Kids Today: Gen Z and the next seismic shift in media.

Generation Z teenager

The author’s resident Gen Z’er possibly imitating said author.

A few years ago we marketing types woke up to the rise of the Millennial. Yes and now we profess to understand that demographic segment using the same sorts of generalities that helped us to oversimplify the demographics that came before. Millennials like craft beer, Gen X’ers own a pair of Doc Martens, Baby Boomers all went to Woodstock and their parents all watch Matlock. Or Murder She Wrote.

To borrow a term from that last crowd, much of that thinking is pure hokum, disproven by Google Analytics, Facebook and any number of consumer behavior segmentation tools and properly aligned media buying tools – both digital and traditional.

But in the face of this real information we still fall into the habit of generalizing swathes of the human condition based on nothing more than decade of birth.

Ok, now with that disclaimer dispensed with, there is something to be said about the intersection of technology, a given generation and the interplay between those forces.

Which brings us to Generation Z. Or, as described in my house, my 17-year-old daughter.

Last week Adweek published a piece from Defy Media on Generation Z, those born between 1996 and 2010. Unlike Millennials, members of Generation Z have never known a world without smartphones, YouTube and social media.

Defy Media interviewed 1,452 respondents aged 13-20 to learn about media usage and behaviors among members of Generation Z. When asked which digital platforms that they most used.

Turns out that YouTube is the authority of this generation. It leads as a trusted source for shopping recommendations, news and as it is with other groups, how-to searches. 51% of Generation Z look to YouTube for a good laugh. They also trust social stars as much if not more than mainstream celebrities and 79% accept endorsements from either. In the case of tech, social celebrities lead mainstream celebrities as endorsers by a margin of 70% to 21%.

Now let’s put aside what is essentially a portal into information and influence for the moment and look at what is at the other end of it, Branded Content. According to a recent report from Fullscreen Media, Gen Z is the biggest user of branded content out there. So when you cross the Defy Media research with Fullscreen’s you get a more dimensional picture of a generation that is in search of content and far more willing to accept it, no matter what it might be, with an endorsement. Which, when you think about it, could speak of a future where the brand doesn’t live primarily outside the content, such as we understand it in advertising, but inside the content.

Ten Things About Those Darn Kids of Gen Z.

  • 95% use YouTube. 50% Say they couldn’t live without it
  • So much for embarrassing your kids on FB. Although 65% have an account, 81% could do without it
  • 79% are good with Celebrities talking about products that they like
  • YouTube stars and traditional celebrities have about equal, and powerful influence YouTube stars have more influence in specific areas such as beauty products and tech.
  • They are OK with Celebrities getting political
  • Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat sit at about equal usage, between 65 and 67% of Gen Z’ers use one or more of these platforms. All are used primarily for socializing
  • If given your advertising budget, 54% would spend it on Celebrity influencers. Cheer up, 51% would blow it on TV commercials
  • Video content is preferred six to one over read content
  • While 37% of Millennials have used product reviews in the last 6 months, 40% of Gen Z’ers have done the same
  • That “how to” search on YouTube is not going away. Over 60% use it

Ok let’s end with every politician’s favourite cliché’, “Children are our future.” In this case, how our world will communicate in the future, what channels will influence it most and what content will have the most impact are being shown to us today by those who never had to text on a flip phone.

Infographic: 50% of Gen Z ‘Can’t Live Without YouTube’ and Other Stats That Will Make You Feel Old


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