What TikTok Can Do With One Errant Email

Gen Z strikes again. This time, they claimed the reputation of small, family-owned shop Ava Lane Boutique after a viral TikTok revealed an unflattering email that didn’t quite match their supposed brand values of inclusivity and female empowerment.

After Gracie Lorincz applied to be a brand representative, she received a misguided email back from the vice president of operations, Chuck DeGrendel, in which he described her as “fresh out of college and not that cute.” He adds, “Are you sure you want me to interview her?”

Lorincz exposed the email on TikTok which has since received more than two million views.Thousands of viewers began to harass and spam the store on social media and Google reviews, forcing the shop to go private online.

This controversy perfectly illustrates the impact of social media and the power of Gen Z. We are in an era of authenticity, transparency and accountability. Gen Z has no problem holding people accountable for their actions, and they don’t really care what it takes to get the job done. While the tactics Gen Z uses may not be pretty, they are effective. An army of Gen Zers with smart phones can do damage to your reputation in a matter of minutes.

Cancel culture, whether warranted or not, can have serious impacts and will continue to affect the way brands market and connect with consumers. Social media plays a major role in this—especially TikTok now—because it’s easy to go viral and find like-minded people who are ready and willing to be a part of a cause to help condemn those who don’t align with their values. This young generation holds major market power, and they’re educating other generations to care about many of these causes as well, especially when individuals or brands are exposed to be genuinely problematic.

While Gen-Z is quick to criticize, they’re also relatively accepting of apologies – if you show authenticity. A brand can easily come back and become a fan favorite again — if it acts fast and admits wrongdoing.

In the case of Ava Lane, the company let Gen Z control the narrative. While the company was taking its time deciding how or maybe even if to reply, the story took on a life of its own, and the apology after the fact seemed inauthentic.

Our advice to you: closely monitor your social mentions, have a crisis response plan ready, and, of course, double check who’s on the receiving end of your email.

Don’t forget, Gen Z is always watching.