What the rise of ‘BeReal’ can tell Aussie brands about Gen Z and authenticity – Marketing magazine Australia

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Curated, edited content has become synonymous with social media. But new social media app BeReal is challenging the edits and curation.
We’re far from the early days of Facebook, with its simple promise to connect Harvard students (and then the world). 
For some in 2022, the dominant image-sharing apps can feel like a frenzy of filtered faces and different portraits of the ideal life. 
The topic is a tired one by now. And so are some social media users, who are starting to dabble in something that appears more genuine.
They’ve turned to BeReal, the ‘anti-Instagram’.
Every day at a random time, BeReal notifies its users to capture and share a photo within two minutes. That’s one forward-facing camera shot of what the user is doing, and a simultaneous selfie to show how they’re feeling. 
The app doesn’t want users to stall their post until they’re at a party, or watching a sunset. All photos taken outside the two-minute window are named and shamed as ‘late’.
“A new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life,” claims the app.
After launching in December 2019 with relative obscurity, the app has taken off in 2022. According to data intelligence platform Apptopia, 65 percent of BeReal’s lifetime downloads have taken place this calendar year. 
At the time of writing, it’s also topping the free charts on the App Store in Australia and the US.
BeReal is having a moment among Generation Z in particular. 
It’s no surprise. As marketers, we’re constantly told that digital natives respond to authenticity.
Data from Getty Images and iStock’s 2.5 billion annual searches and download queries supports this theory.
According to insights from its VisualGPS, 88 percent of Gen Z’ers believe it’s important to live one’s life as authentically as possible.  
“Our image testing has shown that Gen Z resonates with images and videos that feel inclusive, candid, and personal,” says Getty Images and iStock’s head of creative insights APAC, Kate Rourke.
Young people’s curiosity about BeReal, which promotes itself as the spontaneous app, is therefore unsurprising. 
The app does literally demand daily attention from users. However, its simple black interface does not have all of the time-suck features of Instagram or Twitter. 
There are no follower counts. You can like or comment on your friend’s BeReals. You can also discover the mundane posts of strangers on the discovery page. Other than that, there isn’t much reason to linger on BeReal.
“Users are brought back to a time when social media was all about connecting with friends, editing apps weren’t around, and likes and follows weren’t the main draw,” Rourke says. 
Gen Z may not remember these social media days of yore, but connection is still important to them, according to VisualGPS. 
On the other hand, the biggest drawback of social media for Australia’s Gen Z is that it perpetuates unrealistic body types, beauty standards, and behaviours. 
BeReal prohibits advertising on its platform for now. But its popularity reflects a thirst for authenticity that marketers can learn a lot from.
When it comes to marketing, images and videos are the most effective assets to capture Gen Z’s lived experiences authentically, says Rourke.
This cohort doesn’t want to feel as though brands are trying to seduce them with overly curated content. Instead, they are interacting with realistic brand visuals that champion inclusion, and reflect their values.
“They also have a strong desire to see ‘people like me’ represented in the media they consume,” says Rourke. 
This generation is not the only one craving some truth.
VisualGPS found that Australians generally want to see more realism in media and advertising, when compared with global markets. Across all generations in Australia, there was a higher trend towards feeling that social media ‘misrepresents real life’.
COVID-19 has only accelerated the public’s desire for more transparency from brands and businesses.
It’s yet to be seen whether users will stay on BeReal if more advertisers and influencers infiltrate. Despite BeReal prohibiting commercial uses, brands like Chipotle in the US have already tried BeReal campaigns with some success. 
Even if BeReal eventually fades back into obscurity, it offers valuable insights on authentic branding on and off the app.
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