Gen Z

We helped launch a sustainable water brand by parodying cause-related marketing tropes and inviting Gen Z consumers to Make the World a Wetter Place.


Brand Voice & Identity, Stunt & Activation, PR Packaging, Brand Language System, Tagline, Press Release & Collateral, Mascot & Mythology, Digital Advertising, Web Copy, Merch

The Backstory

You know who is nearly-impossible to market to? Gen Z consumers. So, what do you do when a new aluminum water brand—literally named GEN Z—comes a-callin’ for help on exactly that? You lean into the tried and true device that always works: humor. We were tasked with reconceptualizing this brand as they were about to launch in Target stores and on Amazon—starting with the deep foundational brand identity and story all the way to experiential stunts outside of Target stores (and tagline, mascot, web copy, and press release stops along the way). We amped up the edutainment value and infused cohesion into every brand detail which allowed us to reach and activate this tricky audience segment.

Brand Story, Voice & Identity

The challenge: GEN Z was centered around a joke [a sustainable water brand named after Gen Z that visually features a cast of critter characters] that is in need of a new, killer punchline. Our solution: We came up with 6 fantastical, creative frameworks that would connect all of these important dots and end up with a brand that makes a big splash…while also making sense. (Yes, one of which turned GEN Z into a playful acronym, and one cast the characters as superheroes from the future sent to save the earth via aluminum water bottles.) Ultimately we landed on a framework and accompanying brand voice that lampooned the fraught, melodramatic, pandering approach of most cause-related marketing campaigns. We called it “Make the World a Wetter Place.” With this brand throughline, we do it all: 1) Address their target audience’s hyper awareness to being ‘sold to’, 2) Illuminate the central offering (an ‘anti-plastic’ sustainable water bottle solution), 3) Weave in their visual characters into this narrative (see mythology below) and 4) Make sense of the GEN Z brand name by playfully casting the brand’s namesake (Gen Z) as the earth’s last hope. Drink up, it only gets more weird and wonderful from here.

Branded Language System

With our new creative framework settled, we leaned hard on our parody and satire chops and created a broad suite of slogans that bring those big ideas to life—and solidified the new tone of voice and branded humor devices. We identified 3 distinct categories that this language fell into: Absurdisms (concepts that rely on offbeat spelling, rhyming, or wordplay) Platitudes and Bottle Cries (Turning cause-related idioms or well-known mottos on their head with a hyperbolic spin, wordplay, or other surprises) and Product 411 (Phrases that playfully describe what the product is, how to use it, or who it’s for). This system helped the GEN Z team familiarize themselves with the new brand and equipped them to incorporate this language into future brand assets.

Mascot & Mythology

GEN Z had designed a dynamic visual universe featuring a variety of delightfully-offbeat critters, but they had no way to connect it to their brand story and leverage it as part of their communication strategy. So we jumped at the chance to create a ‘mascot mythology’ of sorts that would transform these critters from disjointed, nonsensical design elements into Magical, Meaningful, Comical, and Deployable mouthpieces for the brand. Tonally, we designed this fantastical universe and its characters to adopt the hyperbolic voice of being obsessed with saving the planet (I.e. Platitudes against plastic). In this way we weave in the new brand approach of using decidedly lighthearted language to promote cause-related initiatives instead of the historically heavy-handed one. Structurally, we created a relatable backstory that cast the Critters as ‘the team behind the dream’—aka real, remote employees of GEN Z.  Their mythology included humorous folklore about how they came to be, their magical location, how they interact with humans, and why they love aluminum so much. And then for the core 7 critters, we fleshed out their biographies so that they become multi-dimensional, consumer-facing storytellers of the brand, added value to the Gen Z Water message, and enhanced the user experience. If you’re wondering, yes the result is something so fun that the entire Ronald McDonald squad is jealous.

Critter Bios

Roseanna Banana

The Lovesick Orangatan

No one knows beats—or heartbeats—like The Grotto’s resident mood-maker, Roseanna Banana. While she floats around as the heart eye emoji personified, this tender primate isn’t looking for a soulmate, she’s already found one: mother earth. Okay, she may have a not-so-secret crush on Steven Seagull also but her first love will always be the planet. When she’s not leading the HR department for GEN Z (she says Head of Romance, we say Human Resources, same diff) or harkening aluminum down from Aluminum Mountain by tuning her boom box to the Love Frequency of 528 Hz, she has her toes full on a variety of hobbies. In her spare time, she spins tunes for events in The Grotto and The Ocean under the name DJ R&B (yes, the musical genre, but also her initials). With a personal motto like, “All you need is love (and aluminum),” Roseanna Banana is GEN Z’s resident softy and our hard metals wouldn’t be the same without her.


The Bodybuilding Seagull

An 8th generation Bottleguard (a bodyguard that keeps plastic out of The Grotto and The Ocean), Steven Seagull is a bit famous around these parts. It’s true: his great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandmother Babs was the very first Bottleguard ever to be knighted into duty thanks to their family lineage of enormous muscled arms instead of wings. In fact, there’s a statue of Babs carved into the side of Aluminum Mountain honoring her (no selfies, please). Known as “Buff” to his friends, Steven plays a key role in the manufacturing of GEN Z bottled water: he’s responsible for shaping the metal into the perfectly-refillable bottles. While he is often found using GEN Z bottles as hand weights, the muscle this old soul works the most is his heart.

Clair Voyant

The Fortune-telling Bird

What’s in a name? Only everything, when it comes to our Head of PR, Clair Voyant. Clever, creative, and all-knowing, she’s responsible for all of the GEN Z wordplay as well as important sustainability soothsaying. It was Clair who foresaw the plastic crisis in the 70s and it’s Clair who has seen into the future and knows that aluminum water bottles are the only answer to saving the planet. Flapping her mouth as fast as she flaps her wings, she’s got a beak for business and is the main Critter who visits the GEN Z offices in Arkansas for important meetings (she calls them flights of fancy, for fun). Everyone in The Grotto and The Ocean knows that if there’s something in the air, so is Clair.

Finnegan B. Ginnegan

The Nit-picky Goldfish

Finnegan B. Ginnegan has one fin, one hand, and a one-track mind pointing him towards his true north: e-fish-iency. A fervent list-maker and detail-lover, our type-A perfectionist found his calling in the Quality Control department at GEN Z where he oversees everything from the optimal pH balance of the water to how many twists it should take to unscrew a bottle cap (2.25, if you’re curious). Finn grew up in a large goldfish family where he had 800 siblings, which is why he cares so much about managing chaos today. As for why he wears a cowboy hat, he’s a huge fan of Western films where he developed an obsession with the arid Southwest (a place he can physically never visit due to his gills). In fact, he has a habit of using his single finger to tip his hat after giving a harsh crittercism—to soften the blow. If you’re ever looking for Finn, you can usually find him swimming around from task to task yelling his signature catchphrase; “I don’t have a lot of time on my hand!”


The Snobbish Sunfish

Friendly warning: if you suggest to Ronathan that he was probably born “Jonathan,” you’ll instantly join the long list of folks on his sh*t list. With this fact in your back pocket, it should come as no surprise that our Grafish Designer takes himself and his work (sorry, his “art”) very, very seriously. He’s the #1 fan of his own ideas—most notably his genius suggestion to name the company after Gen Z. Ronathan prides himself on his individuality and uniqueness and the only reason he’s constantly blushing is because he has second-hand embarrassment for how much plastic the humans use.

Stunt & Activation

To help GEN Z make a splash in their experiential events (outside of Target stores, and at expos across the country), we created a ‘stunt’ campaign for them called, “Put a Better Spin on the Future.” It was an interactive, Wheel of Fortune-esque game that invites participants to spin a wheel full of funny, GEN Z-branded sustainability pledges and then put on a temporary tattoo of whichever one it lands on. A key campaign signage on the game says, “If you use plastic, the joke is on you,” thus allowing the participants to literally have the joke on them when they place the temporary tattoos on their body.

By playing the game, participants join GEN Z’s ‘call to arms’ (again, literally) to ditch plastic water bottles and use aluminum water bottles instead. A nice element of this part of the stunt is that participants will use water from refillable GEN Z bottles for the application. Additionally, since the temporary tattoos consist of GEN Z-branded sustainability pledges it allowed the participants to be walking promoters of the GEN Z ethos. Furthermore, since the temporary tattoo messaging was humorous and bold, it encouraged them to share their experience (and tats) on social media.

“I say it to them all the time, but I’m continuously blown away by how Allie & Lyndsay’s brains work. No matter how crazy of a creative challenge that we threw at them, they always found thoughtful and comedic solutions that allowed us to expand the brand in exciting ways.”

—Erin Campbell, Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer at GEN Z Brands

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