Talk to me nice – how to speak to Gen Z

5 Minutes

Dear brands

Talk to me nice. Or don’t talk at all.

Every brand wants a piece of Gen Z. With great spending power comes greater attention.

We’re a generation of many firsts and mosts: first to grow up with social media, most diverse, most informed, and the list goes on.

But not every brand knows what to say or how to speak to us. The truth is it’s not rocket science. If you speak with us, not at us, you’ll find we’re not all that difficult to figure out.

Here are six things to remember:

1. Have something worth saying

All fluff and no substance makes a dull and inauthentic brand.

Stop talking just for the sake of it. What you say holds weight. You decide how much with the content you put out. Gen-Z didn’t invent a new language, we’re just bored of the fluff.

We’re invested in our futures more than ever before – sustainability, equality, justice, politics. We care and it’s not performative. So we know when you’re faking it. Jumping on the bandwagon won’t work. Speak to what’s true for your brand in an authentic way.

When Ben & Jerry’s talk sustainability, we believe them. Because they’ve stood up for it again and again.

2. Be about it

Sometimes your words won’t be enough.

Show, then tell. Or sometimes just show and we’ll tell the world for you. We’ll be your voice. Words become so much more powerful when they come alive.

But first you have to do something worth talking about.

Take streetwear brand Corteiz. “Da Great Bolo Exchange” saw hundreds of followers swap their big-named brand jackets for a brand new Corteiz one. The exchanged jackets were donated to a homeless charity. Meanwhile, Corteiz went viral on Twitter and the streets of London.

3. Cut the emojis, deadass

Brands are suffering from verbal diarrhoea with their (over)use of emojis.

Don’t get me wrong, I love emojis. Where would my social media captions, text messages and DMs be without them?

But if they’re not used properly, emojis quickly feel like gibberish. Plucked from nowhere and plodded anywhere that feels right. Emojis can be part of how you communicate, but they do not replace your brand messages or tone of voice.

Glossier & Bumble know that emojis aren’t a shortcut. Sure they still use them, but only to enhance what’s already there.

4. We don’t believe you

We’re sceptical.

We know all the tricks in the book. And to be fair you don’t have a great track record. We don’t trust that anything you do is in the interest of any greater good, except yours.

One-off statements won’t convince us.

Consistently showing up might. Wherever and whenever you talk.

But transparency is gold. Let us in – into the good and bad. And if there are shortcomings, talk to us about them and how you plan on making it right. We relate to realness.

5. We remember

Deleted doesn’t mean forgotten.

Nothing ever dies on social media. Before you can get rid of it, it’s circulating everywhere.

What you say, how you say it and everywhere you say it has never been more integral to your success.

We remember. And we’ll remind you, every chance we get. This is both a gift and a curse to brands. No other generation has ever had this much access to literally everything at their fingertips from birth.

When you do something good we remember too. That counts towards building trust and loyalty. Choose what you want us to remember.

We’ve always got the receipts.

Pepsi, I’m looking at you.

6. Keep listening

The job’s not done. It’s never done.

And if you think it is, you’ll always be two steps behind.

We’re always changing. Our minds, what we like, what we don’t, and the way we speak. Our world is constantly evolving. So will our language.

If you stop listening how will you know when to speak and what to say?


A Gen Z’er with a knack for good brand language.

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