Using Radio to Tune In to Gen Z

By Radha Subramanyam iHeartMedia Archives

Gen Z -- those born in and after 1996 -- are as big in size as Millennials yet little is known about them other than they are more digital and mobile than previous generations. iHeartMedia spent seven months studying today's teens to learn more about their values and behaviors. We connected with them through surveys, diaries and more. In my column last week I discussed their key values and their relationship with radio, which reaches 95% of teens each month. I'd like to delve deeper into the best ways brands can turn insights about Gen Z and their connection with radio into action.

For brands looking to connect to Gen Z, it is imperative that we don't dismiss Gen Z as just Millennials on steroids. Gen Z'ers are an extremely big, powerful and diverse generation -- one that has been connected to technology since birth. As I previously mentioned, Mashable estimated they have already contributed approximately $44 billion to the U.S. economy and a YouGov study found that they significantly influence their parents' household purchases.

Today's brands should consider them to be the "me + we" generation that identifies as individuals, avoids being labeled and view themselves as diverse, open-minded non-conformists who believe an individual can make a difference. At the same time, they are a big and accepting generation that is constantly looking for ways to stay connected and who love sharing because it allows them to make their mark. In short, Gen Z is a big, diverse group of individuals who want to impact the world through technology.

Radio fills both Gen Z'ers values and their media behaviors and needs. Today's teens place significant value on connecting with their tribes of family and friends, demonstrating diversity and inclusion, embracing one's individual identity, showcasing creativity and fulfilling a constant need for stimulation. They are always on the move and are always connected. They also share a hopeful yet realistic view on life and their need for connection means they look up to people they can view as being authentic and fitting into their all-important tribes. Radio fits these behaviors and values in a variety of ways:

  • From call-ins to social media, radio is inherently interactive.
  • From phones to cars, radio is inherently mobile.
  • By constantly keeping listeners in the know, it allays FOMO (the fear of missing out).
  • By being funny, passionate, local and relatable, radio and its DJs fill Gen Z's desire for authentic heroes.
  • From amping up energy to increasing focus, radio is the medium teens turn to improve their mood.

For brands looking to utilize the unparalleled power and reach of radio with today's teenagers, there are four key ways to turn these insights into action.

  1. Target Tribes Not Demographics

Social media allows Gen Z'ers to surround themselves with various hashtagged #tribes that influence their world view. Brands should use music platforms to connect to friendship groups, not just individuals. 54% of Gen Z'ers say they have many best friends, and 71% say each of their friends knows a lot about something specific. Brands need to leverage this new tribe mentality and the passions driving it. It is imperative that we recognize the power of passionate "expert" voices within their circle and give them the tools they need to be evangelists of specific passions. New data-driven solutions like iHeartMedia's SmartAudio can help optimize campaigns.

  1. Keep Them Informed and Entertained

Much like Millennials, Gen Z'ers crave obligatory stimulation and 24/7 input. Three in four Gen Z'ers say they are almost always listening to something, which makes constant stimulation their norm. They decide quickly whether something is "for me" and 61% will do anything to avoid being bored. It's important to provide them with a fix of feeds, facts and fun to avoid any feelings of FOMO and to allow them to feel part of "everything" in the moment. Their go-to platforms are those that meet their desire for real-time info packaged in an entertaining and creative manner.

  1. Leverage the Power of Family

Gen Z is a pro-parent generation with tight parental bonds that extend beyond just love. Eight in 10 teenagers acknowledge that they like what their parents like. They consider them one of their key "tribes." Brands should celebrate family moments and consider ways to be at the center of this connection. We also must acknowledge and leverage Gen Z's impact at home including how they serve as the household CTO or contributing to family purchase decisions and how they play a consultative role in their parents' lives.

  1. Influence Gen Z In-Car

Not surprisingly, driving is the No. 1 activity done directly before shopping and Gen Z is no exception -- radio is innately mobile and 72% agree the best place to listen to the radio is in the car. Brands need to reach Gen Z -- and by extension their parents -- while the family is on the move and in proximity to purchase.

Gen Z is already a powerful and influential group and that influence will only increase as they get older. It's imperative that brands make a concerted effort to connect with Gen Z'ers now.  Utilizing radio's unparalleled reach creates a unique opportunity for brands to connect -- and stay connected -- with the connected.

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