Connecting with the Elusive Gen Z and Generation Alpha

For brands and companies to remain relevant to Gen Z audiences, it’s going to be increasingly important to make sure corporate values are aligned with the values this generation espouses.

Media and tech companies, brands, and advertisers yearn to connect with the elusive Gen Z audience and the generation coming up – Generation Alpha.  But knowing exactly how to engage these audiences can be challenging on many levels, especially as there’s so much misinformation and assumptions about how these young people interact with media and content.

By Adriana Waterston, Chief Revenue Officer, Insights & Strategy Lead, Horowitz Research

All These Screens Are Mine

Of course, Gen Z and younger generations are growing up in a world in which technology is ubiquitous. Our 2021 State of Consumer Engagement survey found that virtually all Gen Zers have a smartphone – 98%. And, while it could be tempting to assume that the smartphone is the only screen that matters to these young people, almost all Gen Zers also have access to a TV set – 92%. Eight in 10 have a laptop, three in four have a gaming console.

And they use all of these screens to consume video. Seventy percent (70%) of Gen Zers use their smartphones every day or almost every day to watch video; 56% watch on TV every day or almost every day, half watch on a laptop, and 4 in 10 watch through a gaming console.

One of the assumptions we hear about Gen Zers is that they “NEVER” watch TV content; they only watch short-form, user-generated or digital media content.

But the data tells a different story.  Actually, quite a bit of time is spent with long-form TV content, considering how pervasive and easy to access short-form content is these days.

When we ask Gen Zers to estimate how much of their video viewing time is spent with short-form, non-TV content versus TV content, it’s split almost evenly, with 54% of time spent with short form and 46% of time spent with long form.

Gen Z Does Watch TV, 4+ Hours Daily

Now that we’ve dispelled the myth that Gen Zers only watch on tiny screens and only watch short-form content, let’s look at the role that TV plays in their lives.

Overall, 92% of Gen Zers report watching at least some TV content, and about half watch TV content every day or almost every day. Another 22% say they watch at least weekly, while 11% are light viewers, watching less than weekly, but at least some.

Overall, Gen Zers spend, on average, 4.1 hours a day watching TV content. While this is lower than the 5.9 reported by adults 18+, a substantial amount of time a day is devoted to TV content by teens and young adults.

Movies, animated series, dramas, anime and non-fiction (other than news, politics and current events) are the genres watched the most by Gen Zers. About 1 in 3 watch sports, and 1 in 4 watch content related to current events and news.

Streaming Viewing Dominates

One might assume that Gen Zers are more inclined towards streaming over other ways to watch content, and on this, you would be right. Streaming is the dominant source of TV content, with 8 in 10 Gen Zers saying they stream TV content at least weekly.  In contrast, fewer than half (45%) watch via cable or satellite.

Not surprisingly, the streaming service most commonly used is Netflix, with almost 8 in 10 Gen Zers using the service regularly. Other SVODs are also frequently used: About half watch Disney+, 4 in 10 watch Hulu, and about 1 in 3 watch Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max regularly. They’re also consuming free, AVOD and FAST services, mainly YouTube, Roku Channel, and Tubi.

As more streaming services emerge, we are seeing Netflix’s dominance starting to dissipate, with share of viewing becoming more fragmented across more services. In fact, the Gen Zers in our study use an average of 5.5 services to stream content.

Beyond Streaming: Rich Social Media Lives

Of course, Gen Zers are doing a lot more than watching video content. Their media lives are filled with social media, music, gaming, and other media activities, creating many touchpoints to engage with this audience. On a daily basis, 3 in 4 use social media, two in three stream music, and about half play games on their phones.

When it comes to social media, brands like YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are being used at least daily by about 2 in 3 Gen Zers, whereas social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and others are used much less frequently. It’s interesting that while people say Facebook is completely irrelevant for the younger set, we found that 1 in 3 Gen Zers use the platform at least once a day.

We hear a lot about Gen Z and their political activism.  Between COVID, the political and social divisiveness in this country, and unresolved global and ecological crises looming, it’s not surprising that almost half of Gen Zers feel negative about the direction of this country, and only 14% feel positive.  But Gen Zers are twice as likely to say that they believe they can make positive change in this world, underscoring that this generation plans to take matters into their own hands.

This is Always on My Mind

So what are the things that are most on their minds? The environment, LGBTQIA+ allyship, women’s rights, and supporting local businesses top the list of issues Gen Z cares about. Notably, 1 in 3 Gen Zers say it is important to know the socio-political stances of companies, which impacts their decision to patronize those companies or not. Social media and the internet make it impossible for companies today to shield information from the public, whether it is about the politicians they support, their environmental impacts, where they stand on LGBTQIA+ rights, or the gender and racial diversity of their C-suite.

And we have seen first-hand what happens when this generation decides to rally together for a cause. So for brands and companies to remain relevant to Gen Z audiences, it’s going to be increasingly important to make sure corporate values are aligned with the values this generation espouses.

Adriana has a passion for expanding our clients’ understanding of the growing multicultural, Latino, Black and Asian segments in a variety of markets including cable, broadband and technology. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Adriana joined Horowitz in 2001 and is a recognized expert on the U.S. Hispanic market. Adriana has been named one of the industry’s “Most Influential Minorities in Cable” by Cablefax Magazine, and has received a CTAM TAMI award for her work in multicultural marketing.

  1. This is a great piece of research that punctures a lot of myths about Gen Z. Engaging Customers has always been about first knowing where the eyeballs are. We then need to know what is important to them, in this case climate, LGBTQIA+ and rights, and if the C Suite is diverse and embracing the values. Adriana’s findings are so valuable.

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