There is a unique generation of people born after 1997 that are widely referred to as Gen Z. The uniqueness of this generation is grounded in the fact that they came at the period of dominance of digital realities. Now, Gen Z are expanding the boundaries of the digital world beyond what we ever expected. As a result, brands are stretching their once analogue offers far into the online realm, and doing so successfully. While this new online world provides untold opportunities, it also poses a series of challenging questions that brands will need to navigate.
Is a digital-only product offer the right move? Which online influencers should you partner with? Are there other digital brands with which you should be collaborating? When the world you are putting your brand into is so different from the world you created your brand in, how can you successfully stretch your brand? Moreover, how can you do so in a way that meets the needs of this new Gen Z customer without breaking your brand?
When looking at the lessons from those who have navigated this world successfully, I believe there are three key principles you can employ to guide your digital product stretch:
1. Understand What You Stand for Beyond the Products You Sell
Strong brands stand for more than simply the products they make. Understanding the purpose that sits at the heart of your brand is the key to making sure you successfully stretch your offer without confusing your consumer.
One example of a brand that has successfully built its brand around its purpose and has used this to stretch its offer digitally is Nike.
Nike lives and breathes authentic athletic performance, and this clarity of purpose has allowed them to create The Nike running club and app. An offer that stays true to who they are, helping consumers optimise their fitness performance while allowing their brand to pivot away from sportswear.
Embracing this principle means fashion businesses can break away from making clothes and instead create digital-only pieces. Hotels can break away from selling rooms and instead offer digital entertainment experiences. Restaurants can break away from bricks and mortar venues and offer at-home meal kits. Each business can create new products and cater to new audiences, but only if, like Nike, they continue to harness the same brand DNA.
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2. Understand the Unique Persona of Your Customer on Each Digital Platform
In the ‘real world’, the one of in-person conversations and physical products, we buy from the brands that help us present to the world the type of person we want to be. By wearing a Patagonia top, we are saying to our peers that we are conscious of the natural world; by wearing a Rolex, we are displaying our success.
This is no different in the digital world as brands looking to engage with customers in this world successfully must deepen their understanding of these unique identities and the needs that go along with them.
3. Collaborate with Creators and Brands That Share Your Values
Strong brands are authentic; they know who they are, and they don’t try to be all things to all people. This is where the right collaboration can add strength to a brand stretch. The key to getting brand collaborations right is ensuring that each brand has shared values but different expertise.
A word of warning, however: respect and trust sit at the heart of all successful partnerships. When working with a creator on one of these platforms, don’t try to shoehorn them into your exact vision. If you are striving to change too much about their work, it’s a sign that this wasn’t the right match.
To stretch your brand successfully to meet Gen Z’s needs, you must ensure your brand stands for something beyond the products you sell. By using this elevated purpose, gaining a deep understanding of your consumer online, and collaborating with brands and creators already dominating in the space, your brand stretch has a solid foundation and every chance of success.