March 29, 2024

Decoding Gen Z Speak: Essential Marketing Vocabulary for Brands

Decoding Gen Z Speak: Essential Marketing Vocabulary for Brands

In today’s digital age, understanding Gen Z’s unique language and communication style is crucial for brands looking to connect with this demographic. From slang terms to internet jargon, Gen Z has reinvented a whole new vocabulary that can be difficult for older generations to decipher.

DISCLAIMER: It is highly important to remember that to effectively reach Gen Z, it’s crucial for brands to understand that their slang often has roots in various cultures including the Black community, the LGBTQ+ community, and more. Knowing the origins and meanings of these terms is key to using them correctly and avoiding misunderstandings. This approach not only respects the diversity of Gen Z’s language but also strengthens brand connections with this audience.

@briannaapple_ #greenscreen send this to your parents and report back how many words they could define #genz ♬ original sound - Brianna Apple

Explore key marketing words and terms essential for brands targeting Gen Z consumers.

Why Gen Z’s Language Matters to Marketers

Gen Z is a big deal in the market, having more and more effect on what people think of brands and what they buy. They have a unique way of talking that shows a move towards being real and easy to relate to when it comes to brands. Marketers trying to attract Gen Z need to understand their language to connect with them well.

Their growing economic influence is undeniable, with their combined global spending power already exceeding US$450 billion. As more Gen Z members enter the workforce, their purchasing power is only expected to increase, highlighting their importance as a key demographic for marketers and brands. 

This group is not only reshaping purchasing trends through their buying habits but is also influencing the spending decisions of their families. Their preferences are dictated by value, exclusivity, and the impact of influencers, making it crucial for brands to adapt their strategies to cater to this digitally savvy and trend-setting generation

This generation likes it when things are clear and real. By using their way of talking in marketing, brands show they get and respect what this group thinks is important. This match makes the brand more interesting and gets Gen Z more involved. They’re more willing to back brands that talk like them and share their values.


To really connect with Gen Z, marketers need to get into the online spaces and groups where their style of talking grows and changes. This means more than just using their slang. It’s about really getting why and how they use certain words and what those words mean. This way, brands can understand Gen Z’s way of talking better, making sure their messages hit the mark and build loyalty with the youngest shoppers.

The ABCs of Gen Z Marketing Terms

Understanding how Gen Z talks involves more than just looking at popular hashtags or memes; it means really getting into the culture that affects how they communicate. For brands that want to connect with this group truly, learning key Gen Z marketing words is a must.

This includes terms like “vibe check,” which is used to get a feel for someone’s mood or the feel of a place, and “simp,” which means showing a lot of care or attention to someone, often without getting the same in return. These words and others are important in how Gen Z talks online and with each other, showing they’re part of the same group and share the same culture.

Knowing these keywords helps marketers create messaging that feels more personal and relatable to Gen Z. It’s not just about using slang to look cool, but about using these words in marketing stories in a way that keeps their true meanings. 

This careful method makes sure that brands aren’t just talking at Gen Z but talking with them, making a common language that builds a feeling of community. By getting good at using Gen Z’s marketing language, brands can grab their attention and build real connections with the most online generation so far.

From ‘Ate’ to ‘Delulu’: Decoding the Lingo

Below is a compilation of the most popular Gen Z vocabulary to help you create impactful social media posts that resonate with Gen Z, ensuring your content is engaging and not labeled as “cringe.”

Ate:  A phrase used to show admiration or praise for someone who succeeded or performed well in something.

Bussin: A term to describe something as awesome, great, amazing, etc. For example, you would say “That pizza was bussin.”

Coded: “coded” among Gen Z humorously denotes someone mirroring characteristics or resembling another person or thing. Examples of this are “me-coded” when referencing a song or TikTok that relates to them, “your outfit is 2000’s-coded” telling someone that they are dressing like they are in the 2000s, or “that was influencer-coded” which means that their actions were relating to influencer activity (celebrity similar activities).

Delulu: Short for delusional, implies that having an overconfident belief in one’s own dreams, no matter how unrealistic, is key to achieving them.

@cringecarter What would i do without my voice of reason🥰🫶 #friendgoals #delulu #pov ♬ original sound - Carter Kench

Fire: Fire, similar to bussin, is an adjective that describes something as cool or great. A Gen Z person would use it in a sentence as “your hair looks fire today” meaning that their hair looks great. Below is the difference between Millennials and Gen Z thoughts on the word fire: 


It’s still a mystery to me why most of the time millennials can’t use the words correctly

♬ original sound - The CrunchBros

Hits different: This phrase is used to describe something that has a unique or significantly better quality compared to other things. It signifies a distinct and often superior experience​.

Ick – A feeling of disgust towards someone or something. Replying to @Lila all jokes men im single and ready to mingle (as long as you dont give me the ick) #fyp #makeup #storytime #men #dating #ick ♬ Elevator Music - Bohoman

I’m dead: This phrase is often used as a reaction to something extremely funny, shocking, or surprising. It implies that the person finds something so humorous or astonishing that they’re figuratively “dead” from laughter or shock. Often just denoted with the skull emoji 💀

Main Character Energy: This mindset, prevalent among Gen Z, involves idealizing one’s life and putting personal needs and joy first, essentially viewing oneself as the main character of their own story, not just a supporting role.

Mid: Gen Z’s way of saying something is mediocre or underwhelming, for example, “this drink is really mid” meaning it’s not great.

Pookie: Pookie, meaning a nickname for a partner, is also a viral trend on TikTok that Gen Zers are making fun of starting off of the video below.

Receipts:  Proof of someone’s actions or words, often used to support a claim.

Living Rent Free: Obsessing over someone or something, living inside someone’s head.

Example: This song lives in my head rent-free

Rizz: short for “charisma,” and it simply means an ability to charm and woo a person. Rizz is the new “Swag” for Gen Z.

Slay: The term “slay” or “is slaying” refers to someone excelling at a task or achieving something notable, akin to the expression “killing it.” It can also be used as a noun; for example, someone’s achievement might be referred to as “a slay,” or simply “slay” can be an encouraging reply to someone. An example of its usage in a sentence is, “you are going to slay the day.”

Vibes – A feeling, an ambiance.

Example: I don’t know, the vibes were kind of off

Understood the assignment: The phrase “understand the assignment” refers to excelling in a task, whether it applies to an actor who delivered an outstanding performance in a role or a friend who planned a brunch and the theme went above and beyond.

Tea: Also known as “spilling the tea” is a term/saying to share gossip or a juicy story.

Sus: Short for suspicious is used to describe someone or something as not being trustworthy or being out-of-character.

Situationship: A zone that blurs the lines between friendship and romance, defining the relationship dynamics of numerous individuals from Generation Z.

Sleep on: The phrase “to sleep on something” implies overlooking or not acknowledging something worthy of notice. It frequently appears in the context of “don’t sleep on ‘blank’” to highlight or draw attention to a person or thing deserving recognition.

Serve: When someone is described as “serving,” it indicates they are looking particularly appealing or impressive. This can be known as serve, serving, or serving looks. For example a friend could say, “Your make-up is serving.”

For brands, getting these phrases right—and knowing when to use them—is key to really connecting. The challenge is keeping up with how these words change in meaning over time online. 

Using these phrases well in marketing means finding a balance to make sure they fit and feel right. By staying in tune with Gen Z’s ever-changing way of talking, brands can make messages that truly hit home with this important group.

Leveraging Gen Z Slang in Your Marketing Strategy

To really use Gen Z slang well in your marketing, your brand needs to dive into how this group talks. This is more than just using popular words; it’s about connecting with the culture and situations that these words come from. Truly getting Gen Z slang means knowing the feelings and stories behind the words. It’s about fitting their language into your messages in a way that’s real and smooth.

When picking slang that fits your brand, think about words that show positivity and welcome everyone. This can make your brand more likable to Gen Z. But, make sure to use these words right and at the right time to avoid misunderstandings or negative reactions. Gen Z likes honesty, so your brand needs to use their slang in a way that shows you’re really trying to connect with them.

Being creative is also important. Brands that do well with Gen Z slang find fresh and clever ways to use it, like in social media, fun content, or direct talks with their audience. This shows you’re not just using their language but also that you’re really part of their world.

Real-World Examples of Brands That Got It Right

Navigating the Gen Z marketing landscape with savvy and style, some brands have managed to strike just the right chord, earning kudos for their fluency in Gen Z speak. These success stories highlight the importance of genuine connection and creative engagement, showcasing how brands can seamlessly integrate into the Gen Z cultural dialogue. 

Dunkin’ partnered with TikTok megastar Charli D’Amelio, launching new menu items and collaborating on several videos. This partnership resulted in a 57% spike in app downloads and a 20% sales boost for all cold brew coffees, showcasing the power of influencer marketing on TikTok to drive both engagement and sales.

@dunkin @charlidamelio 17th bday means a present for you!! 😎🎁 Stay tuned. #charlidunkinremix #dunkin ♬ original sound - Dunkin'

Duolingo, an ed-tech company offering a gamified language learning platform with over 40 courses, has grabbed Gen Z’s attention by hopping on every trend and using its terminology to relate to this younger audience. Duolingo has over 10.8 million followers on TikTok and over 2.6 million on Instagram because of its fun marketing strategy. 

Heinz has taken their marketing strategy to another level, by not only using Gen Z slang in their social posts but also going after viral trends that will capture the younger generation’s attention. The “emotional support water bottle” is a trend among many, and Heinz turned this trend into something of their own.

These examples serve as powerful testimonials to the effectiveness of deeply understanding and respectfully employing Gen Z vocabulary in marketing strategies. 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Gen Z Marketing Language

When using Gen Z slang in marketing, brands need to be careful and mindful. The “Do’s” involve researching to make sure the slang is up-to-date and liked by the audience. It’s important for brands to use slang naturally, in a way that fits their usual style and messages, without looking like they’re trying too hard. Talking directly with Gen Z can also help brands understand how slang is used and seen.

The “Don’ts” include avoiding slang that might seem offensive or like you’re using someone else’s culture incorrectly. Brands shouldn’t use words they don’t get or that might not stay cool, given how fast online culture changes. Using slang wrong or too much can push Gen Z away, as they can tell when something’s not genuine. Also, using too much slang can make a brand seem less professional and trustworthy.

Getting Gen Z’s slang right means balancing staying current with showing respect, making sure attempts to connect don’t end up pushing people away.

Keeping Up with the Ever-Changing Gen Z Vocabulary

Gen Z’s way of talking changes a lot, so brands need to keep up and react quickly. It’s important for brands to always be learning about and joining in on the latest online trends. Being active on social media and online places where Gen Z hangs out is key. This lets brands see new slang as it starts and understand how it’s used, including the culture behind it. 

Using tools to listen to social media and talking openly with Gen Z can help brands learn about new slang and what it means at the moment. Working with influencers or creators who know these online spaces well can also help brands fit into these conversations naturally. Staying up-to-date and flexible lets brands use Gen Z slang in their marketing in a way that’s respectful and connects well, making sure they stay part of the cultural talk.

By tapping into the heart of what makes Gen Z tick, these brands have managed to not only capture attention but also earn genuine respect and loyalty, setting a benchmark for others to follow.

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