Even the most well-known legacy brands need to adapt to attract audiences over the years. For any business to be successful long-term, they need to be able to evolve to meet the needs and expectations of the next generation. A strategy that made a brand successful years ago may be obsolete in the future, that’s why building brand awareness remains critical for established and upcoming businesses alike.

This article will unpack how social media insights are essential to understanding younger consumers and how brands are using that data to transform and reach new audiences.

What younger consumers want from brands

Depending on your company and industry, appealing to younger consumers doesn’t always mean marketing to Gen Z or Gen Alpha. Even legacy brands that once catered to older generations have to pivot and address the younger generations who will eventually age into their target audience. For example, a life insurance brand may want to appeal to both older and younger generations.

Every generation has a different relationship with social, but regardless of age, there are some common factors all ages are looking for from brands: responsiveness, authenticity and entertaining content.

Responsive customer engagement and care

The latest Sprout Social Index™ found consumers across all ages have similar outlooks on what brands can do to leave a lasting impression. More than half of consumers (51%) say responding to customers makes brands the most memorable on social media. Younger audiences, especially Gen Z, are not afraid to call out customer care issues on social media, so responsiveness is critical—whether the feedback is positive or negative.

Brand authenticity

It’s easy for brands to default to hopping on timely trends and challenges or creating a social-specific brand voice because it aligns with the zeitgeist. But at the end of the day, everyone is seeking brand authenticity. They want businesses to be true genuine and true to themselves.

Younger generations like Gen Z and Millennials seek transparency about business practices and values, along with social content that isn’t overly salesy. Authentic, non promotional posts were ranked as the top content type consumers don’t see enough of from brands on social, according to the Index.

Engaging, entertaining posts

The Index shows 68% of consumers follow brands to stay informed about new products or services, but nearly half (45%) follow brands on social because they post enjoyable, entertaining content. However, promotional and entertaining content don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Compelling content—whether it’s from external creators or your in-house social team—attracts new audiences. Balancing engaging content with posts that showcase your products or services in action guides consumers further along the buyer’s journey.

How to use social to reposition your brand for younger audiences

Social media data empowers businesses to identify how to reposition their brand to engage younger consumers. By monitoring social, brands can unlock insights to support the business and take the right course of action to connect with their target demographic.

Listen to what your target generation cares about

The 2023 State of Social Media report shows 91% of leaders say social data will have a positive impact on organizations’ ability to get a better understanding of customers. Through social media listening, you can get a better understanding of what your target generation(s) are talking about online and the trends that matter to them.

Understand your new competitors

The 2023 State of Social Media report also shows 92% of leaders say social data will have a positive impact on improving competitive positioning. Use competitive intelligence from your social channels to learn how indirect competitors currently target the consumers you’re trying to reach. Consider how to reverse engineer their content strategy or take advantage of gaps present within your industry or niche.

Identify relevant partners

Collaborating with content creators and influencers who have a trusting relationship with the people you’re trying to reach can have a halo effect for your brand. Leverage their expertise to create influencer marketing campaigns that will resonate with target audiences.

9 brands successfully adapting their strategies to reach younger consumers

Let’s delve into nine examples of brands that are adapting their strategies to connect with younger and older consumers alike:

1. Bobby Jack

Bobby Jack is taking advantage of their popularity during the early 2000s to connect with younger Millennials and Gen Z. The apparel brand offers a vintage Y2K collection and an affiliate program. They have a strong user-generated content strategy, encouraging their customers to tag them on social media. Their brand voice maintains the sassiness and humor Bobby Jack is known for, but still feels modern and doesn’t try too hard.

You can see popular colloquial terms and phrases like, “Bobby Jack, for baddies only,” across their website and social channels. They use social media to join in on relevant conversations, trending sounds and topics for both younger and older audiences.

For example, this TikTok below pokes fun at Bored Ape Yacht Club, an NFT-collection that features eclectic apes:

A Bobby Jack TikTok video parodying Bored Ape Yacht Club, an NFT collection. The caption says,"We hate NFTs. Bobby Jack Forever," and includes various hashtags.

The caption, “We hate nfts. Bobby Jack forever,” achieves the brand’s sarcastic tone while referencing a niche topic relevant to both Gen Z and the OG Millennials who remember “the little bad monkey” who hated so many things in their youth. The brand taps into 2000s nostalgia frequently, like in the TikTok below that features one of their most iconic looks: a Bobby Jack tee, brown gauchos and a tiny backpack.

Bobby Jack Instagram Reel featuring one of their most well-known outfits: brown gauchos, a Bobby Jack tee and a tiny backpack. The comments reflect people enjoy the brand's modern comeback.

2. American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) isn’t just focusing on consumers in their golden years. The nonprofit engages with 20-50+ year olds.

AARP’s TikTok account has a dedicated Gen X following. Along with collaborating with Gen X creators, the nonprofit’s posts are peppered with ‘80s and ‘90s cultural references and relatable content. For example, the viral video below shows what happens when you’re over 40 and the party goes past 10 pm:

A TikTok video from AARP showing what happens when you're over 40 and the party goes past 10. The creator on screen is shown gathering his items and leaving the party. The caption reads,"FOMO on sleep #aarp #over40 #genx #genxtiktokers #cuetoleave."

Community management is also a large part of their strategy. You can find AARP  frequently connecting with people in the TikTok comments section.

An AARP response in the TikTok comment section to a tagged about a creator signing up for a membership. The comment says, "We'd be happy to welcome both of you to the club." Several users interact with this comment with positive sentiments.

3. Abercrombie & Fitch

Over the past several years, Abercrombie & Fitch has been working to reposition its brand to appeal to Millennials and Gen Z by revamping everything from their brick and mortar stores to their social strategy. The brand also offers more sizing options and wider model representation.

The clothing brand partners with IF7, a Gen Z consultancy, on their TikTok strategy. A case study revealed the brand transformation was powered by aspect-based insights from TikTok videos and comments. Along with using younger imagery, the turnaround campaign was centered around creators and influencers, offering promos and discount codes.

The campaign was a massive success, earning over 245 million views for the #Abercrombie hashtag and 45 million for #AbercrombieHaul. Many creator videos have earned thousands of views, such as the one below that encourages people to shop Fitch’s updated wardrobe:

A TikTok video from a creator showcasing Abercrombie & Fitch apparel. The caption says, "Their rebranding really paid off," and includes several branded hashtags such as #AbercrombieHaul, #Abercrombie, and #AbercrombieAndFitch.

4. Dyson

Founded in 1991, the British household appliance brand Dyson was best known for revolutionizing vacuum cleaners and hand dryers. The brand took the beauty world by storm after launching its first handheld hair dryer in 2016, the Dyson Supersonic, which received rave reviews across social. The Supersonic was followed by the Dyson Airwrap, which sold out almost immediately—over 130,000 people joined the waitlist for the device.

Today, Dyson is still known for their viral hair dryer and straightener product lines. The brand leans into a community-first strategy, with TikTok accounts dedicated to several regions including Germany, Singapore, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates. Across their TikTok accounts, they share user-generated content that features product tutorials and reviews.

A TikTok video from Dyson Singapore featuring several user reviews. The caption reads, "This is not a drill. Dyson TikTok has landed."

Although beauty content is a popular favorite, Dyson also features awareness stage content for their other non-beauty products.

5. The Home Depot

The Home Depot is often considered a Baby Boomer or Gen X homeowner favorite, but the home improvement retailer has adapted its social strategy to target Millennials and Gen Z as these generations gain more buying power. They also take advantage of nurturing niche communities online like gardeners and DIY aficionados.

An Instagram Reel from The Home Depot showcasing garden prep tips. The caption says, "Calling all gardeners, as fall approaches, @PrestigeLandscapeTree is sharing tips for planning and prepping your garden. Tap the link in our bio to explore fall garden projects." The comments section features several users praising The Home Deport for its gardening content.

The Home Depot leans heavily into influencer marketing, partnering with creators like @kourtnileigh (Kourtni Muñoz) to create bespoke DIY content. She created several videos sharing tips for preparing for hurricane season:

A TikTok video from The Home Depot featuring Kourtni Muñoz sharing her four tips for prepping for a storm.

The Home Depot’s TikTok, X (formerly known as Twitter) and Instagram also feature engaging content that appeals to younger consumers and touches on relevant trends like this Barbie-inspired video that preps viewers for spooky season:

A TikTok video from The Home Depot featuring a skeleton in a Barbie-inspired box. The box is labeled with the brand's logo and the name, "Skelly."

6. Dollar Tree

Similar to The Home Depot, Dollar Tree leans into the craft and DIY space to successfully connect with younger consumers. On their TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and X pages you’ll find branded craft tutorials, affordable shopping tips, user-generated content and creator posts. And of course, they’re active on the DIYer’s paradise, Pinterest.

Dollar Tree has strong community engagement: on Facebook, they have 2.8 million followers who they frequently interact with—whether it’s sharing craft ideas, highlighting name brand products or answering customer care questions.

A Dollar Tree post on Facebook that showcases LA Colors Cosmetics for Halloween. A customer asks about availability in the comments and the brand responds promptly.

The brand is also quick to interact in their TikTok comments section.

A comment from Dollar Tree on TikTok which says, "Not the BF, glad you found some frugal finds." A customer responds saying Dollar Tree is their go-to for everything.

7. Dell

Dell serves as a standout example of a brand successfully collaborating with the right influencers. They partnered with creator @CorporateNatalie, who is known for her comedic corporate career content. Many of these videos touch on common generational experiences in the workplace, such as a Millennial manager explaining to a Gen Z team member how certain slang terms might be interpreted incorrectly by executives or clients. In the video below, she plays off the need to stay connected, even while on PTO:

A TikTok video from @CorporateNatalie for Dell. In the video, she acts out comedic situations about paid time off. In the caption, she references the Dell laptop she uses in the video and discloses it's an ad.

To target younger consumers, Dell partnered with creators for back-to-school content on their Instagram. @EmmaRupard created several #StudyWithMe lo-fi videos to help promote the new XPS 13 Plus. With remote learning and work as the new norm, desk setup videos are very popular among Gen Z students.

An Instagram Reel from Dell featuring creator @EmmaRupard using her XPS 13 Plus.

8. Claire’s

Although many associate Claire’s with angsty teen trips to the mall, the legacy accessories brand has been on a journey to reposition their brand to target Gen Z and Alpha through their content strategy.

Along with a metaverse activation on Roblox, Claire’s runs a College Creators program to work with Gen Z to create TikTok videos. These video collaborations have been a catalyst for brand reach. For example, the TikTok video below features Claire’s intern Mary Clare Lacke, which earned over 1.3 million views:

A Claire's TikTok video featuring creator and intern Mary Clare Lacke. In the video, she references Claire's spikey ball and gummy bear earrings.

They’re also connecting with younger consumers through their #DearClaire docuseries that centers the voices of young girls and shines perspectives into issues like self-love and mental health.

A TikTok video featuring a clip from Claire's #DearClaire docuseries. The caption encourages viewers to tag their "besties" in the comment section.

9. Polaroid

In a world filled by augmented reality filters, artificial intelligence (AI) imagery and hypercurated Instagram posts, Polaroid is betting on its analog roots by embracing imperfection and authenticity in its social content.

The camera and film brand is working with 15 rising and established photography influencers including Andre D. Wagner and Thalía Gochez to highlight the creative opportunities analog and digital products create. With this strategy, Polaroid exposes younger generations to the less predictable, yet beautiful nature of analog photography, but the brand also leverages nostalgia for older generations who may have memories of snapping their own photos years ago.

Position your brand to transcend generations with social data

Age is a just number, but life is a culmination of moments that define our personality, values and interests.  Marketers can bridge generational gaps and amplify their brands by harnessing the power of social data. To learn more insights about what consumers want and how to position your brand for the future, download The Sprout Social Index™.