Youth marketing
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The TikTok generation: Why aesthetics are so important for Gen Z marketing

A Gen Z woman in a cap talking on a cell phone.
Written by
Izzy Hall
Published on
June 17, 2024
Last updated
June 17, 2024

What this article covers

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Picture this: ahead of a trip to New York City, a Gen Zer scrolls through TikTok. They’re looking for a cute place to grab a drink and see the famous NYC skyline. With the simple search of ‘nyc bars’, a video appears that catches their eye.  

Whether it’s the variety of colorful drinks or beautiful views of NYC, videos like this provide a short snippet of holiday heaven for Gen Zers: somewhere aesthetically pleasing. 

After seeing this video, it'll be shared with their friends and family. The bar in question will, undoubtedly, become the host to many eager Gen Zers.

So, why is this? 

Aesthetics are hugely important when it comes to Gen Z’s purchasing decisions. TikTok (Gen Z’s new search engine) is a huge part of the spending journey. But what’s the secret to success and how can brands get involved? In this blog, we’ll be looking at Gen Z’s use of TikTok aesthetics and brand collaborations. 

TikTok is Gen Z’s new search engine 

Gen Zers primarily use TikTok to find their next activity or clothing item; TikTok aesthetics are extremely important for marketing to this generation. In fact, as shared in our Youth Trends Report, “Aesthetics (43%) is the main reason Gen Z are purchasing from nostalgic brands.” 

By posting an aesthetically pleasing video on social media, young people can get some intel, inspiration and behind-the-scenes content of what’s in store for them. 

Case study: Pacsun 

Pacific Sunwear of California, more commonly referred to as Pacsun, is a retail clothing brand focusing on lifestyle apparel. While scrolling through their TikTok account, it’s evident that they’re catering to Gen Zers - there’s  an intense focus on aesthetics.

Take, for example, the below:

In essence, the video features someone packing in an aesthetically pleasing way: the clothes are fully laid out on a red and white checkered sheet and folded neatly into the bag, the items selected are catered to summer outfits, and the song used in the background is a summary, upbeat tune.

But this isn't just a nice-to-watch. This is a Gen Z marketing masterpiece. 

Clearly, the clothes that are being packed are from Pacsun, but the video does not explicitly say 'buy these clothes'. But, by putting more a strong focus on aesthetics (as opposed to a hard sell), social media scrollers are more likely to turn into shoppers.

Gen Z is all about the image, and Pacsun lives up to that standard.

Case study: Pacsun x Formula 1

Interest in Formula 1 has increased amongst Gen Zers in recent years (in part thanks to Netflix series Drive to Survive), especially when it comes to dressing up for the events. 

@pacsun Don't miss out: shop the latest @Formula 1 Miami collection with Apple Pay before everyone else 👀🔥 available now through 5/1. Terms apply. @Apple Pay ♬ original sound - pacsun

With the F1 season beginning in late February 2024, Pacsun released a 'Formula 1 Miami Collection' range, featuring keywords like 'Formula 1 Racing', 'Miami', and F1', alongside images of cars and other related imagery. The clothing itself is on trend for the optimal 'comfy yet cute' summer: baggy t-shirts, shorts, and hoodies. 

Oh, and the collaboration also gave Pacsun an excellent excuse to promote their clothing in the stylish city of Miami...

Miami is a hugely popular place for Gen Zers to visit due to its nightlife and general vibe. Much like anywhere else, Gen Zers typically look to TikTok to figure out what to do in the city and what to wear: with one of the American Grand Prix being held in Miami, collaborating with F1 allowed Pacsun to tap into the 'Miami aesthetic' to promote their range.

We’ve no doubt that Gen Z race attendees will gravitate towards Pacsun for fashion and trends inspo.

How can brands tap into the TikTok aesthetic?

So… how can brands use TikTok aesthetics to their advantage? 

1. Short and sweet

When it comes to TikTok, the attention span of Gen Z is short - they want their videos to get straight to the point in less than 30 seconds. If the videos are longer, they will be scrolled past and not watched fully. 

Ultimately, it’s easier to capture a simple aesthetic within a short video. Simple is better.

2. Colors 

Colors are crucial when grabbing the attention of the viewers. 

If marketing for summer, use more pastel colors and provide a light and fun vibe for the video. When marketing for fall, use darker and warmer colors, providing the relevant (spooky) atmosphere.

3. Focus on the audience

Ask yourself the following questions: What does the audience like to see? Are there any popular TikTok sounds or songs that can be used? Are there any TikTok trends that could be used in this context? Are there any popular creators/influencers to partner with?

And remember - work with Gen Z. Consult them, and do your youth marketing research (e.g. have a good old scroll on TikTok (and subscribe to our Weekly Briefing)). The best resource may actually be right in your hands.

So…

With TikTok being Gen Z’s major search engine, utilize it to the best of your ability. Spend the extra time to make your promotions as aesthetically pleasing as possible; we guarantee it’ll pay off.

Like what you’ve read? Subscribe to our weekly briefing for Gen Z news and trends, delivered directly to your inbox every week. 

Written by Rebecca Strug

Rebecca Strug was born and raised in New Jersey. She is a student at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia studying Sociology and Creative Writing. In her spare time, she loves listening to music, going for walks, and reading any type of book (fiction preferably).

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