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6 Brands That Engage Gen Z by Being “Real”

In 2004, Dove launched its famous “Real Beauty” campaign where they announced they would use real and unedited models. This controversial shift in who could be a model started a movement. Brands started using real people, not just supermodels, to sell their products. 

Eighteen years later, Dove has continued its campaign to show real women in its advertising and has expanded its mission to include young girls. Dove’s “Real Beauty Pledge” consists of always featuring real women, portraying women as they are in real life and helping girls build body confidence and self-esteem.

So why is this important for your digital marketing plan? According to GWI Zeitgeist September 2021, 45% of Gen Z believe “there is too much pressure to be perfect on social media,” and 42% believe that “people should show more of their “real” selves/lives on social media.” 

With Generation Z’s spending power of around $143 billion, now’s the time to start catering your marketing campaigns to gain their business. Being “real” to Gen Z means being relatable, honest, and unfiltered. In general, Gen Z wants to see more companies doing what Dove does: promoting real people using its products. In addition, they want to see celebrities, CEOs, and other high-ranking individuals show all sides of themselves. 

Here’s a look at six newer brands that are committed to being “real.” 

1. Klassy Network

Klassy Network is a clothing company with innovative tops that allow women to go braless. With a quick look at their clothing shop, it is easy to see that Klassy Network prioritizes diversity. They feature clothing models who are all different sizes, shapes, and skin tones. Using a diverse group of models allows Klassy Network to show how everyday people look in their clothing, something Gen Z consumers value. 

Klassy Network’s diverse models

2. August

August is a new menstrual product company focused on creating products that are safe for women and the environment. The young and powerful CEO of August, Nadya Okamoto, is changing the game for menstruation products by using social media, both Instagram and TikTok, to connect with her audience and gain brand awareness.

#periodpower post by CEO of August, Nadya Okamoto

Okamoto uses social media to educate her followers on how to use period products and what menstruating actually looks like (no more classic blue-dyed water other brands use in their ads). Okamoto is also very candid about how her body looks. As seen in her Instagram (@nadyaokamoto) post above, she has marks from a cupping procedure, her hair is undone and she is wearing a pad. By being transparent to her followers, she is gaining their trust and, ultimately, their business. 

3. Dapper Boi

Dapper Boi is a clothing company with the mindset of gender-neutrality and size inclusivity. Right off the bat, they win some kudos for creating an open and honest brand for their users that includes all shapes, sizes and genders!

Dapper Boi Clothing Company

Dapper Boi’s candid dancing photo is another great example of showing a brand’s true self. They showcase two unique individuals wearing the brand’s clothing while dancing. The clothing items they are wearing populates on the side. It’s easy to see that their clothing is comfortable for dancing with friends! 

4. Carys Cuttlefish

Carys Cuttlefish is an adorable artist who sells her artwork and “worry worts” online. Her little worry worts are polymer clay sculptures that tell the wearer their worries to so they can live a worry-free life. (How stinking cute is that?!) 

Worrying brings about mental health and physical health issues. Carys shared her struggles with her fans on Instagram via the following post: 

While it was hard for Carys to share her experiences and struggles, she was met with love, support, and continued sales. Her honesty has gained her a following of over 90k people on Instagram alone.

5. Chubbies

Chubbies is a fun weekend-style clothing brand for men. While it can be very hard to find men’s clothing brands that cater to different body types, Chubbies has taken the challenge. Their clothing is made to be stylish while fitting men with real bodies – not just models with ripped abs. They recently posted this great “new years resolution” on their Instagram (@chubbies): 

The brand’s fun-loving messaging and user-generated content campaigns help them connect with their customers and meet their goal of making real guys feel comfortable.

6. Savage x Fenty

Last, but certainly not least, we have Savage x Fenty, known for good quality and affordable lingerie for both men and women! 

Rihanna (yes, that Rihanna) is killing the game when it comes to making her lingerie accessible to all by showcasing real bodies as her models. Most notably, Savage x Fenty has a feature on their website where shoppers can see how the products look on different models based on their size. This helps shoppers know exactly how something will look when they wear it. 

BONUS: Jameela Jamil

Jameela Jamil is a fantastic actress and celebrity, most famous for her role as Tahani in “The Good Place.” While she doesn’t have a clothing brand or product line, she’s leading a crusade for “real” images in the media by advocating for feminism, mental health and body positivity. True to her cause, she uses her social media presence to show her true self. She posts selfies of her grey hair and rants about eating disorders. One notable Instagram post is showing her 10-year “blow up” (instead of her glow-up), and points out to her followers that they are not alone if these past 10 years have been blah. 

Jameela Jamil’s 10 year blow up

How can you apply this to your own brand? 

Use real people! Don’t spend unnecessary money on world-class models when you have a pool of awesome models sitting around your house, office, or even your favorite coffee shop. Pro Tip: This is a great way to save money when it comes to your marketing budget! 

Use social media to your advantage and invite your customers to post their own photos using your products. User-generated content (UGC) is one of the best tools in your tool bag for marketing. Why? It’s free advertising! Take a look at Savage x Fenty and their question of “How do you #savagexfenty?” 

Savage x Fenty uses UGC

A simple gallery and hashtag are all you need to showcase your followers.

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