Understand and Embrace Generational Consumer Media Habits and Channels

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Understand and Embrace Generational Consumer Media Habits and Channels
Learn how Americans across generations engage with media, including social media, movies, TV shows, music, reading, and podcasts.

November 28, 2022
Giana Damianos – Senior Analyst, Syndicated Research

Media is a major aspect of consumers’ everyday lives. Americans spend a significant amount of their time and attention consuming social media, visual entertainment, and audio streaming content. For brands and advertisers across industries to succeed, they need to understand where people are going to consume media content, and why they’re going there.

Read on and fill out the form for an excerpt from our
Generational Consumer Media Habits & Channels presentation.

Collage Group’s 2022 Media Habits and Channels Study provides insights across generations on the specific platforms American media users go to, their media habits, and their preferences for media content. The data dives deep into content and platform drivers—spanning categories, passion points, and identity attributes.

Key Findings: Social Media

    • All Generations, with the exception of Boomers, use a wide variety of platforms, and they tend to be always ‘on’.
    • This high social media use comes at a cost, Gen Z worries most about the impact on their mental and emotional wellbeing and becoming addicted. All generations have concerns for their privacy and safety.
    • Social media functions as a portal to other media, especially for younger generations.
Primary concerns about use of social media


Social media is both friend and foe for consumers today. It is a powerful enabler of connection across generations – on the younger end, it provides ways to find community and make new friends, and on the older end it’s a powerful way to reconnect.

But there are downsides too – younger generations feel the pressure of constant comparison that social media forces upon them, and consumers of all generations worry about safety and security.

 Action Steps:

    • Provide ways to mediate the mental and emotional effects of being online.
    • Facilitate meaningful connection by encouraging authentic self-expression.
    • Utilize the power of social media as a discovery engine for other types of media – like new music and shows to watch.

Key Findings: TV & Movies

    • Most generations watch TV shows via online streaming platforms, but for Boomers, watching live TV is still most common.
    • Generations also vary when it comes to what they watch – younger generations show a preference for comedy, whereas older generations show a preference for tv news and action/adventure movies.


The proliferation of mobile devices has driven demand for streaming platform subscriptions among younger consumers. The accessibility of smart phones, tablets, and laptops offers younger generations the opportunity to stream content on the go.

Further, younger generations’ changing tastes align better with what streaming platforms offer, compared to Boomers who still highly favor news and sports, which are better suited to live TV.

 Action Steps:

    • Find and attract different generations of TV and movie viewers by understanding, and activating, based on where and when they are viewing:
      • Maintain advertising presence across TV formats, but understand that while Boomers may be watching TV more, their viewing is more passive.
      • Meanwhile younger generations are watching more via streaming platforms, but may have shorter attention spans for ads

Key Findings: Music

    • Music is a top passion point for younger consumers. The majority of Gen Z and Millennials would rather listen to music than watch TV.
    • Music is popular across generations for its ability to provide comfort and diversion while multitasking.
      Across Generations, consumers embrace the human element of music – and enjoy creating playlists themselves and sharing musical tastes with others.
47% of Americans would rather listen to music than watch TV


Music is a powerful comfort – and a powerful connector – across generations, but this is particularly true for Gen Z, a generation that craves human connection and relief from stress and anxiety.

Younger generations are passionate music fans overall, but while Gen Z tends to consume music more passively, their Millennial counterparts are more active in their passions – and like to go out to shows or live music venues.

 Action Steps:

    • Embrace the human element when selecting and promoting music – from showcasing artists stories to background on lyrics
    • Lean into options for music to be both passive and active, depending on consumer needs. For example, create task specific playlists to help consumers as they multitask, or interactive playlists for when music is the main focus.

Key Findings: Reading & Audiobooks

    • Most Americans enjoy reading – but we see significant variation by generation when it comes to format. Millennials are much more likely to consume audiobooks, and are also the most likely generation to embrace digital books.
    • Reasons for reading also vary significantly by generation. Gen Z reads as an escape, whereas older generations read to relax and to learn.
List of reasons why one reads for pleasure


Life stage and generational values play a big role when it comes to each generations reading style, as well as reasons for reading.

Millennials are often on the go, which is reflected in their penchant for consuming audiobooks as well as digital books that don’t require lugging around their reading material of choice.

The high stress and high pressure that Gen Z faces on a day-to-day basis are reflected in their desire to read as an escape, whereas Boomers entering retirement and looking for new passions are more likely to use reading to learn and to explore new topics.

 Action Steps:

    • Reach on-the-go Millennial readers through on-the-go media – audiobooks and e-readers.
    • Show an understanding of why readers are reading – for Gen Z and Millennials, this means giving them an escape, whereas for older readers, this might mean showing knowledge or skills gained through reading.

Key Findings: Podcasts

    • Podcasts are particularly popular with Millennials, many of whom listen while commuting or otherwise on the go.
    • Consumers across generations are drawn to podcasts for different reasons – Boomers are most likely to say they want to learn something or lean into a passion, whereas Gen Zers look for laughs and stories.


Millennials have become synonymous with “hustle culture” – and it’s this desire to always be learning, doing, or leveling up, paired with a particularly busy life stage, that contributes to their affinity for podcasting.

Boomers, on the other hand, are entering retirement and many are looking for continuous education opportunities, or simply to learn more about new passions, which we see reflected in the types of podcasts they listen to.

 Action Steps:

    • When developing podcast marketing, consider the context and outcomes your target audience hopes to gain from listening in.
    • For example, orient Millennial targeted ads around added value or information.
    • But if targeting Boomers, focus on teaching about products tied to hobbies or other interests.

Other Digital & Media Research Articles and Insights from Collage Group

Giana Damianos
Senior Analyst, Syndicated Research

Giana joined Collage in 2019 from Indiana University, where she studied economics, political science and psychology. In her spare time, Giana is getting to know Washington DC and its historic architecture.

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The New Marketing Imperative: How Brands Win by Navigating Diverse America’s Evolving Priorities

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The New Marketing Imperative: How Brands Win by Navigating Diverse America’s Evolving Priorities

In 2022, increasing polarization on social issues revealed that America’s cultural divisions are likely here to stay. Further, it has become clear that conventional wisdom is no longer reliable, particularly in regard to where various segments stand on social matters. 

October 3, 2022
David Evans – Chief Insights Officer


Collage Group’s Virtual Annual Member Roundtable is Thursday, Nov. 3 from 1 – 4 p.m. ET

National events are reshaping many of the priorities and perspectives of Americans in unexpected ways. The upshot is that brands may miss the mark if they assume embracing diverse segments requires aligning around a specific activist or political point of view.  

To navigate this minefield, it’s necessary to deeply understand where America’s diverse consumers stand on these issues and how they respond to brand activism. 

CMO Panelists

Francesco Lagutaine
Chief Marketing Officer

Michael Smith
Chief Marketing Officer

Gary Osifchin
Chief Marketing Officer & GM, US Hygiene

Here are some highlights from our agenda. Download the full agenda.

America Now 2022: Harnessing American Identity to Navigate Social Issues

Our Keystone presentation, America Now, will reveal Americans’ stances on major issues including race relations, abortion, climate change, LGBTQ+ rights, and challenges with personal finances and inflation. Throughout this presentation, we will go deeper than ever before, addressing if and how Americans want brands to respond to these social issues. 

The core of our research unveils how diverse consumer segments respond to the central ideas that have driven marketing for decades, such as the belief in the American Dream. In a time of radical cultural transformation, learn how brands can activate diverse segments with these core ideas in flux.

CultureRate Ad and Brand Performance: Engage Diverse Consumers with Lessons in Cultural Fluency

In this section of the Roundtable, you’ll access insights learned from our proprietary CultureRate database as we reveal new learnings into how your brand can differentiate and win across the diverse consumer spectrum.

Whether you are targeting across all consumer segments, working to resonate with multicultural consumers generally, or targeting a specific race or ethnicity, this research covers the bases on what works and why in ads–and provides examples from the brands that are winning in each case.

Our team calls out key lessons from winning brands and ads to guide you as you plan your marketing campaigns post- mid-term elections and into the new year.

CMO Panel: Succeeding Amidst America’s Cultural Divisions

Collage Group members have thought deeply about how to successfully navigate America’s cultural divisions that are likely here to stay. In this panel discussion with Chief Marketing Officers from America’s iconic brands, including M&T Bank, NPR and Reckitt, you’ll hear directly from them about the actions they are undertaking in marketing and insights strategy to successfully navigate the new social landscape.

Don’t miss this chance to learn how to navigate the challenge of connecting with diverse American consumers–across race, ethnicity, generation, sexual identity, and gender. Reserve your spot today!


Other Recent Research Articles & Insights from Collage Group

David Evans
Chief Insights Officer

David serves as the Chief Insights Officer responsible for content, data science and innovation. He is passionate about creating the critical insights that can transform the fortunes of our members, informing how we create an unparalleled member experience with our products, and build great places to work.

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America Now: Mental Health

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America Now: Mental Health
Mental health is an important issue for Americans – now more than ever. Our 2021 Roundtable Presentation, America Now, offers insights that help explain how Americans are feeling about mental health and what brands can do to support them. Read on to learn more.

May 6, 2022
Sudipti Kumar – Associate Director


Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are at an all-time high in the United States. Increased political polarization, heightened racial tension, and the ongoing pandemic are just some of the reasons that contribute to a lower overall sense of well-being for Americans. In a recent survey we conducted, we found that Gen Z Americans are the least likely to be satisfied with their physical and non-physical well-being, including their mental and emotional health.

In addition to the factors affecting all Americans, social media likely has an outsized impact on Gen Z’s mental health. Our survey data reveals that Gen Z is the least likely to feel confident in themselves, while also being the most likely to compare themselves to others on social media. And then there’s recent research, including Instagram’s internal research, that highlights the potentially negative impact of social media on younger people(1).

Something else that likely adds to young Americans’ struggles with mental health is the belief that they can’t show their emotions.  In fact, almost 50% of Gen Z Americans agreed with the statement: “I can’t show my emotions because society tells me I need to be strong”, compared to only 22% of Boomers.

But here’s the good news—despite their struggles, Gen Z’ers want to improve their mental health. When asked where they are most focused with respect to their health and wellness, over 40% of the segment chose improving their mood/mental health. This suggests improving mental health is a top priority for Gen Z, even higher than improving their diet and increasing physical activity.

Now you may be thinking, how can my brand help improve people’s mental health? It turns out there are several ways you can play a positive role and connect with consumers in the process.

  1. Support and amplify influencers sharing openly about their mental health struggles
    Many young Americans (~80%, in fact!) think it’s admirable when a public figure shares about their mental health struggles. Brands that show support for these individuals and amplify their voices will likely capture consumer attention and create affinity. Consider Cartoon Network’s shout out to Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, and ESPN highlighting the many athletes that have spoken up about their mental health struggles including Michael Phelps and Demar Derozan.

  2. Provide supportive resources
    Many brands are creating resources that consumers can use to improve their mental health. For example:
    – Athleta, Simone Biles’ sponsor, launched a new platform dedicated to women’s wellness called AthletaWell just days after Biles withdrew from the 2021 Olympic team finals for mental health reasons.
    – Maybelline New York launched the “Brave Together” program, an online platform to open the conversation around anxiety and depression.
    – JanSport has developed a fully integrated brand effort called #Lightentheload to connect Generation Z with resources to tackle the mental health challenges they face.

  3. Donate to causes
    There are important causes that aim to improve the mental health of young Americans. Stella and Bow donates proceeds of their Rainbow Connection necklace to a charity focused on helping people with depression and addiction. And Philosophy has donated over five million dollars to mental health initiatives via their hope & grace initiative. Consider donating to one or more mental health causes and then use social media and other marketing efforts to let your market know they too can have a positive impact by donating.

Contact us at the form below to learn more about how you can gain access to these diverse consumer insights and much more in our Cultural Intelligence Platform.


(1) NPR, “Instagram Worsens Body Image Issues And Erodes Mental Health”,


Other Recent Generational Research Articles & Insights from Collage Group

Sudipti Kumar
Associate Director

Sudipti is an Associate Director on Collage Group’s Product and Content team. She is a graduate from NYU’s Stern School of Business where she studied finance and marketing, and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs where she received her Masters in Public Administration. In her spare time, Sudipti enjoys reading, cooking, and learning to crochet.

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Health Care Across Generations

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Health Care Across Generations
Each generation approaches the patient journey from a unique perspective. Keep reading for key insights and a  downloadable deck on generational differences in health-related attitudes and behaviors and the emerging consumer mindset.

Health and wellness are top of mind for consumers. With healthcare costs higher than ever, Americans are acting more and more as “consumers” when it comes to their healthcare and health insurance. They want to get bang for their buck by being more choosy and “shopping around.” As a result, they’re more sensitive to price and  think even more critically about their symptoms before deciding it’s necessary to seek care. And when they do, many are turning to cost-effective options like virtual care.

The rise of consumerism in healthcare means you’ve got to be thinking about all the levers that traditional service-oriented businesses have leaned on to win consumers. Highlighting and providing excellent service and competitive cost are two that many in healthcare still struggle with. To win consumers and provide them optimal care, you must understand how these factors are constantly shifting consumers’ expectations, needs, and desires.

Collage Group’s 2021/2022 Health & Wellness Study covers generational differences in healthcare-related attitudes and behaviors. Our research reveals how the emerging consumer mindset affects each generation’s attitudes and behaviors in healthcare.

Download the attached presentation and take a look at a few key insights and implications below:

#1: Gen X and Boomers emphasize doctors’ qualitative attributes, so provide bios that allow each individual doctor’s strengths to shine and focus your marketing efforts on how your organization stands out with excellent service. Your organization has exceptional talent, so make sure you get the credit for it!

What is important when considering a doctor

#2: Gen Z and Millennials emphasize their doctor’s identity attributes, so add filters (gender, race, etc.) to provider search tools to allow them to refine their search for a doctor they value. It’s important to make it easy for them to find a doctor they feel comfortable with. Finding a doctor with shared identity can also help them to feel less anxious.

Doctor preference

Executional Example

Indianapolis-based Community Health Network differentiates their medical facilities by highlighting the exceptional care they offer. Their creative showcases their patient-centric values and community-driven approach (the audio track in the ad was even performed by Community Health Network employees!). The ad affirms the network’s focus on service by communicating the diversity in their providers, showing that every patient can find a doctor who will listen to and understand their unique needs.

To bolster the themes in their creative campaign, Community Health Network has a robust provider search tool on their website. Each doctor has a short bio and an introduction video so that patients can evaluate them on a more personal level beyond their credentials. They can hear their voice and see their smile—as well as learn about their passions in healthcare and their approach as a physician. The website’s search tool allows patients to filter by different attributes like gender and language. The site even has a section for reviews.

Community Health Network screenshot

#3: Younger Americans have a more self-sufficient health perspective. They also say that feeling worried or anxious is the top reason they avoid care. Help them feel more empowered in their health by giving them some control over their health journey. This will help grow their trust and inspire confidence in themselves.

Executional Example

Virtual care company LetsGetChecked was founded in 2015 with the goal of empowering people to manage their own health from home. They provide at-home sample collection kits which can be sent to healthcare facilities for results. They also provide telehealth services. This innovative healthcare approach caters to the unique needs of younger Americans who want control and self-sufficiency in their health journey, and simultaneously are anxious and turned-off by conventional healthcare services.

Contact us at the form below to learn more about how you can gain access to these diverse consumer insights and much more in our cultural intelligence platform.

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Four Group Traits That Best Characterize Millennial Consumers

Four Traits That Best Characterize Millennial Consumers

Our newly updated Millennial Cultural Traits provides powerful new insights into America’s largest generation and one of its most diverse.

One in five Americans are Millennials, the generation born from 1980 through 1996.

As of 2021, this segment is now ages 24-41, with the entire generation of working age, and many now entering parenthood. To capture the growing influence and expenditures of this consumer segment, brands and marketers must deepen their understanding of Millennials.

Which Group Traits best characterize Millennials?

The four Group Traits which best characterize the Millennial segment are AmbitionGo-with-the-Flow, Cosmopolitan, and Tuned-in.

1. Ambition

People sharing the Group Trait of Ambition are driven to succeed, and to focus on the necessary steps towards achieving their goals.

These individuals are most attuned to the future impacts of their daily choices, especially when they know what might make or break their grand aspirations.

Millennials are a generation that’s been dealt a heavy hand. They’ve now lived through not one, but two economic recessions. Many came of age in a poor job market in the late 2000s, stunting their career. And on top of it all, they face rising costs such as tuition, healthcare, and housing. These circumstances have necessitated a “sink or swim” attitude, and Millennials responded by acting towards securing a better future for themselves. They’re the most educated generation to date, they’re borderline “workaholic,” and they take their side hustles seriously – all in pursuit of security.

Although Hispanic Americans firmly believe in keeping and cultivating their cultural heritage, they have had to adapt culturally as immigrants and minorities. As a result, duality is their reality—they seamlessly navigate both worlds with a cultural fluidity that is easy and authentic.

Millennials are always on the grind, so it’s important to offer them ways to be more efficient – to get even more accomplished with less time or effort.

Position your brand as a resource to help them overcome obstacles and achieve success. Celebrate Millennials’ intense dedication, something they probably don’t hear enough amidst the “lazy” and “entitled” stereotypes. And finally, remind them it’s okay to take a break, practice self-care, and treat themselves.

2. Go-with-the-Flow

People sharing the Group Trait of Go-with-the-Flow feel a resilience and contentment towards life.

These individuals are more likely to express a “ce’est la vie” attitude towards their personal situations, accepting that their fates are largely out of their own hands.

Millennials are keenly aware of the twists and turns of life. While many grew up during the booming 80s and 90s, they’ve now experienced several decades of rapid and dramatic change including the 9/11 attacks, the Great Recession of 2008, and the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing recession of 2020. Facing uncertainty is a defining factor of their lifetimes. These young Americans have learned to go with the flow of life and expect the unexpected. They’re resilient and take what life throws at them, while remaining staunchly optimistic.

At the core of it all, Millennials want empathy, so show sensitivity to their unique struggles.

Take a realistic tone when appealing to them. Encourage hope without discounting the realities of the world. And don’t be afraid to use humor to diffuse the tension – to them, this shows that you understand what they’re going through.

3. Cosmopolitan

People sharing the Group Trait of Cosmopolitan value spending time with people of diverse backgrounds and walks of life.

These individuals are more likely to seek out opportunities to engage with people from different cultural backgrounds than their own.

Millennials are an inherently diverse generation that craves novelty and wide-reaching experiences. Many Millennials seek to understand their own diverse heritage as a way to find meaning in a world that has proven unpredictable. And they welcome cultural and personal diversity in their social circles, hobbies, and activities as a way to experience the world in its full complexity.

There’s never been a better time to lean into diversity, and when you do, Millennials will be here for it!

Millennials are often known as the “experiences” generation, and much of what’s driving their thirst for adventure is a desire to experience other cultures. Whether through food, music, history, or more, give Millennials a reason to step outside the box of their everyday lives. Position your products as a way to learn about and experience other cultures.

4. Tuned-In

People sharing the Group Trait of Tuned-In want to keep up with the current cultural moment, especially when it comes to entertainment.

These individuals are more likely to seek out and participate in the latest of trends and popular culture, and to have little shame in going along with “mainstream” tastes.

Millennials—like previous generations their age—desire to be in-the-know when it comes to trends and pop culture. But unlike previous generations, Millennials grew up through the transition of unparalleled technological innovations, inciting a sense of “FOMO” (fear of missing out) and a need to keep up with their changing world. Along the way, technology offered them greater access to culture, trends, and news, spawning deep interests across a variety of topics.

Brands have ample opportunity to play in this space.

This can be as simple as building hype around brand or product news, even if it’s small, to give Millennials something to be excited about. Stay up to date on the pop culture trends Millennials are into so you can connect with them on topics they’re passionate about. And finally, repackage your content in multiple formats, like shows, podcasts, memes, and social media posts to reach Millennials through the multitude of channels they use to stay in-the-know.

Fill out the form below to learn how we can help your brand achieve Cultural Fluency.

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How Multicultural and Youth Consumers are Reshaping the Video Game Industry

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How Multicultural and Youth Consumers are Reshaping the Video Game Industry

The stunning growth of video games and virtual reality within the entertainment industry is attributable to two core segments: youth and multicultural consumers. Brands need to understand how to leverage this passion point to activate these key segments as gamer culture continues to blend with the mainstream.

By 2023, U.S. revenue from video games, eSports, and virtual reality entertainment will exceed that of either traditional cinema or over-the-top (OTT) video streaming. A massive portion of this spend will be due to multicultural consumers, the segment responsible for 94 percent of growth in video game expenditures between 2010 and 2017. But it’s not just multicultural America—81 percent of U.S. consumers play video games!

Here’s what this opportunity means for marketing strategies:

1. Representations of video games and gaming culture are increasingly important in advertisements portraying multicultural and youth segments.

2. Gaming-focused social media platforms, like Twitch and Mixer, offer new channels to communicate with a growing share of your target consumers

3. Gaming conventions and eSports tournaments, such as E3 and PAX, provide new opportunities to demonstrate a shared passion for this growing source of entertainment.

4. Gaming influencers can speak authentically and directly with tens of millions of online followers across both mainstream and gaming-specific media channels

Games and gaming devices present unlimited potential for branded content, in-game activations, advertising, and marketing innovation

As gaming rapidly becomes a mainstream form of entertainment media, it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to understand consumers as gamers—their video game related attitudes, preferences, and behaviors.

The first thing brands need to know is that video games present multiple opportunities to connect with and activate consumers. Much like OTT streaming, there’s an ever-growing list of titles and genres of games available across a variety of devices. And like traditional sports, individuals will sometimes play video games by themselves, and sometimes watch others play. And even when consumers aren’t engaging with video games directly, they follow gaming influencers, share gaming memes, and attend gaming conventions.

Brands also need to understand how to activate consumers through video games. From real-world influencer partnerships and eSports sponsorships to in-game branded content and “avatar activations,” getting video game marketing right requires knowing where your brand has permission to play, and which consumers you are likely to reach.

To provide Collage Group members with an introduction to video games and the consumers who enjoy them, in July 2019 we conducted a nationally representative survey of 1097 respondents, oversampling Gen Z, Millennial, Black, Asian, and Hispanic consumers across acculturation levels for precision within these segments.

Strategic takeaways from our research include:

  1. Gen Z gamers are more likely to watch casual streaming than eSports. Partner with the online/social media streamers delivering casual entertainment to this emerging consumer segment.
  2. Hispanic gamers are most likely to make gaming part of their social lives. Prioritize multiplayer and “party” games, as well as activations at gaming conventions, to reach Hispanic consumers.
  3. Younger gamers are more comfortable with branded content in their games. Think outside of the box! Look out for the opportunities virtual worlds present to show off your brand’s personality.

Understanding how multicultural and youth consumers approach entertainment media is essential for marketing to these already powerful and ever-growing segments.  If you are interested in having an initial conversation with our consulting team about methods to deal with this topic, please contact us directly.

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Amplify Word-of-Mouth Impact in the New Wave

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Amplify Word-of-Mouth Impact in the New Wave
The New Wave—the young, diverse segment of Americans aged 18 to 39—value word-of-mouth and engage it more than older Americans. In this study, we share two steps and five tactics that brands should leverage to drive word-of-mouth in this segment.
As part of our 2019 Roundtable research, we took a deep dive to understand what drives word-of-mouth influence in the New Wave, the young, diverse segment of Americans aged 18 to 39. We found that New Wavers are much more likely to rely on word-of-mouth when seeking out new products than their older counterparts. And it’s become an expectation and necessary step on the path-to-purchase for many of these young, diverse consumers.

Learn about our 2020 research agenda and how access to our syndicated research platform can help your brand connect with the New Wave.

The New Wave is also more likely to engage in word-of-mouth—both online and offline! This is good news for brands—it means you don’t have to work as hard to get these people sharing. The challenge, of course, is making sure that when they share it’s about your brand, and that sentiment is positive.

Our 2019 Roundtable research provides two steps to keep you top-of-mind and at the center of discussion.

  1. The first step is to quantify influence so you can identify the most influential segments in the new wave. We employ two methods to help you quantify influence and identify segments to target. The first uses factor analysis to identify the segments most likely to exhibit attitudes and behaviors related to word-of-mouth.  The second uses an ego-based social network analysis to understand how far influence is likely to spread given the makeup of each segment’s social networks.

  2. The second step is to activate the New wave to share. We provide two tactics to help you amplify word of mouth in the most influential New Wave segments and three tactics to drive word-of-mouth across all New Wavers.

Download the attached PowerPoint deck for insights and executional examples to help you harness the influence power of the New Wave.

If you are interested in joining peer-to-peer calls with non-competitive members to share insights and discuss strategies to manage this issue, exploring custom qualitative or quantitative research for your brand or category, or having an initial conversation with our consulting team about methods to deal with this topic, please fill out the form below. 

Read more about the new wave

Diverse Representation in Ads Is Not Enough to Win The “New Wave” of Diverse, Young Americans

Diverse Representation in Ads Is Not Enough to Win The “New Wave” of Diverse, Young Americans

Across 2019, we analyzed almost 150 ads, gathering almost 100,000 surveys and 20 million datapoints. Using this data, we developed the Cultural Fluency Quotient, a new metric to predict brand favorability and purchase intent, and ran machine learning on the data to derive powerful new insights into what matters for every demographic.  Read on for critical insights into the creative strategy you need to win the New Wave.

Access the Presentation 

Keys to Culturally Fluent Creative for the New Wave

In a climate of increasing tribalism exacerbated by social media polarization, advertisers must appeal to the most complex mix of demographics in American history while steering clear of unintended backlash.  Every quarter has its walk of shame for one or more brands, most recently Peloton for its widely reviled holiday commercial “The Gift that Gives Back” that tanked the stock by over 10% in early December 2019.

As many members know, we have been building a capability we call CultureRate:Ad leveraging a database of consumer response to ads. Across the last 18 months, we have been conducting research based on a new way of looking at brand favorability called Groundswell and Backlash, and applied machine learning to reveal powerful insights into how people from different cultural backgrounds process ads.

As the database grows, our ability to derive deeper insights and develop more predictive metrics increases.  For this study we developed the Cultural Fluency Quotient (CFQ), a weighted combination of three factors that best predict post-view brand favorability and purchase intent, which is then indexed for each demographic.  We ranked ads on CFQ for each demographic and ran machine learning on the top and bottom performing ads to derive the factors that best predict both high Cultural Fluency and what to avoid.

One key insight here is to go beyond performance norms.  We therefore also look at how important a norm is to high CFQ.  After all, it makes no sense to focus overly on how well an ad’s visuals perform (for example), if visuals are not a driver of cultural fluency.  For this reason, we use our machine learning results to derive importance scores an dozens of attributes of ads.  We then plot the results on a 2×2, as shown below.  The winning ads do well (horizontal axis) on what matters (vertical axis).

When we run the numbers, the findings are similar for every demographic. The best ads tell a simple story using ONE multicultural perspective, with attention to authentic texture.  These ads avoid the trap of representing every demographic at once, and ensure the viewer is not confused by the relationship between the product and the story.

The top two insights from this analysis imply:

  • It’s Not Just Casting: Creating common ground is not just “representation.”  You see that in the chart below that People & Characters are not as important as Story and Message. Diverse representation is necessary but it’s only price of entry.

  • The Story is Everything: Storytelling is by far the most impactful way to build cultural relevance. No story, no cultural fluency.

Few ads better exemplify this point than US Banks “Hard Work Works: Flying Home.”

The Cultural Fluency Imperative: How to Win the “New Wave” of Diverse, Young Consumers

The Cultural Fluency Imperative: How to Win the “New Wave” of Diverse, Young Consumers

The 2019 Roundtable Series inaugurated a new chapter in the way we help organizations activate young diverse consumers. Learn about our Cultural Fluency Framework and how applying our three-part approach can help connect your brand equities more reliably to the Group Traits of these consumers.

How should marketers reach younger and more diverse Americans, the generation between 18 and 39 whose spending is set to explode?  To answer this question, we enhanced the Cultural Fluency framework we first introduced in 2017, to better increase the ROI on marketing to a diverse America.

Listen to or download this presentation to learn about:

  1. Our three-part framework for deepening Cultural Fluency for the New Wave.
  2. Details of the New Wave Group Traits, covering the “what, how and where” of marketing to this segment.
  3. Case study examples outlining how a handful of leading brands are activating against these Traits.

Webinar Replay
How to Win America’s New Wave of Multicultural Consumers

The Cultural Fluency Imperative

Indeed, applying a demographic lens alone is not only superficial and impractical, but also ignores the commonalities that bind people together across different cultural experiences.

For that reason, we have developed an exhaustive analytical method for understanding how cultures vary, identifying six cultural attributes that can be used to culturally profile any segment.  This work has formed the foundation of our Essentials of Multicultural and Generational Marketing work.

And for younger Americans in particular, this approach is especially important.  This group has grown up in an environment of intrinsic diversity not experienced by older generations, and which unites their consumption behavior across demographic labels. We call this group the “New Wave” of consumers, those consumers born into an America that was already intrinsically diverse.

According to our research, New Wavers possess six Group Traits as shown in the graphic below.

Understanding “What to Say”

Marketers can use this framework to first understand the core cultural attributes underlying how culture is expressed in the Group Traits of any particular segment.  In this presentation we apply the model to the New Wave.  Please review our Essentials work to see how the model is applied to Multicultural and Generational Segments, or contact your Client Services representative to learn more about applying the framework to your subcategory.

Understanding “How to Say It”

Marketers can use this visual to understand the four elements that impact the cultural fluency of their advertising.  Our CultureRate:Ad creative assessment methodology takes this one step further by applying machine learning to decipher why different groups respond so differently to advertising.  Learn more about Adrate or contact your Client Services representative to commission your own engagement to evaluate the Cultural Fluency of your advertising and to what extent you are exposed to backlash.

Understanding “Where to Say It”

Knowing what to say and how to say it are necessary but not sufficient to connect with the New Wave: marketers must also “show up and connect” in the places that matter to the New Wave – whether in experiential, traditional media, social media, in-store or via various forms of influence.  In 2019, we investigated word-of-mouth  social networks in multicultural segments. 

Webinar Replay

Celebrating Through the Ages: Generational Insights on Holidays and Occasions

Celebrating Through the Ages: Generational Insights on Holidays and Occasions

You asked and we delivered: insights on holidays and occasions are here! Make the most of seasonal festivities by using this data to better connect with both younger and older consumers.


Don’t Miss the Next Webinar 

How to Navigate the Streaming Revolution in a Diverse America

December 4th | 2PM

Our 2019 Holidays and Occasions research reveals what marketers and insights leaders need to know to connect with consumers around major holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween, and special occasions like barbecues and nightlife. We’ve gathered our findings and recommendations from this research into a series of mini-decks that explore how consumer attitudes and behaviors surrounding these events vary across generations. In this bundle of decks, you’ll find insights specific to each celebration along with executional examples of brands activating on consumer festivities.


While major holidays remain important across generations, Gen Z and Millennials over-index on minor holiday celebrations. These niche and culturally-specific holidays are an opportunity to connect with younger consumers who are more diverse and tend to be more inclusive.


Younger consumers are more open-minded towards advertising around niche and culturally-specific holidays. Show Gen Z and Millennials you’re in-tune with what they care about: don’t neglect these holidays and make sure to provide an accurate representation that doesn’t feel “culturally appropriative.”


Gen Z and Millennials are culturally diverse and incorporate their unique backgrounds into traditional holiday celebrations, like eating both ethnic foods and turkey at Thanksgiving. Make sure to capture the “unconventional” yet realistic ways that consumers celebrate holidays to create a personalized connection.

Unleash the Power of Culture with Collage Group to Drive Growth for your Brand.

Multicultural Insights • Generational Insights