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Special Project

Special Project
From the 15th Annual Shorty Awards

The Paul Frank Renaissance

Entered in TikTok Presence

About this entry

Paul Frank is an iconic pop culture and lifestyle brand that was all about child-like fun and humor. The brand as we know it peaked in the early 2000s and is closely tied to the good ol' middle school, puberty, and tween era. Over the years, the brand has struggled to gain relevance amongst Gen Zs losing the brand affinity and legacy they've built. Though the brand is instantly recognizable, Gen Zs associated Paul Frank as "nostalgic" rather than "in." 

A brand comeback doesn’t happen overnight, but we are well on our way to restoring Paul Frank’s iconic status, especially amongst Gen Zs. The main consumer insight that drove our strategy was the idea of embracing the tension between nostalgia and innovation. Gen Z as a generation loves the idea of an old school product, but what’s key to remember is they won’t respond to old school values. Paul Frank already had that nostalgia factor: it was up to us to reimagine what the brand could be with Gen Z today.

To measure Paul Frank's brand comeback with Gen Z, we sought to grow a cult-like Gen Z following on social media, become an integral part of the fashion lifestyle conversation, and organically gain UGC by Gen Z.

Why does this entry deserve to win?

To engage with Gen Z, we met them where they're already at: on TikTok. We brought Paul Frank to life by putting their main character, Julius, in the driver’s seat – taking organic content and brand personality to another level. We approached the Paul Frank renaissance with Gen Z through a holistic TikTok approach:

  1. Organic Niche-Targeted Content - for micro-community relevance
  2. Robust Community Management - for audience relationship building
  3. Strategic Creator Partnerships - to bring the brand into existing conversations

Our overarching strategy centered around targeting Gen Zs via subcultures on TikTok. To find Paul Frank's unique audience, we dove into the Nostalgia and Fashion niches. Within nostalgia, we identified subcultures from 2000s and 2010s aesthetics to kidcore and dreamcore, then did an in-depth analysis on what brings each of these micro-communities together. Within fashion, we identified subcultures from Y2K and Up-Thrifters to Fairy Grunge and Indie Sleaze. Combining the nostalgia and fashion subcultures, we boiled it down into 3 key niche communities whose intersections make up the Paul Frank niche today:

  1. Thirfters & Drifters - for those that like to experiment with their fashion
  2. Nickelodeon Aesthetic - for those that aren't afraid to unleash their inner child
  3. Tumblr Era - for the antithesis of the "it" girl: edgy, gritty, but real

Identifying what's "in" in these communities and who the key brand & creator players are all contribute to creating hyper-specific organic content that resonates. It also enables us to show up and engage with content and creators to establish Paul Frank's place within each community. We're Duetting UGC content, engaging with fans in the comments, and referencing niche experiences (One Direction Wattpad fanfictions, Justice hauls, Omegle, Limewire eras) – and Gen Z is LOVING it.

There's unfortunately no "magic formula" to going viral. The ongoing struggle with Gen Z, TikTok, and social media in general is its fickleness. What's trending is constantly changing and it's incredibly easy to miss key brand opportunities. With Gen Z identities in flux and new subcultures continuously popping up (corecore, anyone?) our approach is constantly evolving. The 3 niches we've identified now may not remain Paul Frank's niches in 6 months time. But our Gen Z team is constantly on the ground experiencing these shifts in real-time and responding for our clients like Paul Frank.


Since working with Paul Frank, we've been able to transform and reimagine what the brand could be today for Gen Z and beyond. In just 10mos, this is what we achieved through content:

We went from 2 TikTok followers to 60.7K and counting. We started with an average of 500 weekly impressions and are now at 175K weekly impressions. We've amassed a total of 5.3M video views and 1.2M likes with an engagement rate averaging a whopping 25.37%. We're averaging 10 user generated content on TikTok per month.

But don't take it from us, here's what our Gen Z fans on TikTok have been saying:

“OMG PAUL FRANKKKK” - @dallaswalmsleyy 

“Paul Frank owned my childhood” - @chaekivc 


"Thank you king Julius" - @crocutacrocuta


"i am a paul frank stan." - @stillarndthemrningafter

"I am here for the Paul Frank renaissance of 2023 ❤️" - @lisaboccuzzi


Entrant Company / Organization Name

NinetyEight, Paul Frank


Entry Credits