Francis is a 21-year-old trainspotter who went viral on TikTok last year for his videos of trains, filmed with a GoPro strapped jauntily to his head. Since then, his unapologetic nerdiness has charmed and delighted over 2 million Gen Z followers.
Bourgeois’s fame is now on the rise again, thanks to a modelling debut in The North Face and Gucci’s newly released collaboration with the streetwear site Highsnobiety. In the 1-minute campaign video, Bourgeois is the star, as a jubilant train conductor who guides a posse of ‘hot people’ passengers on a jolly steam train adventure.
This unusual fashion ad offers a great example of how to successfully market to Gen Z. While you may not think you’re trying to reach this demographic yet, they’re only a few short steps behind the millennials who already influence key decision-makers.
The savvy B2B marketer will want to get ahead of the game now and start working out how to make meaningful connections with Gen Z B2B audiences.
The term ‘influencer’ has been synonymous with a very particular type; airbrushed, impossibly attractive people promoting unattainably perfect lifestyles. They often have no discernible talents or interests, are detached, dispassionate, and push sameness over individuality.
The rapid rise of Francis Bourgeois heralds a new kind of influencer – the unpretentious, passionate, eccentric. People with strong interests and unusual hobbies. People who are, in all honesty, just a bit nicer than we’re used to seeing in these kinds of ads.
This new kind of influencer offers a much bigger opportunity for your brand to differentiate itself. Instead of platforming looks, wealth and privilege, brands should now seek to partner with people who are authentically and unashamedly themselves, and draw a clear line in the sand about who and what you value.
A couple of years ago, seeing a deeply serious luxury brand swap supermodels for trainspotters was practically unthinkable. Now, though, there’s a demonstrable appetite for brands that can take their self-importance down a notch and have fun with their audiences.
This doesn’t mean abandoning the key tenets of your brand in favour of quick laughs. In the case of Gucci and The North Face, the ad still showcases the characteristically lavish Gucci aesthetic and The North Face streetwear silhouettes.
To get on the right side of Gen Z audiences, start to nurture a more lighthearted tone in the way your brand communicates.
This ad is anything but predictable. In the space of 60 seconds, we are given steam trains, influencers, models, high fashion and streetwear, all tied together by a whimsical aesthetic which Pedestrian describes as ‘Wes Anderson meets Harry Potter meets Euphoria’.
Your key takeaway here is that safe, boring cliches can only take you so far. By playing it safe and going for the obvious creative execution, your brand will never achieve the same cut-through.
Gen Z will always pay attention to a brand that can surprise them. Now’s the time to be brave and look outside your industry for inspiration. Start merging eclectic categories, old and new aesthetics, and high and low culture. Counter-intuitive combinations can yield genius results.
Long gone are the days when a trend cycle lasted an entire season – Gen Z lives for microtrends. Thanks to platforms like TikTok, what was cool a week ago is now old news. And Gucci and The North Face’s ad kept up with this pace perfectly.
These brands clearly didn’t hang around when it came to spotting Bourgeois’s potential – he only started releasing videos in early 2021 and his first burst of media attention came in October. They managed to get their campaign pitched, signed-off, produced, and out in the world in time to jump on the trend at breakneck speed. If brands this big can and multi-faceted can pull it off, you have no excuse.
Unless you want to be the brand that gets laughed out of the room by Gen Z when you show up inexcusably late to the party, you have to move faster and invest total faith in your creative instincts.
If you can see the growing opportunities for B2B marketers who understand Gen Z audiences and want to talk about better ways to reach them, please do get in touch with us here at Earnest any time.
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