How to Reach Gen Z: Here’s What Netflix’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is Teaching Marketers

to all the boys

Netflix’s smash hit, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” tells the story of a 16 year-old, Lara Jean (played by Lana Condor), who has written 5 letters to all the boys she’s had crushes on. She never intends to send them, but somehow, they get sent.

What does a Netflix rom-com have anything to do with my business?

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” may easily be written off as another teen romance film. For brands and businesses, it’s an opportunity to understand the life and values of the next generation of consumers and voters, Gen Z.

Businesses can begin working on fine-tuning their voice, presenting a unique opportunity for marketing.

breaking down gender roles

1. Gender roles are breaking down

In the film, the character Peter Kavinsky made male vulnerability cool. Yes, he may have been the most popular boy in school and the star athlete with movie star looks, but he openly cared about the girls he was dating (or faking dating, in the case of Lara Jean). Nearly all rom-coms have the trope of having the attractive male lead a little angry, a little hard to get, a bit emotionally distant. The girl is usually the one reassuring him feelings are okay. This movie reverses this expectation—-and its resonating with its teen audience.

Generation Z, those between the ages of 13 and 20, are experiencing a dichotomy between how marketers talk to them and how they experience the world. According to one study,  81% of Gen Z strongly believes gender does not define a person as much as it did in the past. Retail giants like Target and Mattel are making gender more fluid with the former getting rid of blue and pink toy aisles and the latter featuring an ad of a young boy playing with Barbie.

radical diversity

2. Racial diversity is normal

According to a 2015 study, Gen Z is the most racially diverse generation yet. 52 percent of Americans under the age of 18 identify as white; the Baby Boomer generation numbered 75 percent. Millennials saw and experienced the switch of more racially diverse groups and the policies recognizing the change. For Gen Z, racial diversity is the norm.

Lara Jean, daughter of a Korean mother, is the representation that Generation Z knows: 80 percent of Gen Zers are friends with someone outside their race, compared to 66 percent of Millennials. Her friends Lucas (a gay African-American) and Chris (a free-spirited white girl) are closer to the realities of Gen Zers. Marketers did to reflect the same kind of open attitude the younger Generation possesses. Taking a political stand could be the next amongst customer retention strategies, who knew? Advertisements with different models of various races, genders, and abilities could be one option. Or openly celebrating cultural events on your social media page could be another.

3. Being political isn’t bad

Lara Jean’s younger sister, Kitty, is a rad 11 year-old. She not only sent the five letters in hopes of making her sister a bit happier, she’s a proud feminist. The film’s viewers noticed Kitty wore a gold necklace throughout the film, which read “Feminist”. Social media buzzed in support.

generation z cares about social issues

Gen Zers care about social issues that are happening around them. The survivors of the Parkland High School shooting are an example of how deeply engaged this generation wishes to be; they want to make an impact and possess the tools and resources to inform themselves and participate. In an annual survey of incoming first-year college students conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute, 80 percent of students believe governments need to take action against climate change and gun control laws should be stricter.

As a business, begin thinking of the values of your own business. What types of traits or issues does your industry or community prioritize? After deciding, share them with customers via a social media, on a display window, or through your monthly newsletter. Be sure to be an inclusive, informed, and thoughtful as possible.

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is streaming now on Netflix. Tune in and watch…only for work purposes, of course.

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