404 error: Gen Z brands break the internet.


Shareable branding

With #freethepimple, hundreds of teenagers proudly displayed their acne online. From this hashtag a brand was born: Starface and its star-shaped pimple patch, perfect for selfies. With a Pong homepage (mythical video game from the first computers) and a mascot reminiscent of the smiley Acid House (icon of the early days of the internet), the brand is a graphic best of web-culture.

Topicals, Recess, Gob, Bubble… Tll follow the same formula: titillate our retinas to perform online (Starface's engagement on the networks is 1.5 times higher than its competitors). Even Mcdo is getting in on the act with its WTF brand nuggets and his red latex t-shirts that allow him to shine on the networks. The trick? Breaking the codes to get more likes.

Come on, we're good.

21% of gen Z (born between 1997 - 2010) prefer their online life to real life. Its second degree ('Instagram vs reality)', its affinity communities (@astroaddict), its immersive platforms (Twitch), its comforting slogans ('it's ok not to be ok'), its liberation impulses (#bodypositivity) make the internet a bubble of solace.

On the web, movements of self-acceptance and rejection of diktats are exploding. Younger people are dismantling the idea of perfection. Prefer the ugly ato the beautiful. Because more authentic (#nofilter). These new troublemakers are doing the same by opposing elitism and the prevailing superficiality brands with minimalist branding – retouched photos - pastel colours that have taken over Instagram in recent years.

By dusting off the nuggets of web-culture, they provide teens with a place that is familiar (quirky codes they know), non-normative and inclusive (originality is welcome) and clearly entertaining (memes infiltrate their website).

In itself, an ideal escape from the agonising reality that weighs on their shoulders? Because yes, Gen Z would also be the most anxious generation.

Irony beats the world

In the representation phase the largest proportion of buyers, Gen Z is an important target, but difficult to reach. Getting a foothold on the networks would be the best way for brands to reach younger people who are neither fans of TF1 nor readers of Le Monde.

Thinking about branding to be successful on the networks: it's smart. But the exercise has its limits. Firstly, it's not certain that this design will remain synonymous with coolness for so long; what effect will it have once it's been copied and recopied, seen and seen again? Secondly, it's hard to imagine that this TikTok language will go beyond the internet bubble and find such an echo in a 4×3, on a metro platform.

In any case, these fluorescent yellow marks send us a signal not to be missed. Anti-bullshit. Anti-advertising. Anti-branding, Young people reject anything that resembles classical forms of persuasion. This does not stop them from consuming, even some strange things, provided that the irony and the second degree are present. Fun, just f*#king fun as they say the other.

They don't care about the latest Xsport V12 engine car with alloy wheels. Segela and her Rolex. Brands, their fine words, and their graphic subtleties designed to increase the price of a product. They seem to be saying to us: Sir, I'm not interested in your bullshit. It even makes me yawn. Besides, you are far too tight in that suit. So relax. Entertain me, and maybe I'll take your neon green glittery umbrella.