Culture and trends
min read

Marketing to Gen Z? 10 quotes to live by, from YMS NYC

Published on
April 2, 2024
Last updated
April 2, 2024

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We’ve just about caught our breath post YMS NYC – and what an event it was. 

Featuring 80+ powerhouse speakers from the world’s leading brands, unrivalled networking and insightful sessions, it’s one we’ll be remembering for a long time. 

But, in case you missed it, and didn’t get a chance to join us stateside, we’ve condensed some of our favorite quotes from the day below.

Here goes...

"Culture favours youth"

– Jenny Haggard, Thought Leadership Lead, Spotify

Last year, the standout word of YMS was “authenticity” (also the word of the year, according to Merriam-Webster, if you’re interested).

This year, it wasn’t just one word, it was two: cultural relevance. Becoming culturally relevant means becoming relevant to a community where youth culture matters – and since this almost always starts with the young, you’ve got to work to communicate and understand this audience from the ground up.

"Gen Alpha are going to unplug"

– Bryan Waddell, Senior Marketing Manager, Nestle

A spicy prediction from Bryan – one that might be a little controversial, considering Gen Alpha will have grown up with access to technology like no other generation. Bryan noted that this might just have the opposite effect. We know Gen Z are craving IRL experiences – will this translate to younger audiences who might tire of screen time quicker than we thought?

“Brands need to focus less on clutching their pearls”

– Andy Kraut, Senior Brand Partnerships Executive, GRINDR

The key to a successful partnership, according to Andy, is to be flexible. It’s not always a one-size-fits-all approach (actually, it very rarely is). In fact, reaching Gen Z is all about customizing your brand to fit this cohort of spenders: tailor your value proposition by getting to know your audience.

“Listen. All. The. Time”

– Ben Harms, Chief Growth Officer, Archrival

The paragraph above might’ve left you with some questions. Luckily, Ben from Archrival is on-hand to demystify it. The prime way to reach young consumers is simple: put your ear to the ground, and listen. Gen Z have a BS radar like no other – in fact, only 25% of them trust advertising, because they’ve grown up in a world saturated by it. Tap into the communities you know they’re spending time in, the platforms they’re frequenting, and don’t be afraid to loosen up your brand control.

“Let the creators drive”

– Mike Benedesso, Global Strategy & Partnerships, YouTube

Creators are so successful at what they do because they’ve built deep connections and massive fan bases. In fact, a lot of them have evolved to win fans faster than brands themselves. This is because they know what works: so when it comes to briefs, let them take the reins.

“Companies need to get comfortable with change”

– Oliver Yonchev, Co-founder, Flight Story

If AI was a talking point last year, it’s now reached a whole new level of conversation. No one knows this better than Oliver Yonchev, the co-founder of Flight Story. The world we’re living in is moving at a fast pace, and if your brand wants to be at the forefront of what is possible, it’ll need to innovate, and fast.

“Your strategy could be in the social media comments”

– Ruby Soave, Head of Influencer Marketing, Pion

Community listening is paramount to a successful Gen Z strategy. It's not just about broadcasting your ads: it's about actively engaging with what Gen Z has to say. Read comments, understand the comments and don’t be afraid to get active (and reactive) within them!

“Young men and young women inhabit separate social spaces”

– Sara Denby, Head of the Unstereotype Alliance, UN Women

Since January 2020, Sara has led the UN Women Secretariat that convenes the Unstereotype Alliance; a global action platform seeking to eradicate harmful stereotypes from media and advertising content. Her keynote session discussed the polarization in modern-day gender relations. One important insight was that Gen Z men and women appear to be inhabiting different spaces.

Young men appear to be becoming more conservative whilst young women are becoming more liberal. Men and boys are receiving conflicting messages online, and they’re lacking positive role models. Brands have a duty of care here: what role models are we presenting to young men in 2024? What stereotypes are we diminishing, and which ones are we reinforcing?

“In a state of constant connectivity, our capacity for connection is drained”

– Andrew Roth, Founder & CEO, dcdx

The digital world isn’t just online, it’s noisy. To resonate with Gen Z, cut through the clutter and foster genuine connections. There’s a role here for every single brand: loneliness has a stigma attached to it, so create spaces that allow young people to connect with one another – places where belonging can happen.

"Bring brands into the conversation in an authentic way”

– Michael Akkerman, Chief Mobility Officer, Uber

We couldn’t round off without mentioning the secret sauce ingredient to marketing to Gen Z. Authenticity should always be at the forefront of your marketing. And when it comes to partnerships, doing this in a way that feels natural is your key to success. Partnerships should never feel forced – and if they do, Gen Z will be the first to detect it. Trust us.

Think you missed out on all the fun? Think again. We’re back, and ready for it all over again in just a few short months. Join us at YMS London...

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