Branding for Gen Z, the perils of naming, advice for start-ups – we share the top three articles we’ve read this month and how to apply them to your brand…
1. Generation Z, You’re Adorkable
Search online for “how to speak to Gen Z”, and you’ll find countless recycled articles. Generation Z, You’re Adorkable* by Ben Schott, author of Schott’s Original Miscellany, remains our favourite, a well-written, well-researched piece on the relationship between branding and the demographic. Against the context of bold and brash (Gen X) and bland and boring (Millennials), Schott points to a new wave of “adorkable” brands. “While Blands seduce millenials with an ever receding notion of self-actualization, Adorkables double down on Gen Z’s internal conflict between self-consciousness and self-promotion,” he writes. Schott points to Starface, a brand that will make you feel ‘positively cute about caring for your acne’ by placing smiley-face stickers over your spots.
A common question we get asked at Without is, “how do we appeal to Gen Z”? Our answer is a question in return: how far are you prepared to go? Because clever taglines aren’t enough; your brand needs to “do”, to live side by side with your customer. It’s not an altogether comfortable place to be, but good things happen when we leave our comfort zones.
*(alternative link here if you don’t subscribe to Bloomberg).
2. What’s the game with the name?
Coming up with a name for a new business is the most fun and frustrating part of building a brand. Ed Cumming, in his article What’s the game with the name? takes a light-hearted approach to the perils of the naming process, using U2 as an example, after Bono told a podcast that he regrets the band’s name. U2 was going to be called The Hype, before it was rejected for being unoriginal. The band settled on the name they hated the least.
Is U2 a good name? As Ed discusses in his article, what matters is knowing what you can and can’t control. Is it the fault of ‘U2’ that, 30 years later, Bono has outgrown it? It certainly didn’t impede them becoming one of the biggest bands in the world along the way. Contrast to Jimmy Eat World where, music aside, their progress, according to band members, wasn’t helped by their acronym. A great reminder that, in the subjective creative quest for the ‘right’ name, there needs to be a robust process for weeding out the ‘wrong’.
3. The 30 Best Pieces of Advice for Entrepreneurs in 2021
If you’re starting a new business or in its early stages, First Round Review is a well-researched, expert-led resource (albeit with a US focus). We particularly like its connection between brand and business. This article, The 30 Best Pieces of Advice for Entrepreneurs in 2021, is a useful, actionable list for business owners.
If we had to pick the most valuable of the 30 from a branding perspective, we’d go for number 6: focus on the functional message to find language/market fit. The article says that marketers are obsessed with writing the next ‘Just Do It’ or ‘Think Different’ – and rightly so. But Nike and Apple “already built ubiquitous awareness and comprehension, so their ads can be ephemeral and allusive. They earned that right over decades.” When you’re starting out, getting your difference across in a way that works is often best done using functional language: don’t run before you can walk.
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This article first appeared in The Brief, a monthly email with conversations and provocation for leaders and founders of brands . Just sign up here to receive it directly to your inbox – and join the debate.