeding off each other and authenticity acting as currency. Crucially, brands must add value.

In short, when brands enter a community, they must take their shoes off at the door.


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