BLOG POST BY: Joanna Hughston
June 2, 2023

Boomers Are Ruining TikTok: How can fashion brands avoid getting it wrong with Gen Z?

In this article, Goat’s Head of Marketing, Joanna Hughston, explores where fashion brands are succeeding or failing in engaging the next generation.

Earlier this year, the Gap TikTok went viral for all the wrong reasons. 

In a video that’s been viewed over 1 million times, creator Christopher Claflin posted a blistering review of Gap’s TikTok strategy, captioning it, “Boomers are ruining social media”. He even went so far as to call out Gap as having “the worst TikTok he’s ever seen”. 

Users rushed to the brand’s own TikTok channel to leave their own critical comments and even offer condolences to the Social Media Manager behind the account. 

This is how Gen Z are used to communicating with brands nowadays. TikTok and social media have offered a constant feedback loop, and the brands that get it wrong are swiftly called out. 

So how can other fashion brands avoid such public humiliation?

The key for fashion brands on TikTok is that they need to learn to let go. Of course, you don’t need to throw your entire brand bible in the bin, but TikTok needs to be treated wholly differently to your other social media channels – especially if you’re targeting a Gen Z audience.

The millennial social media boom could be summed up using the word “Instagrammable” – overly filtered, aesthetically pleasing, aspirational. Gen Z and TikTok on the other hand would be “authentic” – relatable, showing flaws proudly, avoiding filters (even if a cynic would say a lot of it was performative).

Even the most luxury fashion brands are playing into this. Gucci solidified its brand cultural relevance through TikTok by embracing trends like the #GucciModelChallenge parody and partnering with unexpected influencers like trainspotter @francis.bourgeois and pottery enthusiast @speckledbrownie. Now, it feels like they’ve really found their TikTok feet. The content still feels luxurious but with a playful side, such as a video with two twin models challenging them to see if they’re really telepathic (whilst wearing Gucci suits of course) or asking celebrities like ASAP Rocky and Salma Hayek “What is Gucci?” backstage at the show

It’s a far cry from Gap whose TikTok account previously just showed what looked like TV advert cutdowns. There’s nothing that draws you in or makes you want to scroll.

So what are the tips?

There are five key things fashion brands can think about to avoid getting it wrong with Gen Z on TikTok.

  1. Establish what your TikTok persona is. This is something we always look to establish with our brand partners at Goat. It should make sense for you as a brand but then take it up a notch to match the chaotic nature of TikTok. Ideally it should also feel like it’s coming from a real person. As we saw with Gap, everyone talks about the brand’s “Social Media Manager” so does your TikTok content feel like it has something to say? 
  1. Outfits can be the focus without being the main part of the video. The Gucci example with the twins is a perfect example of how they’re subtly showing off the clothes without it being the main purpose of the video. Yes TikToks like “How to style a denim shirt” are great, but think of out of the box ways you could put a denim shirt at the centre of the video instead? Maybe a “watch our model attempt this challenge” format whilst wearing the shirt?
  1. Put influencers and creators front and centre. Ultimately TikTok is about creators and people, not brands. Work with them to get your brand message out there and repurpose the content for your own feed and in paid ads. At Goat, we see a much higher engagement and conversion rate using influencer content within TikTok ads vs curated brand content. 
  1. Do the unexpected. No one would have expected Burberry to partner with a tongue-in-cheek TikTok channel that features cute children’s toys in soap opera-esque situations. But that’s what they did with the Sylvanian Drama channel, and it was incredible. Everyone loves it when a luxury brand does something that you’d never expect.
  1. Give people a peek behind the curtain. For a long time, brand advertising was something to be consumed not engaged with. Now, the most loved brands on TikTok are not only welcoming interaction, but they’re actually giving away their secrets. Whether it’s backstage drama at Fashion Week or showing us how a garment or ad is made, this is the type of content that people head to TikTok for. 

A lot of people like to talk about Gen Z’s attention span being lower. But the fact is, it’s just much harder to catch their attention. #Fashion has over 258 billion TikTok views at the time of writing, so they’re completely bombarded with choice. Fashion brands, from luxury to affordable, need to start thinking and acting like creators if they want to get cut-through and not be seen as another brand #ruiningTikTok. 

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Written by: Joanna Hughston