Marketing to Gen Z: Embracing Authenticity in Fashion & Sportswear

Launchmetrics Content Team

When it comes to marketing to Gen Z, authenticity isn't just a buzzword—it's a necessity. This generation, born between 1995 and 2009, has grown up in a digital era where information is ubiquitous and skepticism towards traditional advertising runs high. 

As such, Gen Z demands transparency, genuineness and a deeper connection with brands. This is especially true in fields like fashion and sportswear, where purchases are tied to personal identity and expression. 

So, how can brands stay authentic and capture the loyalty of this important generation of consumers? That’s what we’re about to find out. Below, we’ll take you through six key strategies brands can use to win over Gen Z.

Achieving Authenticity in Marketing to Gen Z

You’ve heard about the importance of authenticity in marketing to Gen Z, but what does that actually mean in practice? This is where many brands get it wrong, to their detriment: Gen Zers have a built-in radar for disingenuous marketing and will quickly vote with their feet (or, more accurately, their fingers) in taking their business elsewhere.

Drawing on insights and examples from our latest report,  The Gen Z Impact on Fashion Marketing, here are six key strategies you can use to master the art of staying authentic.

1. Prioritize Transparency

To capture the loyalty of Gen Z, brands must make transparency a priority. In a world where misinformation is rampant, Gen Z appreciates brands that are upfront about their operations. This includes clear communication about where materials are sourced, how products are made and the broader impact these practices have on the planet and society. 

Fashion and sportswear brands can lead by example, providing behind-the-scenes looks into their manufacturing processes, ensuring fair labor practices and committing to sustainability. By doing this, you’ll not only build trust but also align your brand with the ethical standards that matter most to this discerning demographic.

2. Live Your Values 

Aligning with Gen Z's values is essential for brands aiming to capture their attention and loyalty. This is a generation known for its strong stance on issues like sustainability, social justice and inclusivity. Brands must conduct thorough research to understand these values and reflect them in their messaging and actions. 

Note that this means more than just lip service—you need to demonstrate genuine commitment to these causes. Consistency is key, here. A perfect example of how to do this right is Kim Kardashian’s brand, SKIMS, which fully lives the values of inclusivity and body positivity. 

“SKIMS' unwavering commitment to body-positivity [is] evident not only in its messaging but also in its sizing options and choice of ambassadors,” says Christopher Morency of edition+partners in our latest report, The Gen Z Impact on Fashion Marketing. Our data from the report shows that SKIMS was the number 1 performing premium brand in 2023, generating a whopping $638M in Media Impact Value® (MIV®). That’s an increase of +407% since 2020! It’s clear that SKIMS fans appreciate the brand’s commitment to its values.

SKIMS collaborates with a wide range of celebrities as part of the brand’s commitment to inclusivity. This recent campaign features actress Nicola Coughlan. 

3. Forge the Right Influencer Partnerships

Influencer collaborations are a powerful way to authentically connect with Gen Z—but, of course, it all comes down to choosing the right ones. Seek out influencers who have a strong, authentic connection with their audience and whose values align with your brand’s. 

How you collaborate also matters. It’s not just about leveraging an influencer’s reach but about connecting on a personal level with their audience. To maintain authenticity, influencers must be given creative freedom to incorporate products and brand mentions in a way that fits naturally with their style. To connect even more powerfully, find ways to show how your brand is closely tied to an influencer’s story or lifestyle. 

One great example of this is adidas's collaboration with influencer Léna Mahfouf. Rather than focusing solely on products, adidas centered their year-long partnership around Léna’s personal story. This included a "Draw My Life" video that intertwined her journey with the brand's narrative. As detailed in our report, this approach generated an impressive $1.3 million in MIV through just four posts.

Léna Mahfouf’s personal story intertwines with the adidas brand in this influencer collaboration.

4. Build Community

Gen Zers don’t just want to buy pretty things. They want to create meaningful connections with the brands they buy from. Thankfully, you have the most incredible tools at your fingertips for building those connections (yes, we’re talking about social media). 

Fashion and sportswear brands should actively engage with their audience by responding to comments, participating in conversations and showing genuine interest in their followers' opinions and experiences. This creates a sense of community, where customers feel valued and heard. 

As part of your strategy for marketing to Gen Z, you can also try things like hosting live events and Q&A sessions and posting behind-the-scenes content to provide a more intimate and engaging experience for your audience. Work to build that community, and the Gen Z crowd will reward your efforts with their loyalty.

5. Leverage UGC 

User-generated content (UGC) is another powerful tool in the Gen Z marketing playbook. This demographic values the authenticity and relatability of content created by their peers over traditional brand advertising. 

Encouraging customers to create and share their own content related to your brand can foster a sense of community and trust. Fashion and sportswear brands, in particular, can benefit from showcasing real people wearing their products in everyday settings. This not only provides social proof but also allows potential customers to see how the products fit into their lives. 

Gymshark is an example of a brand that’s built an entire sportswear empire by tapping into the authentic appeal of UGC. As the brand has expanded from Instagram to TikTok, they’ve continued to consistently involve customers in their posts and campaigns, leading to billions of views for the #gymshark hashtag. No wonder Gymshark is rising up the ranks of our Top 20 Mass Market Brands list, raking in $279M in MIV in 2023 to reach 18th place (see the full list in our report). 

Gymshark turns customers into ambassadors, leading to vast amounts of user-generated content.

Brands can incentivize UGC through contests, features on their social media channels and interactive campaigns. As this user-generated content spreads through the digital world, your brand gains the opportunity to tap into a wider audience in an authentic way. 

6. Make Data-Driven Decisions

When it comes to marketing to Gen Z, being authentic matters. But let’s not be mistaken: authenticity isn’t about following your values and leaving the rest to chance. If you want to truly succeed as a fashion or sportswear brand, flying blind won’t cut it. You need to know what your competitors are doing, how your brand is growing in comparison to theirs and what tactics they’re employing to generate buzz. 

On top of that, you need to know which influencer collaborations are driving the most value, which Voices are having the greatest impact and which strategies are resonating in which regions. 

In short, you need the right data. By tracking and measuring your campaigns using a powerful tool like Launchmetrics Insights, you’ll have all the data you need at your fingertips to be able to fine-tune your messaging, optimize your marketing spend and focus on strategies that drive the best results

Mastering the art of authenticity in marketing to Gen Z requires a combination of genuine values and precise data. By leveraging the comprehensive insights provided by Launchmetrics, you can ensure your brand stays ahead of the curve and truly connects with this discerning audience.

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