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Online Trends

Published April 18th 2024

Girl Math: What’s Behind the Viral Trend and What Do Marketers Need to Know?

What is girl math, and how can brands tap into the trend?

Trends on TikTok quickly go viral, and it doesn't take long for them to take other social platforms by storm. 

Last year we had girl dinner, and now we have girl math. You can argue about how much this trend really has to do with math, but since the trend went viral, TikTok videos about girl math have been viewed 3.3 billion times at the time of writing. 

What's behind girl math, and how can brands tap into this trend for a chance to go viral? With Brandwatch Consumer Research, we took a look at the online conversation around girl math from public social posts, blogs, and forums from March 1, 2023 to February 29, 2024. 

Here's what we found.

What is girl math?

First things first. What is girl math? Using the term girl math, consumers are sharing their reasons for buying things they do not necessarily need. We all like to treat ourselves, and not every purchase we make is essential. That’s what girl math is all about. 

In posts tagged with girl math, consumers confess what things they buy and what they tell themselves so they don’t feel bad about those purchases. Bought something for less than five dollars? It's basically free. Bought something with cash you found in your bag? That's basically free. Or buying a jacket that your mom loves and wants to wear, too? It only costs half the price.

Where did the term "girl math" come from? It was first mentioned in late July 2023 on a podcast by three radio hosts from New Zealand. Their TikTok video quickly went viral and the phrase was picked up by other TikTokers who posted their own examples. It didn't take long for the trend to spread across the internet, causing online conversations to spike.

Relatable confessions

The virality of this trend isn't just that people are eager to jump on a new trend, but how relatable these justifications are. Seeing other people "fooling" themselves into spending money or buying things for free inspires us to think about our own mental gymnastics.

Free shipping is one example of this type of thinking. Adding more items to a shopping cart than originally planned to get free shipping gives the illusion of saving money.

Seeing other people thinking the same way can help consumers feel less bad about their shopping habits so it's no surprise that the mood in these discussions is overwhelmingly positive. The most common emotion expressed in online conversations about girl math is joy. Over 40% of emotion-categorized mentions are joyful, with consumers sharing funny and lighthearted posts. 

This lighthearted post on X, for example, got over 224k likes:

Feeding negative stereotypes

The girl math trend isn't without controversy. The second most expressed emotion in online conversations is sadness, taking up 26% of emotion-categorized mentions. What's behind this negative emotion? 

Critics of the girl math trend worry that, all fun aside, it can feed into negative stereotypes about women not knowing anything about finances and how to spend money responsibly.

The perception that women are not good with money is rooted in misogynistic attitudes. It took women a long time to gain their financial freedom, but these stereotypes persist to this day. In pop culture, a shopaholic is usually portrayed as a woman, and the Guardian found in a study that 65% of financial content aimed at women portrays them as excessive spenders who need to cut back.

Journalist Meredith Clark also sees the girls' math trend as a sign that women are still apologetic about their behavior. She writes in her Independent article

“It’s an age-old trope that women are always apologizing, for themselves and for others. Really, what girl math shows is that we’re even apologizing for what we choose to spend our money on. We can’t buy something just because it makes us happy.”

How can brands jump on the girl math trend?

Jumping on internet trends is a great opportunity for brands to connect with their target audience. While the online conversation around girl math is mostly fun, there is also some controversy. Brands need to be careful not to promote negative stereotypes or risk backlash

Here are some tips to consider before trying to tap into the girl math trend:

1. Keep an eye on emerging trends

In general, analyzing online conversations with consumer intelligence platforms like Brandwatch Consumer Research is a great way to keep an eye on emerging trends. It helps you identify trends early and get an idea of how people are talking about the trend. Pro tip: Look at the sentiment and see if there's any controversy –it may be better for your brand to stay away from the trend.

2. Does the trend fit your brand?

Once you know what the trend is about and how your target audience is talking about it, you'll want to think about how the trend fits with your brand. If your social media communication is more serious, it may not be a good idea to start posting a meme like everyone else. Instead, you might choose to educate your audience about the trend.

3. Keep the tone light and fun

This trend is not about being serious. It's about sharing relatable examples with a good portion of humor. The girl math trend is perfect for posting a meme on Instagram or a short funny video on TikTok. Keep it lighthearted, but don't forget that it has to be relevant to your brand and your audience.

4. Partner with influencers

Most girl math content is driven by personal accounts sharing their thoughts and creating funny memes. Partnering with influencers can not only expose you to a new audience, but influencers are usually good at spotting trends and turning them into fun and engaging content. Make sure to take their ideas into account – they may be able to take your content further than you’d imagined.

5. Take the opportunity to promote discounts

A funny and relatable meme from time to time is a great way to connect with your audience. But don't forget to consider what's in it for the consumer. Why not take advantage of the trend and promote your loyalty programs or offer a special discount? 

Here are some inspiring examples of brands using the girl math trend in their content:

Instagram post from Sephora

TikTok video from NYX Cosmetics


5th night meal prepping shine loud 🍽️ og vid #credit @Flavia Jacintho #girlmath #girldinner #makeuphaul #nyxcosmetics

♬ original sound - NYX Professional Makeup

Instagram reel from Pizza Hut and content creator Anna Sitar

TikTok video from Five Below


the girl math all checks out to us 💁‍♀️ if your shopping haul was all deals, does it even count as real money? 🤔 #fivebelowfinds #girlmath

♬ original sound - Five Below - Five Below


The internet moves fast, and trends come and go in the blink of an eye. Brands that ignore these trends miss valuable opportunities to connect with their target audiences. Consumer intelligence platforms like Brandwatch Consumer Research can help companies identify emerging online trends and how consumers are talking about a specific topic. 

For more consumer finance trends, read our new report on the financial services sector.

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