It’s All About the Feels When Reaching Gen Z

Brandweek insights from Viacom, Spotify and Trufan

Harley Block, Khartoon Weiss, Swish Goswami, Nick Gardner at Brandweek
It’s important for brands to lean into all sorts of emotions when it comes to marketing to Gen Z.
Sean T. Smith for Adweek

PALM SPRINGS, Calif.—Marketers suggest following feelings when it comes to capturing—and holding—the attention of Gen Z consumers in a crowded content space.

Harley Block, senior vice president of brand partnerships at Viacom, said the next generation has enormous purchasing power of $44 billion per year. They significantly influence family purchases. Every day, Gen Zers watch six hours of content, including 68 videos, and check social media 100 times. And they’re mostly streaming YouTube and Netflix.

The next generation is also indulging less in drinking, drugs and sex, Block noted. But depression and anxiety are on the rise, driven by social media issues like cyberbullying. Khartoon Weiss, global head of verticals at Spotify, pointed out the necessity for brands to lean into all of those emotions.

Here are some additional insights from a discussion led by Gen ZEOs podcast host Nick Gardner with Block, Weiss and Swish Goswami, CEO and co-founder of social intelligence platform Trufan, at Adweek’s annual Brandweek summit.

Create multisensory momentum 

Content is consumed in different ways. Even though Weiss works in streaming music, she suggested that brands expand into experiential events and keep growing their video offerings to convey both informative and entertaining messages. “Content is king,” Weiss said, “but the context is the kingdom.”

Look for microcommunities

A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work with Gen Z. Serial entrepreneur Goswami advised brands to invest resources in targeting smaller segments by servicing them differently. Such microcommunities could be specific influencer followings that marketers can tap into with meaningful collaborations.

Lean into microconversations

Social listening means looking at real-time comments and the threads or opinions that may form. Block noted the popularity of the “shipping phenomenon, where fans organically express their desire for two characters on a show—or even characters from two different shows—to pair up. Look at where people are talking and build on the conversation.

React to milestone moments

Be aware of cultural developments and unifying situations at speed. For example, Weiss mentioned Gen Zers are passionately talking about climate change and engaging in politically minded protests, which gives brands an opportunity to surround that theme or a specific moment.

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