How Brands Can Appeal to the Popular VSCO Girl

By Lauren Orsini · November 15, 2019

Young women have long been drivers of popular culture, and this year’s booming teen subculture is no different: the VSCO girl.

This group is flooding the market with demand for specific brands that fit their lifestyle, and yet many of these brands aren’t aware these young women even exist. However, your brand doesn’t want to miss the VSCO girl trend, because there are lots of great video marketing moments to be had.

Read on to learn:

  • The VSCO girl meaning and what this group cares about
  • Specific attributes and products that VSCO girls value
  • VSCO language to avoid an out-of-touch marketing approach

What Is a VSCO Girl?

The VSCO girl is Generation Z’s take on the Valley Girl subculture. It’s a distinctly 2019 aesthetic all about embracing an unapologetically trendy mode of speech, presentation, and consumerism.

VSCO, pronounced “visco,” comes from the app of the same name that allows users to apply artsy filters to their photos — think Instagram’s vibe before Facebook bought it.

If you haven’t heard of this app, ask the nearest teen about it: VSCO has over 1 million subscribers and 75% of them belong to Generation Z.

VSCO girls (and some boys!) prefer lightweight skincare over full-coverage makeup, retro scrunchies to hair elastics, and reusable Hydro Flask water bottles to disposable Frappuccino cups. Conscious environmentalism makes them go “sksksk,” which is what VSCO girls say when they’re excited or happy.

Just like the Valley Girls of the ‘90s or the Ugg-wearing “basics” of the ‘00s, the VSCO girl is more of a tongue-in-cheek fashion performance than an earnest identity.

For a quick primer, let a teenage girl herself introduce you to the breezy world of VSCO girls. With 8.5M views in the past 90 days, this is the most-watched VSCO-related video of all time:

According to Google Trends, the idea of the VSCO girl only recently went mainstream, with its cursory first searches in June 2019 skyrocketing to viral numbers by October.

In that short amount of time, the brand-conscious trend has already made a big impact on online advertising.

How Brands Can Get the Popular VSCO Girl Look

According to Piper Jaffrey’s annual survey of the apparel industry, the VSCO girl trend may already be changing the way teen girls buy beauty products.

Makeup sales are down 21%, and 20% of high-income teens say they don’t wear cosmetics at all. Instead, they’re putting their dollars into skincare brands, including a list of specifically-branded VSCO girl essentials.

On a related note: Here’s how skincare brands are dominating social video

Since June, dozens of teen influencers have saturated YouTube with VSCO girl “transformation” videos. In “Becoming the ultimate VSCO girl for a day,” YouTuber Bailey Dedrick calls out the essential VSCO girl brands by name — items like Birkenstock sandals, Carmex lip balm, Mario Badescu face spray, and Pura Vida bracelets.

With over 1.6M views since June, it’s a primer to the VSCO girl life that some of Dedrick’s 416K subscribers are no doubt treating like a shopping list.

For the brands listed, this can be a major marketing opportunity. However, few of them have been quick to catch on.

When Into The Gloss reporter Chloe Hall reached out to Carmex, the responding spokesperson was mystified by this new popularity with a younger set: “Something is happening out there… maybe a new generation is discovering (Carmex).” Hmm.

So far, only Pura Vida seems to be fully aware of what is a VSCO girl. On August 30, the bracelet company did an Instagram-based “ultimate VSCO girl giveaway.” It shows the brand’s understanding of its clientele and adept awareness of its role in a new teen trend.

The roadmap is obvious for brands that VSCO girls already covet, but others can appeal to the group by aligning with their values, including:

  • Environmentalism: VSCO girls care deeply about conservation, with phrases like “save the turtles” taking on an almost meme-like role in their speech patterns. Brands should highlight their own environmental efforts when marketing toward this group.
  • Digital Literacy: The subculture takes its name from an app and has spread mainly online. Brands who market towards them should speak the same language. They should also be aware of the tongue-in-cheek identity play inherent in the VSCO girl lifestyle.
  • Guilty Pleasures: Part of the VSCO girl appeal is relishing in “uncool” mainstream consumerism. Brands don’t have to be overly hip to get in on this trend. Part of what makes Croc shoes a VSCO must-have is that they put comfort first.

With influencer power and dollars to spare, the emergence of VSCO girls could be a slam dunk for apparel, skincare, and lifestyle brands who catch on in time.

VSCO girls are already transforming the apparel industry through their shopping habits. Now it’s up to advertisers to take notice and respond.

Check out other trends in the apparel industry:

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