Less is more:
Copywriting for Gen Z

One day, in the not-so-distant past, emoticons just…became emojis.

Suddenly, the word that came to define the cool new communication of the cool new millennium ceased to mean anything. And, with it, so did your relevance as a cool new internet kid. The remnants of Y2K, like the plastic-y, bubbly, metallic-y fever dream it was, faded away. But, fast forward, 15 years later, and Y2K has found a new purpose – in the form of an ‘aesthetic’. What once was old is new again. Gen Z are group of kids and young adults raised on the internet, clamouring for what once was; in search of something real and redefining. So, how do you speak to the emoji generation (while not letting on that you’re secretly from the emoticon era)?

Do as I do, not as I say

It’s a matter of function over form. Technically, you’re saying all the right things. But practically, it doesn’t translate. Speaking the language like a local is easier said than done, and like generations before, Gen Z are experimenting and playing with the function of language every day. There’s a temptation to scour online content, building a dictionary of internet vocabulary, and applying liberally. But making your copy feel familiar, instead of forced, can be solved by the simple act of mirroring: On consumer-facing social media, brands like Urban Outfitters and Reformation opt for informal sentence formatting – eschewing capital letters and avoiding obvious slang, while utilising lower-case lettering and quippy phrasing. Speaking authentically to your audience comes from reflecting how things are said, rather than what’s said. 

Come as you are

Most folks just want you to show up as you are. And Gen Z are no exception. As the first generation to, effectively, grow up on the internet they know a thing or two about forced personas and fake authenticity. The title of this blog is pretty straightforward, right? But, what if – for kicks and giggles – we decided to title it, “She ate: How to write for Gen Z and slay, period”. At that point, you might be concerned. Dumbfounded. Looking like this > 👀️️ > if you will. But Gen Z have an eagle-eyed focus on values: on things like transparency, honesty, and intention. Levi’s, a heritage brand with an incredibly strong folklore, embraces its legacy in popular culture. And, in doing so – in respecting their history so faithfully – they communicate in the present without any affectation. Easily observed on their digital platforms, their copy is classic; unadorned and unbound to the ebbs and flows of Gen Z’s preferred internet lingo. *

*There’s certainly a finer point to be made here on the history of “internet lingo”, but that’s another blog for another day.

Tap into something real

The girls that get it, get it. Forging a real connection with an audience is tough. Inauthentically mimicking the language will raise red flags. (You want to be a green flag – trust me on this). And presenting a facade that seems designed to play tricks on the audience can be clocked from a mile away. So, writing for Gen Z, at this rate, might seem like a high wire act of ‘yes-and-no-but-also-maybeee?’ How do you bridge the demand for authenticity with the need to fit in? It’s all about form over function and banking app Monzo has seemingly mastered the art. When the company released its 2023 roundup - in the same vein of Spotify’s annual ‘Wrapped’ - and discovered that users on X (a.k.a. Twitter) had taken to calling it “Monzo Wrapped”, the official Monzo account took the chance to emphatically declare: “It’s called YEAR IN MONZO everyone.” Short, timely, and relevant – this simple piece of copy said everything it need to say in the way in needed to be received. Not quite telling off its customers for getting it wrong, but actively engaging with the user community in real-time, using simple language, and forgoing a ton of bells and whistles. They could have done more, they certainly could have said more, but ask yourself – was it necessary?

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