new survey demystifies Gen-Z

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insights thought leadership 07.28.2023

trust is the foundation of influence: new survey demystifies Gen-Z

The Audience Origin Teenagers 2023 survey provides a glimpse not just into teenagers’ consumption, but their fundamental motivations and habits — crucial insights for businesses hoping to connect with the demographic.

susan saadian
director, product marketing

Gen-Z is too often described as a homogenous demographic: A TikTok obsessed, digitally native generation of young people consuming content exclusively through their phones. But as a recent, wide-ranging global survey from Choreograph’s Audience Origin has found, the cohort born between 1997 and 2012 have more nuanced attitudes about their world.

“They’re the first generation to grow up completely surrounded by digital technology,” says Michael Liddle, Audience Origin’s insight manager. “But we don’t feel that those technologies completely define them.” Rather, the survey found that teenagers were generally platform-agnostic and hungry for real-life connections.

“Gen-Z are very self-aware of how alienating it can be to spend too much time online,” says Liddle, “what fascinated me was that it was an issue for them, not just about them.”

The survey suggests that along with the internet, economic uncertainty and the Covid-19 pandemic have shaped teenagers’ consumption habits and sentiments about which brands to trust. “The past decade of turbulence and instability, disruption, and constant change has been the background for them during their formative years,” Liddle says. “It’s made a long-lasting impression on them as individuals, and it’s impacted their view of the world and what they demand from brands.”

They’re the first generation to grow up completely surrounded by digital technology, says Michael Liddle, Audience Origin’s insight manager

The study was conducted across 31 markets through Audience Origin, Choreograph’s proprietary audience product, compiling interviews with 31,000 people between the ages of 13 and 24 worldwide.

The data gleaned in Audience Origin Teenagers 2023 survey included the impact of Gen-Z’s views on brand purpose/social and environmental causes, media habits, attitudes, and influencer purchases. Among the findings, the team uncovered some counterintuitive sentiments, given the prevailing wisdom about teenagers today. Gen-Zers according to the survey, are largely platform-agnostic, and many are drawn to longform immersive experiences, despite their reliance on phones. Key takeaways from the 2023 survey include:

  • Content is first. Platform is secondary. Gen-Z favors whatever platform best suits their specific needs, consuming content over 13 video, audio, and gaming platforms.
  • Long-form video isn’t dead. While Gen-Z does lean toward short-form, snackable content, in the Americas, 38 percent of teenagers said they would prefer to watch one 30-minute video rather than 10 three-minute videos.
  • Live TV still appeals. The immersive nature of the big screen is still highly relevant: 49 percent of teenagers preferred watching their favorite shows on a traditional television set. And while interest in broadcast has waned, live TV is still popular in circumstances where a “real time” experience is critical, such as during a sporting event or a trending TV show.
  • Influencers must build trust. Gen-Zers understand that influencers aren’t necessarily organic or independent, so they use discretion when considering product endorsements. Less than 5 percent of survey respondents cited social media influencers as trusted sources when it comes to making purchase decisions, and only 14 percent reported having bought a product that was gifted to an influencer. Influencers must build trust over time, and brands should strategize ways to imbue their partnerships with authenticity to overcome such skepticism.

So while Gen-Z might often be referred to as the “TikTok generation,” Liddle notes that there’s been a push within the marketing industry to segregate TikTok from other platforms. “But while Gen-Z is likely responsible for the meteoric rise of the platform,” he says, “the cohort also uses a plethora of other niche and even market-specific platforms.” He adds that teenagers’ trust in even something as simple as an online review varies widely depending on their geographic location, and whether they believe a review was written by someone like them.

A chart based on findings from the Audience Origins Teen Survey 2023 illustrates how diverse Gen-Z’s platform preferences can be.

In addition to segmenting their data along the lines of age, gender, and geography, Audience Origin used the results from 42 attitudinal statements to create seven Gen-Z personality types, from the “trendsetter” to the “self-assured rebel.”

“We could see how those groups reacted differently than the general population, and how they were composed in different markets,” says Liddle. And by grouping teenagers into those personality archetypes, Audience Origin can track nuanced shifts in generational sentiment as a whole over time. The Audience Origin Teenagers 2023 survey followed previous bi-annual surveys of the demographic in 2019 and 2021, providing valuable data against which to measure the most current research.

One major takeaway from the survey, notes Liddle, is that trust is the foundation of influence. The generation that has grown up with the internet can be highly cynical about being targeted by advertising, and taking a one-size-fits all approach can erode that trust. It’s imperative, then, for brands to think deeply about how best to meet each segment of this diverse and varied market. The conventional wisdom that Gen-Z craves authenticity is true, he says. “And we feel that is likely to increase, especially as the younger part of that cohort emerges from behind the protective shield of their parents and starts going out into the world themselves.”

Full findings of the report are available exclusively to GroupM agencies and their clients.

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