With the rapid spread of Coronavirus, the retail industry has taken the responsible action of closing their doors and staying at home. The retail landscape as we know it is undergoing a change that we will need to adapt to as quickly as it arrived, and most likely continue to adapt to with the fast-paced developments it is undergoing.  Creating innovative experiences that both merge digital and physical retail will be key in forging an attachment with key consumers. However, from our time spent with the Gen Z collective of creatives and innovators we put together last year, we know that this has been high on their priority list for quite some time.  Looking at Gen Z consumers, we can learn a thing or two about how retail should and can adapt to our new normal.

While this generation, born roughly between 1995 and 2010, are multifaceted and fluid with how they identify themselves, comparatively their unrivalled enthusiasm for their interests means that it is important for brands to tap into their passions in new and unexpected ways. Brands such as Kith and Airbnb are constantly creating unpredictable connections with their key consumers (we will look at some examples of how later). It’s clear using these more unexpected mediums are driving a greater connection with consumers for them as well as solidifying that holy grail of brand attachment.


Here’s how some brands are tapping into youth culture’s subcultural movements via three distinct directives.


While typical millennials may not have a clue who started brands, Gen Z consumers, frequently recognised as entrepreneurial in nature, are often drawn to brands because of how they started and by who. Knowing everything from a brand’s history to being superfans of the creative lead or founder through to choosing brands to follow because of their values and ethics are much more considered. Allowing younger consumers into the lives of key brand figures as well as being more open and honest about a company’s policies and brand values is crucial in creating a lasting connection.

During NYFW in February 2019, Ronnie Fieg, Creative Director of Kith wrote on Instagram “I wanted to work with my favourite iconic establishments around NYC and invite people to enjoy the best New York City has to offer through a Kith x Versace lens”. Going beyond creating a traditional pop-up space and inviting brand superfans to Fieg’s go-to NYC spots allowed consumers to have a more personal and unique experience of the brand which created tangible links between brand and consumer.

Creating tangible links to consumers is about more than inviting them into a one-day experiential retail event, they want to live the brand and feel like they have been let in on something others have not. While Kith showed up in physical locations – there’s something to be said about inviting superfans into the ins and outs of the brand online. We’ve seen artists like John Legend and James Blake delivering online concerts, could brands share samples or sneak peeks online to create these unique experiences that are going to be craved during this time of self-isolation?


Having grown up in a world where the internet has always been the norm, tapping into an online world is a super important way for brands to connect with Gen Z consumers, whether that’s purely online or blurring the line between physical and digital worlds. Louis Vuitton understood that with over a $140 billion spending power, they needed to connect more effectively with Gen Z. They managed to capture their attention by teasing their collaboration with League of Legends by creating a skin to be worn in the game prior to the release of a physical collaborative collection. Firstly, the collaboration connected them with the gaming world which is so hugely important to Gen Z and the early skin drop built hype and interest ahead of the drop of the physical collection.

Tapping into the lifestyles of urban consumers by fusing their digital and physical worlds was also successfully explored by New Balance in the lead up to the New York Marathon. New Balance partnered with L’Industrie Pizzeria (a cultural institution in NYC) to give out a classic New York slice depending on the number of miles runners were completing in their training. The concept was simple – train, log your miles on the website or app, redeem your pizza slice in store. By tapping into runner’s online worlds, New Balance were able to create a community hub in an unexpected location triggering an emotional response and encouraging a natural connection with the consumer. They created a similar initiative in the lead up to the London Marathon, but they did it with pints of lager instead of pizza, a cultural twist on what Brits deem important vs New Yorkers!

With more time being spent indoors than perhaps ever before, tapping into digital lives in a seamless way is perhaps one of the most essential ways brands should be connecting with their consumers. Yet we must not forget that we will come out of this solely digital world and the merging of physical and digital will be hugely important as consumers start to crave that human interaction again.


Described as ‘Hyper-Hybrids’, Gen Z are often undefinable and can’t be boxed by one definition. However, while identifying with many different communities they still find comfort within their chosen tribes. Brands have to be completely transparent when connecting with subcultural movements and do so with a sense of purpose.

With the launch of skateboarding in the 2020 Olympics, the sport is veering more and more into the mainstream – gaining a bigger following than ever. Gucci utilised this growing interest in skateboarding to launch the Gucci Grip, a watch design which is inspired by skateboarding. The brand collaborated with groups of skaters in seven cities around the world to create the surrounding campaign, each city was captured by a different image maker within the skating community they were looking at, helping to give an authentic voice to the content. Using communities within different locations to create the localised campaigns ensured genuine connections to consumers with different priorities, passions and needs depending on their area. Although Gucci partnering with skaters may seem a bit leftfield, it’s super important for brands to be partnering with up and coming personalities that embody inclusivity while also ensuring that they align with brand values. Gen Z’s are hyper-aware of false authenticity and so an authentic voice from actual skateboarders was an important step forward for the brand.

In times of such uncertainty, people will be looking for comfort within their communities. Over the upcoming period use the relationships you have with communities that are true to your brand and exemplify your brand morals and harness and encourage their creativity Instagram to host workshops or demos will ensure connection. 

So, what does this mean for brands?

  • Brands need to be unbelievably in tune with their consumers. Looking towards Converse as a best in class example with their recent ‘Creative All Star Series’ in London, you can see straight away that building a campaign around a community is perhaps the most powerful thing a brand can do.
  • Staying truly attuned to the needs and wants of Gen Z consumers is important to build impactful campaigns. At Seen Displays we stay connected with a collective of Gen Z creatives and innovators that we built in 2019 to understand how brands should be speaking to these consumers to help us inform our designs and campaign ideas.
  • Brands need to be creating constant touch points to their consumers so they’re able to live and breathe the brand, this can be through physical and digital or even a hybrid of the two to keep retail fresh and interesting.

As we all adapt to this changing world and we adapt to working from home, we’re dedicating our efforts to analyse the current changes in consumer habits and are focussing on building immediate and long term creative strategies to work with our brand partners on staying relevant and sensitive in the upcoming months.