Studying Gen Z: What We Know About Their Far-Reaching Influence

The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.

Over the past few years, our research has demonstrated that Gen Z is a complex generation with a range of beliefs and values -- a group that refuses to be categorized or defined in any clear way. They pose new challenges for marketers who are used to operating within traditional parameters, but that’s not all. Their habits, consumption patterns and expectations are strongly influencing adjacent generations as well.

Most Gen Z-ers were born with a mobile phone in their pocket, and while their relationship with media is more complex than that of millennials or Gen X, their demands on brands to meet their expectations are influencing the entire media landscape. This means that other generations are benefiting from (or struggling with as the case may be) Gen-Z-driven changes to the way media, advertising, technology and other utilities are presented to audiences.



In our 2020 study on video consumption behaviors, over half (52%) of both Gen-Zers and millennials said their increased viewing time was here to stay. Today, Statista cites several additional research studies that confirm this metric.

The 2020 study focused on emotional engagement and experiences with video, illustrating the importance of aligning advertising messaging with audience emotions to capture and maintain attention. As people spend more time on video, a medium which is more and more available to them across multiple platforms (driven in part by Gen Z demand), brands will need to understand how to best engage audiences within the context of video.

More recently, Snap and Omnicom Media Group came to us to answer a more targeted question: “What does Gen Z want from brands?” Our 2021 study found that they want to be approached in an authentic, relevant manner.

In addition, about 75% of Gen Z say they would be more loyal to brands that speak to “social issues, post information, or have advertisements about social change.” Heightened emotional response to brand purpose messaging among Gen Z compared confirmed this desire.

Are they driving this philosophy across generations? One could easily argue that this is the case, as other studies, such as a recent one by Stakla, have found that nearly 90% of respondents aged 18-55 say that authenticity is important when deciding which brands to support. Brand purpose messaging can capture audience attention, but it needs to be authentic: Gen Z will definitely discover any deception and share this message far and wide across the digital landscape.

Gen Z is leading the way in many areas, influencing the habits of other generations. We’re seeing widespread shifts in the way people consume media, process information, leverage technology, shop -- and even in the expectations they have from the brands with which they do business. These changes have clearly been influenced by the generation with digital in their DNA: Gen Z. And it doesn’t stop here.

We predict that their influence will extend to future generations, who will follow these evolutionary consumption patterns to an even greater extent. Brands should be ready for the permanent shift in the digital landscape, instigated in great part by Gen Z, and prepare a thoughtful, data-driven approach to reach audiences.

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