Survey: Gen Z wants branded content, social first

In March of this year, Fullscreen partnered with Leflein Associates to field a quantitative national online survey and ethnographic interviews (in the greater NYC area) with Gen Z and millennial individuals. They investigated media preferences and trends, passions and values, influencer fandom, consumer journeys, and brand love –– and perhaps most significantly –– where Gen Z and millennials differ in these areas.

“Gen Z, the first generation born into a post-Google and social media world, is not only the most diverse generation yet, but also the generation with the greatest global perspective,” said Pete Stein, General Manager, Fullscreen. “Their continued inclination towards social content on their mobile phones – first seen in millennials – is changing the way that content is consumed, shared, and even created. Growing up in a completely digital world, they expect to have direct access to friends, celebrities and brands – and they expect all three to interact and share content in a way that’s relevant to their own personal interests and passions.”

For brands trying to reach Gen Z, the findings reveal several critical strategies:

Mind the Generational Gaps

Youth audiences are an important target for many brands, but not all brands recognize that there are actually two very different generations within that broad umbrella –– millennials (18-34) and Gen Z (13-17) –– with two very different sets of social media habits. Brands should not assume they can target both groups in the same way.

Millennials are relatively old school, with a higher preference for traditional platforms (including “traditional digital”) than their Gen Z counterparts. Gen Zers are shifting away from text-based online content in particular, in favour of streaming content – especially video.

Generation Brand Engagement

When marketers talk about how brands can best reach and engage with “young people”, they usually mean millennials. Or at least they used to. As it turns out, Gen Z is even more receptive to engaging with brands through social channels. In fact, they’re adept at fuelling brand conversations by spreading the word throughout their social circles.

“In an era of increased media fragmentation, brands are finding that the best way to build deeper customer connections is to create entertainment that consumers actively seek out,” said Maude Standish, Vice President of Programming Strategy, Fullscreen. “This is particularly true when marketing to Gen Z, who grew up with the internet and are not only demanding that all brands entertain them, but also that entertainment shifts to behave like a friend – it’s also why influencers are so effective in selling to this generation.”

Influencers play a significant role in defining what youth audiences like, view, and buy, with 54 per cent saying that would choose to advertise a brand with influencers.

Gen Z prefers to watch, rather than read. They view digital video and short form clips almost six times as much as they read traditional digital publishers/blogs. It’s critical to note the dramatic rise in short-form video, a new format that has emerged and evolved alongside social platforms. While longer-form formats are still preferred for traditional entertainment genres like sports, comedy, and film, short-form plays a pivotal role for beauty, fashion, and how-tos – and even general entertainment.

One size does not fit all when it comes to social platforms. Despite its reputation as a social home for older folks, Facebook still dominates for entertainment, socialising and utility for Gen Z. For socialising, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram take centre stage. And for utility, more task-specific platforms like Twitter and Pinterest come into play.

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