In conversation with

Carolyn McMurray

Founder of Word Tonic



Carolyn McMurray is a London-based copywriter and the founder of Word Tonic, a community born from the need of creating a safe space for Gen Z to connect, collaborate, and learn new skills.

We spoke with Carolyn to discover more about her generation’s behaviour, how they are changing the way marketing works today, and why brands need to understand that there is not just one tone of voice that works to communicate with them. We got her take on why jumping into social media trends could be a no go, the importance of brands truly breathing and standing for their values, and the biggest cliche older generations have about Gen Z’s.

Question and Answer

You started working in copywriting when you were 17 years old. How did you begin Word Tonic?

I set it up at 22, five years after I began my copywriting journey. It all started as a little newsletter for Gen Z copywriters. It was only when I saw the growth of the newsletter (1,200 subscribers in two months) and the number of people asking me for advice that I thought about creating a community. I knew I wanted to create something just for Gen Z – something that could be a safe space for us to connect, collaborate, and learn new skills. So, I partnered up with seven Gen Z writers and we got together to launch Word Tonic!

Some brands really struggle talking to GEN-Z. What are the common pitfalls you see?

A big pitfall brands fall into is ‘trend hopping. Plastering a rainbow sticker on a shop window – just because it’s Pride Month. I’m not saying any of these actions are wrong. They only become ‘wrong’ if a brand has never talked about or championed them before. Then it comes across as insincere and we’re a generation that sniffs out BS like that in an instant (and we will turn your brand into a LITERAL meme if you do!)

Gen-Z humour is also so progressive and fast-paced and sometimes NOT explainable (a bit like this hamster meme). What’s funny one week will be ‘dead’ the next week. So brands need to be careful of using overplayed puns or jokes or memes. A funny analogy is my community’s Whatsapp Group. You leave it for an hour and come back to 1000+ messages and the vibe is COMPLETELY different.

These are a mix of my own thoughts and lil gems that my community of Gen-Z copywriters has shared with me. Thought it’d be good to get their opinion so I don’t flood this interview with my own biases!

Which are the 3 key elements that you think Gen-Z customers are expecting from brands?

1. Don’t be dull or dry with your copy – put a bit of life and personality into it

2. Live and breathe your values (no social ‘trend hopping’ just because it’s ‘that month’ again. If you don’t actually instil those values in your company or this is your first time speaking up for something, don’t even bother slapping it into your advertising).

3. Be aware of nuances – we’re a socially progressive generation. Think about things like pronouns and humour carefully. Outdated, inappropriate stuff won’t fly anymore.

“Gen-Z humour is so progressive and fast-paced and sometimes NOT explainable. What’s funny one week will be ‘dead’ the next week. ”

Which brands are doing a good job of cutting through with this demographic?

These are my (and my community’s) absolute faves:

Milwaukee’s Library – I don’t even live in Milwaukee and their Instagram account makes me want to travel 30,000 miles just to go to their library (they’re fun, weird AF, and defy social norms – just look at this reel about a grandma reading manga)

Scrub Daddy – They’re refreshing, funny, and don’t take themselves too seriously (I mean, 199k followers isn’t bad for a brand that literally sells washing-up sponges)

Offended Marketing – I know they’re a B2B marketing agency but they’re brilliant

Tell us the biggest cliche you think millennials and boomers have about Gen Z.

A lot of people seem to think we’re alllll digital natives. Which isn’t exactly wrong, but there are still a lot of Gen Zrs – 30% – who don’t feel fully confident using tech in the workplace.

Alex Taylor – savvy Gen-Z marketing manager – actually wrote up a lil article on this ‘cliche,’ – specifically how ‘entry-level roles’ that require years of experience and lack of accessibility have caused this lack of confidence in Gen-Z.

I know my community didn’t immediately look at ChatGPT and think, ‘sweet – totally prepped for this. No learning curve whatsoever.” Nope. We all sorta collectively ‘hated’ on it for a moment until we realised that embracing it was the best option.

How do you think Gen Z is changing the way marketing works today? Can you give us an example?

We’re power in numbers.

If an ad goes against what ‘we’ think is socially acceptable or is just plain cringy, we’ll speak up and pretty much destroy it.

But if we love it and it really resonates with us, we’ll big it up. We’ll share it in our stories. We’ll tweet it. We’ll tag our friends in the comments. We’ll leave a comment. And so the brand will end up getting a huge amount of social proof and ‘love,’ – without even needing to explicitly ask for it.

It works both ways – our presence on social media can help good brands shine and put a spotlight on some of the not-so-good ads.

If you were throwing a festival for Gen-Z copywriters, what would it look like? What’s going on? Who’s invited? What’s on the menu? What’s on the playlist? Is there a dress code?

Oooh, this is fun.

Venue: Anything with a beach.

What’s going on: Live copywriting Q&As with cool guests. Hot-seat sessions. Creative writing workshops. Lil stands on all things copy – ‘building a portfolio,’ stand. ‘Writing ads’ stand. ‘AMA’ stands. Oh and live music.

Guest list: All young aspiring and Gen Z’s copywriters. And some extra special guests for our Q&As: Vikki Ross, Delesia Watson, and Dave Harland.

Menu: More vegan, plant-based options. But there WILL be a bubble tea stand.

Playlist: Whatever guests want, but The Eagles are non-negotiable.

Dress code: None!

Carolyn's Storylist


  1. This One Wild and Precious Life: The Path Back to Connection in a Fractured World by Sarah Wilson
  2. Junior: Write Your Way Ahead In Advertising by Thomas Kemeny
  3. The Boron Letters by Bond Halbert


  1. Freelancer Magazine
  2. Cosmopolitan
  3. National Geographic


  1. Audacity of We
  2. Mile Higher Life
  3. ShoutOutToHelpOut

Digital Platforms

  1. ShoutoutToHelpOut
  2. Hundo XYZ
  3. The Dots


  1. Copywriting For Complex Women by Mary Diaz
  2. The Word by Sonder & Tell

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