Gen Z Has No Use For Your Professional Vibes
The more you try to prove your authenticity bona fides, the more you’re going to push customers away
I’m breaking down a pretty tricky lesson that started with an analysis of Gen Z branding preferences and is now evolving into a shift in user experience and user interface design for product developers and startup founders.
Let’s start at the top. And lemme shake my fist at the clouds for a minute.
Time To Be Real!
I’ve got zero use for the BeReal app — this is the social app that forces and shares a photo once a day at a random time — which to me seems at once completely derivative and also totally horrifying. But I’m old, wtf do I know?
Anyway, when Saturday Night Live (again, zero use) did a sketch about the app, it popped up onto my radar a second time (I have Gen Z kids, so I keep up). This time the theme that most of the articles about BeReal tended to push for clicks sake was the fact that BeReal was popular because Gen Z favors authenticity over professionalism. Honesty over brand. Steak over sizzle.
And yeah, I’m aware the last one is something a Boomer would say. Look, I’m Gen X, we hate everyone.
Anyway, I’ve got some bad news and some good news about that theme. The bad news is a message to both Gen Z and the brands that are trying to reach them.
About the authenticity thing. You can’t win.
Every generation before and probably every generation to come will arrive at a moment when they separate themselves from the previous generation by “being more real” or favoring authenticity over naked commercialism. For my generation, it was the rejection of phony, plastic Milli Vanilli for raw, completely effed-up Kurt Cobain. We got real. Then we invented grunge by accident. So that’s what realism gets you.
The good news is that there is indeed a tide turning and a lesson to be learned about authenticity in your brand — and it’s not a “moment” thing, it’s actually constant across time.
The more professional you “try” to look in an effort to cover the natural impostor syndrome that comes with every new product and…