Engineering for Engagement: Generation Z is the Earbud Generation

You may think there’s nothing marketers like talking about more than Millennials--but our obsession with generational consumer trends is far from over. Generation Z seems to be the next quirky cohort capturing the interest of marketers everywhere. Born in the late 1990s and roughly between the ages of 13-18 years old, Generation Z is carving an entirely new path for themselves. And for marketers, they may just be the next big media disruptor we’ve been waiting for.

Whereas Millennials were the first generation to grow up with computers and the internet, Generation Z is the first to grow up with the smartphone. That means today’s teenagers are more comfortable with being constantly connected than any other group before them. On top of that, Generation Z came of age in a post-911 world. They’ve never known a time without terrorism or cyber bullying. For them, an African-American president is a fact of life, transgender celebrities are cultural icons, and the normal family environment is fluid.

This has resulted in a generation of young adults who are larger in size, more conservative, practical and digitally fluent than their Millennial predecessors. Despite the oldest members barely out of high school, Generation Z already sits on approximately $44 billion of their own buying power--but if you factor in their influence on household purchases too, that number is probably closer to $200 billion annually.[1]

Taking Media Consumption to a Whole New Level

Of all the traits that make Generation Z unique, perhaps the most influential is how they consume media. Slightly more than half of today’s teens (52%) owned a smartphone by age 13. And now, 1 in 5 of them report spending eight or more hours a day with their mobile devices--that’s longer than the average school day, by the way. Compared to Millennials, who access an average of three different devices regularly, Gen Z-ers typically use five or more.[2]
The velocity at which they move through digital platforms and media is astounding, and has meant they’ve had to become masters at filtering through the clutter to find what they want. According to a report from Ypulse, 76% of Generation Z respondents said their top reason for downloading an app was because “it seems fun.” That is fundamentally different than the top reason Millennials gave: “it solves a problem.”[3]

Gen Z’s Special Relationship With Music

With entertainment as their main priority, and access to a slew of internet-connected devices, it’s no wonder Generation Z spends so much time streaming music content, in particular. Today’s average teenager spends four hours a day with earbuds in, streaming videos, podcasts and, most frequently, listening to music.
For decades, youth generations have embraced music to define themselves and leave a mark on society. In fact, many music revolutions of the past would not have happened without the support of a youth group: Baby Boomers and Rock & Roll, Gen X and mainstream Rap and Hip Hop, Millennials and Electronic Dance Music (EDM). For Generation Z, their music legacy seems to be less genre-specific and more related to how they consume it.

A typical 16-year-old on Pandora listens to seven different genres a week, on average. The average 26-year-old listens to only five. Music also has a highly emotional impact on these listeners: 97% say music makes them happy, 81% say music builds their confidence and 86% say music makes them more creative.[2]

The Key to Gen Z Marketing = Follow Time Spent

Amid more time spent streaming and listening to music, Generation Z is also consuming more audio content in general. That’s why we, at Pandora, fondly refer to them as the “earbud generation” because they are truly leading the charge in digital audio consumption. In fact, 1 in 5 teens on Pandora spend 7+ hours a day plugged into their earbuds.[2] It’s because listening to audio is more convenient during on-the-go or multitasking activities, two things Generation Z’s are experts in.
What we know so far, is that Generation Z is spending a lot of time on mobile, with their earbuds in, streaming music content. We also know that similarly to Millennials, Generation Z wants to be in more control over what content they get served, and they want choices for how to interact with advertisers. Users between the ages of 20-49 are up to 67% more likely to prefer mobile reward video ads than other types of ads, such as unskippable pre-roll. The difference is even more pronounced among Generation Z (16-19) audiences, who are 3X as likely to prefer mobile rewarded videos. Even further proof that this type of advertising is effective for reaching this audience, HP recently ran a Sponsored Listening campaign on Pandora that led to a 44% increase in brand awareness and 87% boost in ad awareness among 18-20 year-olds.

For marketers, the secret of youth marketing is, and always has been, deciphering how and where they spend time. With a group of people so adept at hopping between devices and sorting through unwanted messages to consumer only the content they want, it’s essential to keep tabs on where their time is actually being spent and aligning your messages in those locations. Ultimately, if you follow their time spent and provide rewards-based advertising offerings, your marketing strategy will be engineered to capture the attention and engagement of this rapidly influential Generation Z audience.

Learn more about this new value exchange in advertising here.

Also, be sure to join the conversation at CES by following our #PandoraCES hashtag.

Sources: [1] Mintel, “Activities of kids and teens,” November 2013 [2] Pandora Internal Data, Gen Z Market Research, March 2016 [3] Ypulse, Topline Report, August 2017