Gen Z’s Top 5 Challenger Brands For 2023

2022 has been a hard year for young people – they’ve seen pandemics, wars and a cost-of-living crisis amongst other things, and as we head into 2023 they’ll be looking to brands for support and connection. But which brands are catching their attention? 

Our Voxburner+ Challenger Brands* report looks at the emerging brands that are pushing boundaries, the startups that deserve to be shouted about and the brands bringing something new to the industry. In other words, it’s your go-to guide for who’s going to be a hit with Gen Z in 2023.

But before the official launch, we wanted to give you a sneak preview of five of Gen Z’s favourite brands from the fashion, food & drink, health & beauty, entertainment and technology sectors…

Edikted (US and UK)

Edikted is the ultimate youth fashion brand – designed by Gen Z, for Gen Z. Thanks to the brand’s total focus on their target audience and heavy influence from pop culture, technology and style, the website and products are totally on trend with this generation’s wants, likes and desires. 

Edikted is arguably more of a technology brand than a standard ecommerce brand thanks to their business/sustainability model – instead of creating hundreds of pieces and being left with excess, Edikted control the amount they produce and supply to demand, encouraging shoppers to pre order as a way of better understanding their inventories.

Edikted’s D&I policies are also worth nothing, with 78% of their HQ, 50% of their management and 50% of their worldwide management being female. And it’s not just internally – their other aim is ‘To significantly increase the presence of women of colour, from diverse backgrounds, and who are all shapes and sizes among our Brand Models and ambassadors.’ 

It’s refreshing to see a fashion brand be so open about their policies and sustainability, and by acknowledging where they fall short and taking the time to understand how they can improve, Edikted’s authenticity will help them connect with young consumers. 

Bored and Hungry (US)

Thought you knew everything about NFTs? Think again! Introducing Bored and Hungry, the NFT restaurant group connecting real-life experiences with Web3. Created by entrepreneur Andy Nguyen in 2022, Bored and Hungry use four characters from the iconic Bored Ape Yacht Club collection as part of its image after Nguyen purchased them, and hungry restaurant goers can buy a beef or vegan burger using cryptocurrency (ApeCoin or Ethereum). This also begs the question: Is taking NFTs into the real world the future? 

Discussion amongst Gen Z survey respondents focused predominantly around their confusion with NFTs, with only 36% saying they’d be interested in spending money with the brand. One young person said they “don’t understand the hype behind NFTs”, whilst another said they “ruin the art landscape as well as the physical environment and have no worth.” It’s interesting to see that there is still some distrust towards the virtual world, which holds many young people back from investing time and money in the world of NFTs. 

However, for those who are interested in this concept, Bored and Hungry is a complete gamechanger (and it’s certainly true that they’re doing something different within the food & drink sector). By taking the virtual world to the real world, Bored and Hungry are encouraging a sense of community and cementing the idea that NFTs are here to stay. 

August (US)

Sustainable period care brand August was founded in the peak of the pandemic in 2020, and has been one to watch ever since. Gen Z, education, sustainability and diversity are at the heart of everything they do, with the brand’s goal being to ‘collectively democratise access to period health education [and to] identify solutions for more sustainable and comfortable period products…’. 

August’s Gen Z founder (and YMS alumni!) Nadya Okamoto used research into Gen Z to create the foundations of the brand, meaning that, unlike more ‘traditional’ period care brands, August talks about menstruation in an honest and open way; this helps to normalise it for those who bleed and those who don’t! The educational emphasis that August places on their brand is something that sits well with Gen Z, with focus group panellist Phoebe saying this “Clearly this isn’t just a brand, there’s a whole movement behind it, and any way of opening up these conversations and normalising it is really important”, whilst another Gen Zer said that “As guys, we don’t learn much about periods in school – I think [Nadya’s] doing a great job by talking about this openly and normalising it”. 

Having an influencer founder can sometimes can sometimes cause controversy and lead Gen Z to think critically about a brand, but August uses it to its advantage. Thanks to Nadya sharing content and product placements on her personal social media accounts, August reaches millions of young people every day.

Webtoon (US and UK)

Gen Z are big fans of anything that evokes a sense of nostalgia, whether it’s the products they buy, the clothes they wear or the marketing they consumer. And cartoon publisher Webtoon is, we predict, bound for success because of this. Webton allows readers to access thousands of stories on the platform across 23 genres, ranging from romance and comedy to fantasy and horror. 

Gen Z are a creative bunch, and Webtoon provides them with the perfect platform for them to let their creativity run wild . And, thanks to it being creator-owned content, not only are the artists getting the credit they deserve, but diverse visions from across the world are being shared and consumed. Perhaps most interestingly, Webtoon doesn’t just host content but also educates current and prospective creators on how to get involved by offering a number of creator resources, from basic tutorials to wellness support. As one Gen Zer said: “I already use it and I love it! It’s modern, cohesive, and easy to navigate… I love how the platform beings creators and readers together.” 

Only 32% of 16-24s would be interested in using Webtoon, but there seems to be an understanding amongst the generation of how significant this platform can be for the right audiences. As we often see with platforms such as Discord and Reddit, these communities of young people are willing to invest serious time, money and effort into connecting with others and fulfilling their interests. We find this focus on community fascinating, and their determination to expand their passionate group of readers and creators makes them stand out in the entertainment space.

The Light Phone (US and UK)

It’s no secret that smartphones are getting bigger, apps are getting better and iPhones are more like friends than tools. However, recently we’ve been noticing an interesting trend, wherein Gen Z are craving the return to a simple, social-media free world. And this is what makes The Light Phone so interesting: described as a ‘premium, minimal phone’, the Light Phone is a simple, sleek and arguably basic device that ‘will never have social media, clickbait news, email, an internet browser, or any other anxiety-inducing infinite feed.’ Currently, the Phone has an alarm, calculator, directions, podcasts and hotspot tool, alongside the simple ability to text and call contacts… with no Twitter, no Photos, no Health and no Weather. The Phone’s goal is to protect user’s mental health, prevent the dreaded doom-scrolling and help us all to take a step back and slow down.

Because of its somewhat controversial approach, the brand is certainly not to everyone’s taste – only 27% of Gen Z would be interested in buying one. However, for those who are willing and eager to to take the brave decision to step away from their personal devices, The Light Phone may well be a solution to their problems. One young person said that the “company’s product is unique – I will definitely buy one if it’s even on sale”. 

Whilst it may not reach the heights of popularity that other technology products are seeing, we don’t think this matters – The Light Phone has found a gap in the market and has met the needs and demands of many overworked, exhausted scrollers. 

So there you have it – five of our 25 Challenger Brands for 2023. Download your free Challenger Brands 2023 teaser now.

*A Challenger Brand is, we consider, a brand that is disruptive, innovative and moving their sector forwards. For this research, all Challenger Brands were founded in, or after, 2017, and are of significant interest to 16-24-year-olds across the UK and US. The report is based on results of a survey of 16-24-year-olds across the US and UK and focus groups with Gen Zers and our in-house marketing teams. 

The full report is now available on Voxburner+. Not a Voxburner+ subscriber? Join our leading youth marketing community and all of our reports now.

RELATED POSTS

Dive deeper by exploring our related news & insights