5 Creative Strategies to Engage Gen Z Audiences (With Examples)

Gen Z requires a fresh approach to creative strategy

Unlocking Gen Z is a top priority for many marketers. And it’s easy to see why. In the U.S, Gen Z are the second-most populous generation, and are on track to be the most educated generation. This means they represent a huge amount of spending power. 

Gen Z, however, has a unique set of characteristics that sets it apart from previous generations. They are digital natives with a high degree of media literacy and social consciousness. This creates new preferences and demands that marketers need to adapt to if they want to drive engagement. 

Creative is the central component to this. To engage Gen Zers, you need to take a fresh approach to your creative strategy

In this article, we explore five ways that you can tailor your creative strategy to achieve this goal.


1. Embrace a platform-native ethos

One of the main gripes that Gen Z has with traditional ads is the fact that they are inherently disruptive. In fact, 74% of Gen Z audiences state that traditional ads are an “irratating incursion” on their time spent consuming digital content.

When they come across traditional ads, Gen Zers are simply going to swipe, skip, or scroll past in order to return to the content they are consuming. Not only does this result in poor engagement performance, it can also lead to negative brand outcomes. 

To avoid this, marketers need to produce creative that matches the look and feel of organic content. In doing so, the creative integrates more seamlessly within the platform's experience, making it more likely that Gen Z audiences will engage with the content. 

This is called platform-native creative, and can take two main forms: (1) platform-native visuals, and (2) platform-native storytelling conventions.


Platform-native visuals

First, your creative needs to look the part. Ditch the polished, highly staged aesthetic of traditional ads and take more of a lo-fi approach. This means unpolished footage (can be shot on a phone) and featuring real people (as opposed to models/actors). 

Platform-native visuals also include elements such as emojis and stickers, along with commonly used organic editing techniques (e.g. the greenscreen commonly used on TikTok).


Platform-native storytelling conventions

Next, adopt established storytelling conventions that audiences are known to enjoy. These can change from platform to platform. However, there are some that are consistently used across multiple platforms. For example: get ready with me videos, try-ons, unboxings, and POV videos. 

Your message is more likely to resonate with Gen Z audiences if it’s presented through one of these storytelling frameworks. This is Gen Z’s language; if you want to be heard, you need to speak it.


2. Humanize creative with UGC

Gen Zers crave authenticity. 63% of Gen Z audiences say they want to see real people rather than celebrities or models in ads. 

The best way to feed this craving is by featuring user-generated content (UGC) in your creative. You can either use organic UGC or simulated UGC supplied by UGC creators. Leveraging UGC helps to humanize your creative, driving relevance by reflecting the lives of your audience as opposed to presenting a scenario that they cannot relate to.


"As a generation we've been fed glitz and glam advertising since we were born. But we crave real stories, not staged perfection. Gen Z connects with vulnerability, with seeing ourselves reflected on our screen. We don't want celebrities pushing products down our throats; we want authenticity, relatability, and ultimately a genuine connection."

- Kevin Wood, Gen Z UGC Creator 


3. Tap into trends

The three platforms where Gen Z has much higher representation relative to other generations are TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat. Something that these three platforms have in common from a marketing perspective is the importance of trends

Trends are the lifeblood of these platforms. They are what directs content, and therefore the culture that’s being created. 

By tapping into trends within your creative, you’re able to benefit from this culture with higher levels of engagement from Gen Zers. 

Trends can take many forms. It can be a storytelling convention, a song, a challenge, an editing technique, or it can be based around a cultural moment. An example of this can be seen above in a Halloween-themed TikTok ad that NEW YORKER created with Shuttlerock. The creative references two cultural trends from 2023: Barbie and Jigsaw.


4. Highlight diversity

Gen Zers place a lot of value on diversity and inclusion when it comes to which brands they choose to support. 87% of Gen Z state that they would actively support brands if they felt represented in their ads. Also, 70% of Gen Z trust brands more when they showcase diversity in their ads. 

To drive relevance with the biggest possible audience, make sure that diversity and inclusion are key considerations when producing your creative.


5. Purpose-driven messaging

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Gen Z is a highly socially conscious generation. They value brands that are purpose-driven and align with causes such as social justice, environmental sustainability, and mental health awareness. 

Creative with purpose-driven messaging will garner strong engagement with Gen Z audiences. However, it’s important that your messaging is backed-up by genuine action and commitment to social causes. Gen Z has high media literacy and can easily identify whether messaging is genuine or not.


Start producing effective Gen Z creative, with Shuttlerock

Shuttlerock can help you put the creative strategies discussed in this article into practice. Our solution makes it easy to create platform-native creative and develop UGC. We also have expert creative strategists that will work with your brand to identify trends and formulate messaging that will resonate with Gen Z audiences.

To learn more about how Shuttlerock can help your brand engage Gen Z with effective creative, please get in touch with one of our crew members

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