‘Weird-vertising’ and other ways brands can reach Gen Z, with Gallant Branding CEO Chris Kocek
“Know your audience.” It’s one of the oldest pieces of advertising advice. With the fragmentation of media, it’s become harder and harder to do. When there were just a few network TV channels, pitching to an audience of millions was simple. Now, brands and marketers have to account for traditional TV viewers and younger generations of cord-cutters. When it comes to Gen Z, nearly 40% of them are spending more than four hours a day on social media. Their favored platforms are YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, which means they’re watching a lot of short-form videos. If something doesn’t grab their attention right away, they have no compunction about skipping to the next clip. For brands, that means coming up with ideas that really hook viewers fast.
As Chris Kocek, CEO of Gallant Branding and author of “Any Insights Yet?,” explained to BOSS, that means sometimes you have to get weird. “That WTF moment is what brands are going for,” he said. You have to be willing to take chances, and you have to be ready to capitalize on potentially viral moments. You have to ask yourself, “What haven’t they seen?”
We live in a time when viewers can skip the intro on the opening credits of shows on streaming platforms. Even movie trailers feel the need to jam the most exciting moments into the first 5 seconds so they can hook you for 2 minutes. It’s like a trailer for the trailer.
“They’ve got to hold you because everybody’s so used to these short format pieces, and nobody wants to stick around for the traditional story building arc,” Kocek said.
If an ad can hold viewers’ attention for more than 5 seconds, it’s already pulled off a monumental feat. If it can jam enough Easter eggs and be “just weird enough,” perhaps it can get people to watch all the way through, or better yet, watch more than once.
“Weird is just kind of a new iteration of, ‘How can we be unexpected? How can we get somebody to linger just a little bit longer with us when everybody’s swiping away?’”
Capturing someone’s attention for even a second or 2 longer than usual will get a social media algorithm to push more content like that their way.
“Scrub Daddy does this really well,” Kocek said. “They do a number of things that their particular audience just seems to really appreciate. They don’t feel like they’re being sold to, or if they do, they don’t seem to mind.”
They contain just the right mix of storytelling, self-deprecation, quick cuts, and product exposition.
“The weirder it is, the more likely people are gonna just watch it over and over, or look at the comments and linger on it like, ‘What is going on?’ It’s almost like they’re partnering with other people (in the comments section) to figure out what the deal is.”
Expect the Unexpected
You never know when something instantly meme-worthy or viral might happen, so brands have to have strategies in place and do a lot of groundwork to be ready to strike when opportunity knocks.
When a woman posted a video on TikTok of her burnt-out car, she revealed that her Stanley insulated cup was not only intact, it still had ice in it. Stanley responded by buying the woman a new car.
“In the case of Stanley, part of what I think makes it work is that (Stanley global president Terence Reilly) said, ‘We’ve never done this before and we’re probably never gonna do this again, but we’re gonna buy you a new car,’ and then the Internet just sort of exploded over this act of goodwill,” Kocek said. “Think about the sheer number of impressions they got.”
Not only should brands prepare viewers to expect the unexpected in their ads, but they should expect the unexpected themselves, and be ready to pounce.
A Florida family’s doorbell camera captured a bear swiping their $45 Taco Bell order from their porch moments after an Uber Eats driver delivered it. Taco Bell quickly responded with a video of a person in a bear suit delivering an order, with the caption, “Delivery fees are a bear to deal with; $0 delivery fee with any purchase $20+ in the Taco Bell app.”
Brands have to be on the lookout for these extreme moments that can really capture attention and have rapid response guidelines in place.
Stanley is just one example of how brands can show off brief moments of extraordinary customer service. Pet brand Chewy does a great job of this, Kocek said, and Foot Locker ran a holiday ad showcasing unexpected moments of delight their employees brought customers in-store.
“I think everybody could take a page out of (restaurateur) Will Guidara’s ‘Unreasonable Hospitality,’” Kocek said. Guidara won multiple James Beard awards for outstanding service during his time as general manager at Eleven Madison Park and spent time working under Danny Meyer, founder of Union Square Hospitality Group. Meyer’s book “Setting the Table” also examines the power of hospitality.
“Always be looking for opportunities to surprise and delight your customers,” Kocek said. “At the core of ‘Unreasonable Hospitality,’ at the core of Stanley, and all these other examples is paying attention to what’s happening with your customers.”
People have a never-ending firehose of content coming at them online. Finding something that resonates and connects with them on an emotional level is not easy, but it makes a major difference to marketing success.
“You have to be very intentional about what you look for,” Kocek said, “and you have to be ready to respond.”
The best way to capture people’s attention is always changing, but knowing how to tell a good story never goes out of style, no matter how long it is. Neither does outstanding service.