Retail and Apparel Brands Effectively Reaching Gen Z Consumers

Alex Hamer

If you’re an avid podcast listener, social media user or consumer of any media, you’ve likely been overwhelmed with advertisements from clothing companies and other retailers. While the story behind how the algorithms that hand-pick your ads is well documented, the trend and successes of Direct-To-Consumer brands have been less heralded.

As retail markets have become oversaturated, companies have been forced to reevaluate how to effectively market to their Gen Z consumers. To be effective as a DTC brand, reaching new audiences and securing customer loyalty is crucial. Luckily for them, Gen Z is always online, a fan of DTC goods and the most loyal consumers of any generation. The only challenge was figuring out the best ways to reach the generation that controls roughly 40 percent of global spending power.

So for many DTC brands, that meant a shift to user-generated content, which has proven effective in acquiring new, loyal customers. This article will take a look at a few case studies to assess the underlying similarities and unique aspects of these successful marketing campaigns.

Here are three very different brands that have utilized user-generated content to build their Gen Z consumer bases.


Though it began as more of a niche company selling premium bedsheets, Parachute sought to evolve into one of the leading DTC brands in a variety of home goods. In that effort, Parachute’s CMO Luke Droulez explained how Parachute expanded its marketing reach to match its growing inventory in an interview with AdExchanger.

While Parachute’s marketing strategy was exclusively towards Gen Z — utilizing TV advertisements and partnering with local retail stores to broaden its reach — it also marketed itself with advertisements on podcasts, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, all Gen Z Internet hotspots. And as Droulez explains in the article, it’s not only about reeling in that one potential customer who views the advertisement, but arguably more important that they spread the word about Parachute to friends and family.

In the past, word of mouth was nearly impossible to quantify since you obviously can’t keep a record of who recommended what brand to who. But now, digital platforms offer analytics to their advertisers on engagement and the sharing of content. Companies like Parachute can also measure their marketing campaigns as they did with its “#myparachutehome” hashtag to find new customers through online conversations about its product. Still, even the numbers gleaned from social media have to be put into context.

“We look holistically to keep things honest,” Droulez said in the article. “Every platform will tell you what it thinks it did, and there is a portion of truth in every platform’s perception of how many people bought or converted.”

Yet there’s no doubt that user-generated content has helped brands like Parachute grow from a niche market to a bigger name within its industry.

Colourpop Cosmetics

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And while Parachute used that holistic, more wide-ranging content campaigns, other brands know exactly where to target new customers. In the past few years, no social media has been explored more by Gen Z than TikTok.

Just like with any app, niche communities sprout over time and Colourpop has captilizated on the ASMR and “oddly satisfying” content lovers with tutorials and creative makeup examples which regularly get significant engagement.

In fact, staying on top of the latest fashion and cosmetic trends through user-generated content has driven much of Colourpop’s recent success. Colourpop is hardly alone in its TikTok driven success too as New York Magazine — among many other outlets — has devoted long listicle articles solely to the best TikTok beauty products.

Dollar Shave Club

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Another brand that has embraced user-generated content is Dollar Shave Club. Even if you don’t use their products, it’s nearly impossible to avoid their advertising on podcasts and other popular media.

Their advertising focused on sports podcasts and broadcasts has an obvious target with the majority-male audiences, but if you’ve listened or watched their ads, Dollar Shave Club often makes a point to mention its female shaving products too in order not to alienate any potential customers. As a DTC company born out of a viral video, many of its subsequent videos have been widely shared across social media channels.

As Quick Sprout said in its breakdown of Dollar Shave Club’s strategy, you’d be hard pressed to find a 17 through 30-year-old who hasn’t heard of Dollar Shave Club, which is exactly the goal of any sound marketing strategy.

While these are only three among the many DTC retail and apparel brands effectively marketing to Gen Z today, they are excellent case studies for measuring how influential user-generated content currently is in the marketing process. Looking at the months ahead, I am excited to see what new methods brands will be using to strategically develop communications plans that further grow their businesses in both audience size and revenue.

Alex Hamer
Alex graduated from Syracuse University in 2021 with a B.S. in Newspaper and Online Journalism. He's currently an earned media intern at Real Chemistry.
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