To understand Gen-Z brands, first, you must understand Gen-Z. Without wanting to make too many sweeping generalisations, one thing that is undeniable is this group’s inability to ‘colour within the lines’ and to accept anything as binary just because that’s the way it’s been done before.
This mindset now means that we’re seeing a proliferation of platforms that truly favour self-expression, creativity and originality over considered curation. Gen-Z first brands know this and lean into it, rejecting the slick, minimalist style of D2C dominance that millennials lust for. They beautifully adopt the ‘dorkly’ awkward, unfiltered, surreal part of society, and fuse it with the adorably real, deglamorised, spontaneous, raw part.
They are adorably dorky, a.k.a… Adorkable. Adorkables range in size, sector and price point, but two things they have in common are a dedication to self-depreciation and a desire for self-expression.
Gen-Z and self-deprecation
Self-depreciation is so prevalent in these brands because it’s so prevalent in Gen-Z culture. It’s arguably Gen-Z’s most powerful tool in dealing with an incredibly turbulent reality. One that’s fraught with anxiety, debt, inequality, climate crisis, FOMO and a general sense of impending doom. Where millennial centric brands struggle with relinquishing control, Adorkables are genuinely capable of making themselves the butt of the joke.
Really, it’s less ‘promising the world’, more recognising the reality of the role you play in your audience’s life. Meat alternative ‘Simulate’ masters this – they could easily jump on the planet-saving bandwagon but instead, opt for satire in order to reject the banality of how brands have talked about their existence to date and garner favour with an audience hungry for originality. This approach to self-deprecation, satire and humour means adorkable brands can do business in a way that appeals to a generation with a razor-sharp BS detector.
Second is self-expression, arguably the most important catalyst for originality. It’s this characteristic that speaks to the confidence, self-assuredness and the need to promote that is ingrained in Gen-Z and social-first culture. At its core, this is driven by positivity and sheer joy, as well as a sense of impulsiveness and want to enjoy the ride while it lasts. Adorkable brands lean into this, choosing to play the role of digital cheerleader, beaming messages of support and self-expression all day.
While adorkable brands do deploy a series of specific strategies to appeal directly to Gen-Z, what they’re really doing is vandalising visual conformity. It’s less about conscious choices, more about a rejection of what’s come before. Gen-Z is often compared to the ‘Lost Generation‘, who grew up post-World War I. It’s this lost generation that birthed the Dada movement, designed to reject reality with whimsy and nonsense.
This is exactly what we’re seeing with Gen-Z on social media, an absurdity and existentialism breeding a new type of creativity. Adorkable brands know that if they want to appeal to people who act this way, they need to apply the very same theory to everything that they do.