Emily Mariko is the biggest thing on TikTok since Olivia Rodrigo released Driver’s Licence. From her matching gym sets and magnificent food prep to *that* salmon and rice recipe, this 29-year-old Californian woman has captivated Gen Z audiences across the world. Emily currently has 4.8M followers on the platform and her most viral video has 5.5M likes, and she’s singlehandedly bringing Gen Z’ers together to celebrate the power of rice, salmon and an ice cube. But what’s the secret to her success, and why does Gen Z love her so much?
Originally a YouTuber, Emily shares videos on TikTok that embody the wholesome and healthy living that Gen Z seems to love so much. Unlike previous generations, whose focus on ‘healthy’ eating risked unhealthy habits (no bread, no white rice, no pasta etc), or the outdated stereotypical student lifestyle of binge drinking and late-night partying, this generation of 16-24-year-olds values wellbeing, self-care, balance, and body positivity – in our 2019 US Youth Trends Report, we reported that 53% of Gen Z changed their eating habits to be more healthy. Emily doesn’t shy away from eating pastries (that she wholesomely picks up at the farmer’s market) or creamy pasta dishes, and eats balanced and realistic meals.
And what about *that* salmon and rice dish? The infamous video simply consists of Emily creating a meal out of leftover salmon and rice which she magically steams in the microwave using an ice cube and serves with dried seaweed and kimchi. But why the popularity? Well, not only is it delicious (tried and tested), but it’s affordable, achievable and aesthetically fits into the #thatgirl trend that TikTok loves so much.
Gen Z loves #foodtok and sharing and practising recipes, and TikTokers are copying Emily in their millions, trying to embody the Emily Mariko way… after all, 40% of Gen Z take inspiration from social media, so it’s no wonder that Emily’s videos are encouraging them to try out different things. With comments like ‘emily you don’t understand the GRIP you have over my life’, ‘This woman motivated me to go to the farmers market and get fresh burrata, veggies, fruit and sourdough bread.’ and ‘Emily is making slicing up vegetables and cooking leftovers fun and exciting’, it’s evident how much Emily is engaging and inspiring her Gen Z audience.
Emily’s appeal is international, and part of this is down to her lack of audio. Unlike the majority of TikToks, which are accompanied by loud and catchy song clips or narration, Emily’s videos tend to be silent aside from the noises of chopping or boiling (perfect for the ASMR-prone viewers). They also make a pleasant and peaceful change from other cooking videos on the platform, which are fast-paced and brash. As Anisah Abdullah mentions on Hypebae: ‘For the most part, viewers turn to TikTok for comfort, inspiration and entertainment. Mariko’s content seems to check all those boxes.’ It’s important to note that Emily’s general lack of audio also means that no viewer is alienated by a language barrier, meaning that her appeal is enormous and has no boundaries.
So what can brands and marketers learn from Emily Mariko and her content? It’s clear that Gen Z loves this wholesome and productive lifestyle that Emily leads, and that health and wellness is a key focus for them. The simplicity and slow pace of her videos also offer some calm amongst the chaos that Gen Z are and have been living through over the past year and a half, and that’s not to be underestimated. Emily is also a prime example of the power of social media (which comes as no great surprise), proving that content doesn’t need to be perfectly curated with loud audios and colourful visuals – one short and simple video can go viral in unexpected and impressive ways.