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How to Market to Gen Z

Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski

Recurrent is a hygiene company specifically created for Gen Z. Its founders say marketing to Gen Z isn't that hard. Here are their top five tips for appealing to this new group of consumers.

  • Recurrent is a hygiene company with products and an online education hub created especially for teens and young adults.
  • The company collaborates with real teenagers to create its marketing strategy and develop its products.
  • The founders say marketing to Gen Z isn't that difficult if you are authentic and meet them where they are.
  • Recurrent founders Tamar Rosenthal and Nava Unterman Ulmer offer advice to small business owners who want to learn about marketing to Gen Z.

One Thursday evening, Tamar Rosenthal's 14-year-old son Sam came up and whispered something in her ear – he needed deodorant.  The fact that Sam felt the need to whisper about something so basic got her thinking.

"Why is he embarrassed to ask for deodorant when it's such a basic and common hygiene product?" she said. "What am I going to buy him that has safe ingredients, works well for his hormonal body changes, and that he would be cool with?"

After research, Rosenthal found that what she was looking for didn't exist, so she, along with co-founder Nava Unterman Ulmer, decided to launch Recurrent, a line of nontoxic, effective, and eco-conscious skin and hair products designed specifically for young adults. 

Despite the company's launch in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has already grown into a successful hygiene product line and educational hub where teens can shop for nontoxic, gender-neutral products and access safe, accurate information about teen health and hygiene.

"The hygiene category is untapped when it comes to catering towards young adult-specific needs, meaning there is nothing in the mainstream market that's formulated for hormonal bodies' needs, branded for the age group, uses only safe ingredients, or that's easily accessible all in one place," said Rosenthal. "And on top of that, there's nothing comprehensive or current when it comes to educating young adults about their hygiene routines."

Once Rosenthal and Ulmer developed their products, they had another challenge: marketing.

How to market to Gen Z

Marketing to Gen Z has been a hot topic for businesses ever since the generation came into buying power and the world realized how much influence it has. Ulmer and Rosenthal say that marketing to Gen Z isn't the enigma many brands think it is, though.

"Because we build Recurrent to directly answer their needs, it's actually been very straightforward for us to market to them," said Ulmer. "They are a no-nonsense kind of generation, and we strive to match that by being as authentic and transparent as possible every step of the way."

Here are five tips to help your business successfully market to Gen Z.

1. Incorporate a social cause.

Gen Z is known for eschewing the overtly salesy methods of past years, as well as for having a serious passion for social responsibility and giving back – something the Recurrent founders are keenly aware of and equally passionate about.

"Gen Z is super smart," said Rosenthal. "They are educated, have strong beliefs, and care about the environment and better-for-you ingredients. They are also incredibly mission-driven and want to help change our world for the better."

To answer this need, Rosenthal and Ulmer partnered with Hope & Comfort, a nonprofit that seeks to end hygiene insecurity by providing essential hygiene products to school-aged children and young adults in the greater Boston area. Recurrent participates by donating products as well as a portion of its sales.

The founders believe strongly in helping end the issue of hygiene insecurity, which they think has added credibility to their brand in their target market's eyes.

"[Gen Z] don't buy into brands just because," said Rosenthal. "They want to understand what the brand stands for and what the brand cares about."

2. Develop an authentic marketing strategy.

The Recurrent founders say they have taken a grassroots approach to marketing, avoiding gimmicks and allowing the products and their users to speak for themselves.

"Our top goal is to be authentic, and since our company is for young adults, our marketing strategy is about supporting them," said Ulmer. "We aim to meet them where they are in their hygiene experiences – through judgment-free openness, through humor (because there's a lot to laugh about in this awkward stage), through original and curated hygiene education, and through constantly engaging with them for their continuous feedback."

Ulmer and Rosenthal decided to focus on small groups of young adults and utilize their voices as part of Recurrent's marketing strategy to avoid any false marketing and keep a genuine tone.

"We want to create genuine impact in smaller communities of young adults and have them be our partners in spreading the word about Recurrent in a very organic, sincere way," said Rosenthal.

3. Be adaptable.

Because the company started in the midst of a global pandemic, the founders had to be adaptable and quick on their feet, changing plans for the business as quickly as they were made.

"Although we are an e-commerce company, we had big plans to spread the word about Recurrent through in-person experiences and opportunities – all of which had to be significantly postponed due to the pandemic," said Ulmer.

The pandemic also presented a problem not usually associated with Gen Z – how to reach them offline.

"Although young adults have historically loved being online, during the isolation period and having school via Zoom, they're tiring of it and are instead craving device-free breaks," said Ulmer. "As a result, we've had to think creatively about how to reach them when in-person opportunities are limited and online exposure has become too much for them."

4. Get young people involved.

One of the best ways to ensure that your marketing toward young people is genuine is to directly involve them in the process. This ensures that you're using the right tone, verbiage and style to get your audience to listen to you.

Recurrent does this by incorporating an ambassador program, in which youth ambassadors provide product feedback and guidance on marketing strategies, and by employing young people from the company's target audience to handle the "daily grind" of marketing. A high school student manages the company's research and outreach; the blog is curated, researched and written by college students; and a recent college grad runs the social media accounts.

5. Be unique.

To attract the discerning eye of Gen Z, you've got to have something that sets you apart from other companies. For Recurrent, this is a straightforward approach to marketing, a commitment to giving back, and strong consideration of what Gen Z wants.

"[For example], Recurrent products are gender-neutral, which is a rarity in personal care items," Rosenthal said. "Recurrent empowers teens to choose the scents they like best – because girls don't always have to smell like flowers, and boys don't always have to smell like trees."  

Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski,
Business News Daily Writer
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Kiely is a staff writer based in New York City. She worked as a marketing copywriter after graduating with her bachelor’s in English from Miami University (OH) and now writes on small business, social media, and marketing. You can reach her on Twitter or by email.