Tag Archives: generation z

Generation Z Is Really Different: Your Approach To Reaching Them Should Be, Too

The youngest members of Generation Z—those born between 1997 and 2012—are about to become teenagers. Meanwhile, Gen Z’s oldest members are starting their careers. If you have a long-term vision for your brand, you should have a plan for making this generation—consisting of almost 70 million people in the US alone—your fans.

Of course, my Coleman Insights colleagues and I can provide you with research covering Gen Z’s tastes, consumption habits, perceptions, etc., and counsel you on how to attract these consumers. However, before you take that step, we recommend getting highly acquainted with this group from a broader perspective. Fortunately, there is plenty of publicly available data from quality research providers that will allow you to do so.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Ground Picture

One of those providers is the Public Religion Research Institute. PRRI is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that for the last 15 years has conducted public opinion research designed to drive—as stated on their website—“conversations at the intersection of religion, culture, and politics.” What I have always admired about PRRI is not only that their research is high quality, but that they do not take positions on any of the policies their surveys cover.

In 2023, PRRI surveyed over six thousand members of Gen Z and that study made clear some notable differences between this group and the generations that preceded them. Three of those differences stand out:

  • Gen Z is less religious. A third (33%) say they are unaffiliated with any religion. When you mix this with the fact that Gen Z is more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations, you see truly stark differences; for example, while 54% of Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) identify as white Christians, half as many—27%—of Gen Z do the same.
  • Gen Z is more likely to identify as LGBTQ. More than a quarter (28%) of Gen Z adults do so, which is about four times as many as Generation X members who see themselves as LGBTQ.
  • Gen Z is more liberal. When it comes to politics, very few members of Gen Z think of themselves as conservative. About 36% identify as Democrats versus only 21% who say they’re Republicans, while 30% claim independent status. (Before any Democrats who read this get too excited, however, we should note that research from the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School suggests that young Americans are less likely to vote in the 2024 presidential election than they did in 2020.)

Regular readers of Tuesdays With Coleman know that we often refer to the Image PyramidSM, the philosophy that successful brands possess images in consumers’ minds that follow a specific hierarchy. For music radio stations, the Image Pyramid suggests that it is most important for your brand to be known for the kind of music it offers, followed by imagery for personalities, specialty programming, contests, marketing, news, and community involvement.

There is, however, another aspect of the Image Pyramid that goes well beyond the highly clinical concept of image development. To truly engage consumers and make them advocates for your brand, your Image Pyramid needs to be “wrapped” in an essence that they find highly appealing.

With that in mind, consider what we learned about Gen Z earlier. If they are different from the generations before them, do you think they will respond to the same efforts your brand may have used to reach young consumers in the past? Will Gen Z consumers engage with brands that represent the values of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, or even Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996)?

My answer to each of these questions is an emphatic “no.” Unless your team includes a heavy presence of Gen Zs who can steer your efforts appropriately, it is imperative that brand managers from other generations educate themselves about this generation if they intend to win their affection. A failure to do so will likely prevent your brand from achieving your Gen Z goals.




Kurtis Conner’s Defense of Radio

Ask me which three comedians first come to mind, and I’ll say Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, and Steve Martin.

Ask my 19-year-old son Lloyd which three comedians first come to mind, and he’ll say Kurtis Conner, Drew Gooden, and Danny Gonzalez.

Never heard of them? They’re YouTubers.

Kurtis Conner brought his comedy tour to Durham Performing Arts Center a couple of weeks ago, and Lloyd was very excited to go. A comedian you may have never heard of played to a packed house of nearly 3,000 people, most appearing under 30. Who would have thought that of all the subject matter he could cover in his set, one of Conner’s bits would be about…radio.

Conner began the bit talking about his love of music, which segued into a story of how he consumes music. Kurtis Conner told the audience he listens to the radio.

The audience booed. Seriously. And loudly.

It’s challenging enough trying to figure out how to get more Gen Zs to listen to radio. The fact that they booed the mention of the word radio is another problem entirely. But what came next will hopefully spark some brainstorming. 28-year-old YouTuber/Millionaire/Gen Z hero Kurtis Conner offered a full-throated defense of the medium you and I love.

“No, no, no…don’t boo me,” Conner begged. He explained how there’s just so much content to choose from and radio makes it easy. He doesn’t have to think about it, the station just plays the music he loves. Kurtis Conner claimed to listen to the radio every day and even name-checked his hometown P1 station. “There’s a station in Toronto that plays 70s, 80s, and 90s.” “That’s boom 97.3!,” I excitedly told Lloyd. “It’s called boom,” validated Conner.

I was excited because boom 97.3 is our client.

But even more intriguing to me was the way he positioned radio to his followers. We have discussed content overload and the Paradox of Choice in previous Tuesdays With Coleman blogs. The premise is the more choices a consumer is offered, the more anxiety results, thereby making us feel worse. By reducing the amount of choice, we can reduce consumer anxiety and make them feel better about their decision.

We have seen in research studies that “free” and “convenient” are two important reasons why listeners choose radio over other media. But what if there’s an opportunity to magnify the importance of its role in reducing anxiety? In a world where we now must choose among a seemingly endless array of entertainment options, should we be emphasizing radio’s strength of curation? Would it really resonate with Gen Zers like Kurtis Conner who find comfort in curation (and, apparently, 70s, 80s, and 90s hits?)

The only way to find out is to give it a shot, and it certainly would be interesting to conduct research to see if the image resonates.

One thing is for sure. A room full of thousands of Gen Zers booing at the mention of radio should make us uncomfortable.

Which Entertainment is Generation Z Consuming?

A few weeks ago, my 18-year-old son Lloyd (he’ll be 19 next week) was in the car with me and he was (I know this will shock you if you’re the parent of a teen) watching a YouTube video. “Whatcha watching?” Good Mythical Morning,” he replied. Good Mythical Morning is a daily YouTube show hosted by Rhett & Link, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. I peppered Lloyd with questions about the show, including why and how he watches. This led to a longer conversation later that day, which I’ll detail below.

Radio is unsurprisingly having a very challenging time reaching Generation Z, well explained in Fred Jacobs’ recent blog, “Radio Broadcasters Don’t Know Doodly-Squat About Gen Zs.” He’s right. But it better learn. As a A) media researcher; B) former radio program director; and C) parent of a Gen Z kid, I couldn’t really help but have an unofficial one-on-one interview with my son about it (insert Dr. Evil laugh).

Fun fact: I have a quirky connection to Rhett & Link, which I’ll share at the end of the blog.

Jay:    Who are Rhett & Link?

Lloyd: They are a comedy duo on YouTube. They’re hilarious, and host Good Mythical Morning each day. They also own their own company, Mythical Entertainment.

Jay:    Is Good Mythical Morning the only show they have?

Lloyd: No. There’s a show after the show, Good Mythical More. Rhett & Link have a podcast called Ear Biscuits. And then they have other channels and shows for other cast members, like Mythical Kitchen, a cooking show.

Jay:    How many of these shows do you watch or listen to?

Lloyd: I watch Good Mythical Morning and Good Mythical More, I sometimes listen to Ear Biscuits, I listen to the A Hot Dog Is A Sandwich podcast from Josh & Nicole, and I watch the Mythical Kitchen channel.

Jay:    How often are you listening to these shows?

Lloyd: I watch Good Mythical Morning and Good Mythical More every weekday. The others are a little more random.

Jay:    How long are they?

Lloyd: An episode of Good Mythical Morning and the after-show are about 20 minutes each.

Jay:    20 minutes is pretty quick. What kind of content are they doing?

Lloyd: It’s usually one topic per episode. Like the Shuffleboard game, where you have to guess the era a food came from. Or when they had on someone from the Swedish embassy, and you had to guess is this food Swedish or not? Is this game Swedish or not?

Jay:    You said you watch every day. Why do you feel you need to watch it every single day?

Lloyd: I feel like they really care about the Mythical Beasts, which are the fans. They do surveys all the time, like the Mythical Census I just filled out a few days ago. It was about me and what I enjoy. Like, what’s your demographic? When did you start watching? How many Mythical Entertainment shows do you consume? Stuff like that.

Jay:    A show that does research! Be still my beating heart. What other ways do they engage with listeners?

Lloyd: They love to do interactive things with the Beasts that influence what goes in the show. Like on Instagram, they’ll say something like, “Which food do you prefer?” Then on the next episode, they’ll reference which food the fans picked.

Jay:    Do they often customize their content based on input from their fans?

Lloyd: About an hour ago, they posted on their Twitter “Are there any weird nicknames you call your grandparents and why?” So they’ll probably do that on an episode.

Jay:    Anything else they do that’s unique for their fans?

Lloyd: The Mythical Society. You have to pay to be a member, and there are tiers. But every quarter you get a free collectible item. Like this quarter, you get a vinyl copy of them singing Brooks & Dunn in the year 3000.

Jay:    (laughing) I’m looking at their website for that and it’s pretty amazing. There’s no chance you’d know who Brooks & Dunn are without Rhett & Link.

Lloyd: That’s true. Oh, they also have their own convention.

Jay:    What?

Lloyd: MythiCon. It’s going to be in Austin in October. I want to go but the cheapest tickets are $299, up to $649.

Jay:    Oh, my goodness. In radio, that would be a Non-Traditional Revenue gold mine. What entertainment do you consume throughout the day?

Lloyd: I like YouTube, I really like having it on as background noise. You’re not going to know these channels, but Nexpo, Barely Sociable, Blame It On Jorge…these are Lost Media, conspiracy/internet mystery channels. I watch all those when they come out but they don’t come out as often as Rhett & Link. I also love commentary YouTubers such as Eddy Burback, Kurtis Conner, Drew Gooden, Danny Gonzalez. They’re comedy but they don’t do it every day. More like every few weeks.

Jay:    When you listen to music, what do you listen to and how do you listen?

Lloyd: If I’m trying to relax or do art or study, I’ll listen to Lo-Fi Hip Hop beats. Or I’ll listen to my Liked Songs playlist. All on Spotify.

Jay:    How often do you consume YouTube versus Spotify?

Lloyd: Probably three to four hours of YouTube, about an hour of Spotify.

Jay:    Do you listen to any morning radio shows?

Lloyd: No.

Jay:    Why not?

Lloyd: I’m just not interested in them. I listen to Spotify, which has radio shows on it. From what I’ve found so far, nothing is on par with Rhett & Link. A lot of radio morning shows are topical and make you have to think about what’s going on in the world. Even if they’re comedic, they still talk about the news, and I don’t want to hear about that. I watch the news for that.

Jay:    It sounds like when you’re seeking entertainment, you want an escape from reality.

Lloyd: Right. The news helps me get the information I need, but Rhett and Link help me get my mind off things.

Jay:    Can you name any radio morning shows off the top of your head?

Lloyd: No…I know there are some on Sirius? Or the local stations…ummm…I can’t name them.

Jay:    If radio wants to reach 19-year-olds, can it do it?

Lloyd: I don’t know. I mean, I listen to SiriusXM because the stations I listen to are very specific to what I like. And there aren’t that many options on the radio. I just don’t know what they could do to make me listen more because Spotify and Apple Music are so predominant in my generation. I have a friend whose radio in the car is broken. And they’re not getting it fixed because they can just listen to Spotify.

Jay:    Have you seen any advertising for any radio stations? Could be billboards, TV, social media, Google ads, anything?

Lloyd: I saw one in New York for a radio station, but that’s literally the only one I ever remember seeing.

Jay:    Do you remember which station that was for?

Lloyd: I don’t.

There’s lots to unpack in this single 20-minute interview.  On the one hand, the prognosis for radio’s ability to reach Gen Z may seem out of reach. On the other hand, I see multiple insights that radio could use to refine content and better target the audience. Keep in mind, that it’s only one interview. I’d love to see audio brands (not just radio) invest in qualitative research to meaningfully explore the deeper “whys” behind Gen Z consumption.

I promised to tell you about my quirky connection to Rhett & Link.

In early 2007, when I was program director of 96rock (WBBB/Raleigh), we ran a contest for a listener to be our Grammy Awards correspondent. Listeners needed to send a video of themselves explaining why they should win. We picked a video submitted by a pair of guys most (including us) hadn’t heard of at the time. Those guys went to the show and snuck onto the red carpet (without credentials).

This is the video they submitted:

At the time, the program director in me was ticked that Rhett & Link didn’t even mention our station in the video. But the other part of me watched the “Project Lionel” bit in the video and knew they were superstars in the making. Who knew that 15 years later they would be making the one show my 18-year-old couldn’t miss?