Gen Z is fast becoming an economic force to be reckoned with, beyond just TikTok and memes, and brands would be remiss to continue disregarding this incoming coterie of consumers with significant purchasing power. Zeds hold brands to higher standards than their predecessors, from sustainable practices and plastic-free materials to better-for-you ingredients and self-care.
They’re also immune to the usual bag-of-tricks marketers have grown comfortable with, spending their dollars supporting brands they feel share their values and overall ethos. Younger consumers are so-called digital natives and have been bombarded more than previous generations by brands as a great deal of the web is ad-supported. Wallets in hand, young consumers are looking for a genuine brand experience.
“Because millennials and Gen X grew up in the age of digital advertising, they’ve been introduced to a lot of it,” said Wonderkind co-founder and creative director Cally Burgett. “Over time, as they’ve grown up, they learn to see through it. Now, consumers are looking for an un-photoshopped look, untouched photos, and real models and real people in the photos versus the perfect model.”
While many agencies struggle to understand this burgeoning consumer group, Wonderkind is in a unique position not only to understand Gen Z and younger millennials but can effectively bridge the gap between emerging brands and this new generation of consumers. Woman-led and comprised of millennials and Gen Z talent, Wonderkind has deftly demonstrated how to connect with the emerging group of consumers.
Wonderkind founders Elle De Freitas and Cally Burgett met in Austin, and in 2019, they were both ready for a career change. De Freitas had been working with wellness CPG brands with sales, events, and marketing, and Burgett had fallen in love with packaging and design from her decade in the wine business. They initially conceived the agency as one focused on consulting brands on their social media presence. The concept broadened to include more creative services like branding, packaging, and photography, and three months after launching, Wonderkind landed its first client.
Wonderkind works with brands that have a strong affinity for providing better products for consumers and the environment. Working with brands such as better-for-you snack brand Popchips, Afghan spice blend maker Jahan, and CBD RTD coffee Jibby, they get it because they’re also the new generation of consumers. There are no “How do you do, fellow kids?” vibes because the work authentically echoes what new consumers and younger demographics want and cherish—they design what they want to see and reflect that in their creative approach.
“Gen Z and millennials are some of the most educated consumers and are pursuing many different things,” said Becca Rembold, senior designer at Wonderkind. “People are trying to educate themselves versus just backing down and saying it is what it is or pouting about it.”
“Consumers are inspired to go out and try what they can to make a difference,” Rembold added. “It’s not a mindset of, ‘oh, if I do one small thing, it’s not going to have any sort of ripple.’ Now it’s about getting out there and getting more people to be part of your ripple.”
Millennials and Gen Z are not only prolific users of social media, but they’ve already demonstrated how to collectively work together towards social change. Movements like the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street became early examples of how to use social media to galvanize around a cause. Those examples would serve as a template for more recent examples like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. “Social media definitely helps in banding people together,” Rembold said. “You see positivity and brands trying to promote that in many forms, from self-care to social justice. Millennials and Gen Z are the leaders in that and driving these companies. That makes people want to be a part of that and have that mindset.”
“One of the big things that younger millennials and Gen Z prioritize that older consumers place less importance on would be a company’s values and beliefs,” said Burgett. “These consumers ask how the product or brand impacts our environment and community, things like where their ingredients come from, the packaging materials used, and if those involved with the product are treated fairly.”
Brands like Jahan have strong, relatable values. Jahan founder Madena Mohamadi found herself missing Afghan cuisine and started working on recreating her favorite dishes with the help of her mother over FaceTime. Mohamadi pairs her passion for sharing her culture’s food with doing social good—a portion of every sale of Jahan spice mixes goes towards supporting women’s education in Afghanistan via the non-profit Women for Women International.
Another brand with strong values that worked with Wonderkind is cookie dough maker Toto. Founder and CEO Sydney Webb was diagnosed with colon cancer at 21 and found that incorporating adaptogens into her diet significantly improved her health and wellness. Incorporating eight superfoods, Toto offers better-for-you cookie dough just as indulgent as traditional alternatives. Wonderkind’s branding and design work on Toto, like Jahan’s, is bright, vibrant, modern, and shines particularly well on Instagram.
That same knack for social media shows they have a deep understanding of how brands can maximize the utility of these platforms and the unique opportunities they present for different-minded brands. Brands can engage directly with consumers to gather feedback and learn what their customers are looking for and want most, tailor-making the best, ideal experience for them.
“Brands with strong Gen Z and millennial appeal are creating customizable shopping experiences and letting the consumer control how that experience,” Burgett explains. “Sometimes that includes how the product itself gets created. So we’re seeing brands involving their audience on what’s the next flavor or label design, for example. Today some brands are doing an excellent job of going to their audience and seeing what they want and listening to them and letting them drive in new ways, like the future of the business.”
Brands have always taken the market pulse through surveys, pilots, customer service channels of communications, and marketing analysis, but consumers have changed expectations as web natives. Millennials and Gen Z understand the potential of social media and the web more broadly. Direct engagement and tailored shopping experiences are not only possible, but they’re also increasingly expected in today’s e-commerce landscape.
“There is a much more organic flow of conversation and customer-brand interaction with social media,” Rembold said. “Brands are so accessible when they have a strong social media presence, allowing them to be nimble and gather customer hopes, wants, and feedback in real-time. Traditional surveys and tastings will always be helpful when searching the consumer wants, but a Gen Z buyer is way more likely to shoot a quick DM or comment than take a 5-minute survey. It creates a new avenue.”
Some creative agencies are still getting up to speed with millennials and Gen Z, but this new group of environmentally, socially, and wellness-focused consumers is not a mystery for Wonderkind. The all-woman team understands how to bring together brands with these new consumers through design that resonates.
Plus, being millennials and Gen Z themselves, Wonderkind is their target audience, which happens to be one of the most courted spending groups today.
Images courtesy of Wonderkind.