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American Teenagers: How to Authentically Engage
Are you effectively engaging teenagers, one of the youngest, most diverse, and tech-savvy consumer segments in America? 

December 5, 2022
Katya Skogen – Director, LGBTQ+ & Gender Insights

Do you know how teens’ behaviors and attitudes compare to the mindset of older Gen Z and the rest of the U.S. population? If not, then you are missing an opportunity to connect with the cohort that’s going through the most crucial formative years, gaining spending and decision-making autonomy, and actively looking for brands that share their values and sensibilities. Keep reading to learn more about how Collage Group can help you win over teens now.

Read on and fill out the form for an excerpt from our
American Teenagers: How to Authentically Engage presentation.

American Teenagers - How to Authentically Engage

There are currently more than 25 million teens in America. Brands have an exciting opportunity to connect with these consumers who are making more independent spending decisions for themselves and even influencing some family shopping choices along the way. But since teens are among the most diverse cohorts of Americans to date, the goal of authentically connecting with them is becoming increasingly hard to attain. To fully capture the attention of today’s teens, organizations must learn to speak their language fluently, follow their lead into the digital spaces they inhabit, and better understand their priorities, hopes, and dreams.

Collage Group offers organizations the insights they need to fully understand today’s teen consumers and how they differ across race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual identity on important issues and topics — at both the consumer and category levels. This presentation dedicated to teens provides insights and inspiration for organizations looking to better understand and appreciate their teen audiences. Watch this webinar replay and download the PowerPoint presentation to explore:

    • External and internal drivers that shape teens’ values and behaviors
    • Their media and entertainment preferences with a special focus on social media and gaming
    • Teens’ decision-making and priorities in several product categories, including apparel, footwear, personal care, skincare, and beauty.

Several key findings and next steps from this presentation include:

Key Insight #1: Today’s teens are coming of age with an expectation of greater diversity in all aspects of life. They emphasize individuality, appreciate cultural differences, and prioritize staying true to who they are.

Context:

The demographic shift to a majority multicultural society, the rise of non-traditional households, and a more open discourse around sexual and gender identity recalibrate the lens through which today’s youth see themselves and others. Teen girls and LGBTQ+ teens have especially high hopes for brands to commit to better representation of people of all backgrounds in marketing and advertising.

 Action Steps:

    • Reflect America’s growing diversity in your advertising. Start working now to win and build relationships with teens by learning to connect with culturally diverse Americans.

Key Insight #2: Many teens are keenly aware of the issues poised to shape their current and future reality. They are compelled to act and many will reward or punish brands for the social stances they choose to take.

Context:

While they are still in the early stages of life and lack tangible political power, game-changing teens feel the urgency to actively advocate and take charge of their futures. They are concerned about many important issues of the day: from racism and gun violence to women’s rights and abortion laws. Many perceive adults as inert, and the decision-makers as completely disconnected from the views of future generations of Americans. Armed with instant and constant access to news and via social media, teens feel an even greater urge to act.

 Action Steps:

    • Look for opportunities to be an ally to these young Americans. But to earn trust, engage in issues that are authentically aligned with your brand values.

Key Insight #3: These young Americans expertly navigate the rapidly shifting tech and media landscape. They enjoy crafting a unique digital culture, but they struggle with the mental toll of social media use.

Context:

Today’s teens are true digital natives. Digital media plays a key role in teens’ lives: For example, social media is both a creative and learning outlet while gaming is as much about social connection as it is about pure fun. Teens, especially Asian and LGBTQ+ teens, are used to being “always online.” But many also crave IRL (in real life) interactions. This dichotomy puts the need to balance and reconcile the images they project online and IRL in sharp focus, further exacerbating their concerns about how they present themselves to the world and the pressure they feel to impress.

 Action Steps:

    • Create consistent and coherent brand experiences across channels — both online and IRL. Deepen brand connections by tapping into their interests offline and in person.
    • Connect with teens in culturally relevant and specific ways but beware of the risk of alienating this segment by demonstrated lack of fluency or by trivializing teens’ digital culture.
    • Model and encourage authenticity to cultivate genuine connections and mitigate the negative effects of social media on teens’ mental health.

Key Insight #4: Despite their relative youth, teens are actively making personal purchase decisions. They do extensive research before purchase: referencing multiple sources, including customer reviews and influencer recommendations.

Context:

Teens highly value their individuality and get creative in curating their looks to reflect their personalities. This is especially true for Black and Asian teens who express their personalities through elaborate and intentional style choices. But it’s also driven by the pressure they feel to keep up their appearance for fear of judgment. How they look bears on their day-to-day confidence.

 Action Steps:

    • Offer a variety of unique items to inspire teens to experiment with their style and express their individuality.
    • Provide comprehensive information and assistance — in-store and online — to help teens navigate the purchase process.
    • Utilize guided selling tools and user-generated content to create more personalized recommendations.

Other Gen Z Research Articles and Insights from Collage Group

Katya Skogen

Katya Skogen
Director, LGBTQ+ & Gender Insights

Katya leads Collage Group’s LGBTQ+ and Gender research. Her other interests include multicultural segments as well as consumer behaviors and attitudes in the context of media, technology, food and beverage, and retail industries.

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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

Context:

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.

Context:

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

Context:

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

Context:

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.

Context:

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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America Now: Gen Z Women Key Issue – Sexism

This research is part of a series that expands on our 2021 Roundtable Presentation, America Now. Read on to learn how Gen Z women stand out for their prioritization of reducing sexism.

2017 was a pivotal year for women in the U.S. The day after President Trump was inaugurated, millions of Americans across the U.S. participated in the largest single-day protest – The Women’s March – to support gender equality and protest the President’s anti-women statements. Later that year, the #MeToo movement gained momentum as more women broke their silence as survivors of sexual abuse and revealed the prevalence of sexual violence against women. With increased visibility on women’s issues, women have reported that their gender identity has become more important to them over the past few years. This is especially true of Gen Z women; 55% agree that their gender is now a more important aspect of their identity than it used to be. Brands can better engage with consumers by understanding how Americans’ identities shape their views on social and political issues, and what they expect from brands like yours in engaging with these issues.

In a recent study, Collage Group asked Americans what three social and political issues are most important to them and found that Gen Z women are unique in wanting to see the reduction of sexism in society. 33% of Gen Z women feel reducing sexism is one of the most important social or political issues today, compared to just 10% of Millennial women, 7% of Gen X women, and 3% of Boomer women.

Gen Z women’s perceptions on the importance of reducing sexism is even more pronounced when it comes to their support of brands. Over half of Gen Z women will reward brands that support reducing sexism. And while older women tend to prioritize other social and political issues over sexism, many are still more likely to support brands that will confront sexism.

Across generations, women want brands to address sexism by paying them equally to men for the same jobs and offering training for employees so they can identify sexism and combat it. Gen Z women, however, stand out from older women by wanting brands to address sexism in other ways too. Half of Gen Z women also want brands to hire women to leadership positions. And over one in four want brands to make public statements about sexism and donate money to organizations that work to reduce sexism.

Contact us to find out how you can access the full America Now report with these insights and much more.

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America Now: Younger LGBTQ+ Americans Have High Expectations for Brands

This research is part of a series that expands on our 2021 Roundtable Presentation, America Now. Read on to learn more about LGBTQ+ consumers, their perspective on gender and sexual identities, and what they expect from brands like yours.

Brands can better engage with consumers by understanding how they view different aspects of their own identity. Race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, and gender are just a few of the many elements of a person’s identity impacting how people see themselves and shaping their expectations for brands. LGBTQ+ Americans, especially those who are younger, tell us that their sexuality is becoming an increasingly important aspect of their identity. As a result, brands have to step up their inclusive marketing practices and oftentimes that means deftly engaging with social and political issues.

In a recent survey, Collage Group asked people to choose the most important aspect of their identity. Personality came out on top, followed by race, and country of origin. Just 8 percent of LGBTQ+ people responded that sexuality is the most important aspect of their identity. However, the importance of sexual identity is on the rise for this segment. Over 50 percent of LGBTQ+ respondents agree that their sexuality has become an increasingly important part of their identity in recent years. This is especially true for those between the ages of 18 and 40 years old. Younger LGBTQ+ are also significantly more likely to say their sexuality plays an increasingly important role in their identity than older LGBTQ+ Americans.

Importance of Sexual Identity for LGBTQ+ People

As sexuality becomes a more important element in how LGBTQ+ see themselves, brands must improve their efforts to accurately represent sexuality and gender in advertising — especially when targeting younger and multicultural LGBTQ+ consumers. Only 39 percent of LGBTQ+ respondents say they’re satisfied with portrayals of their sexuality in advertising, significantly less than the approximately 53 percent of non-LGBTQ+ respondents who agree. Seeing their own sexual identity portrayed in advertising matters a lot to 42 percent of young LGBTQ+, significantly higher than older LGBTQ+ respondents. Similarly, for gender portrayals, over a third of all LGBTQ+ say it matters a lot to see advertisements with people of the same gender identity. Doing this comes with great benefits, as young LGBTQ+ are more likely to buy products and services from brands that challenge gender stereotypes in their advertisements.

LBTBQ+ Americans identify more with their sexuality

Beyond mere representation in advertising, LGBTQ+ consumers also desire to see brands engage in social and political issues impacting their community. About 40 percent of LGBTQ+ respondents agree that brands should focus on social and political issues even if they don’t directly relate to their products and services. 

Overall, most LGBTQ+ respondents prefer brands to get involved by educating consumers about LGBTQ+ rights and discrimination. However, young LGBTQ+ consumers would also like to see brands hire more LGBTQ+ in leadership positions and donate to LGBTQ+ causes.

America Now - LGBTQ and Identity - Collage Group

Contact us to find out how you can access the full America Now report with these insights and much more.

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Most Americans (58%) Want Businesses to Engage in Social and Political Issues

One in Four Gen Z Consumers Will Stop Buying from Brands That Do Not Take a Stance on an Important Issue

November 10th, 2021
Mollie Turner – Senior Director of Marketing

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American consumers are experiencing a second year of unprecedented change, giving 2020 solid competition for an emerging set of challenges for U.S. businesses. Political polarization, COVID-19, race relations, immigration, LGBTQ+ rights and climate change have been top of mind for consumers this year–leading to shifts in consumer expectations of businesses.

“Most Americans want brands to engage in social and political issues,” says David Wellisch, Collage Group CEO and Co-Founder. “The numbers are even more striking when we look by specific issues. For example, 85% of Americans want brands to play a role in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and alleviating its impact. And, then there’s the stick—we see younger Americans, bicultural Hispanics, and Black Americans are much more willing to penalize brands for non-action on issues they see as important.”

These are just a few of the many datapoints on shifts in American consumer behaviors since 2020 available in Collage Group’s America Now: How We Have Changed Since 2020 report. Research led by Chief Insights Officer David Evans, Senior Director of Product & Content Bryan Miller, PhD, and Director of Product & Content Jack Mackinnon, unveils changes to diverse consumer attitudes at a key juncture in American history. The results come from a survey fielded in September 2021 of 3,785 Americans, representing Americans across race, ethnicity, generation, sexuality and gender.

Fill out the form to view a recording and download a sample from our research presentation, Multicultural America Now.

Multicultural America Now

Key insights illuminated in the research include:

  1. Most Americans (58%) Want Brands to Engage in Social and Political Issues
      • Stopping COVID-19, improving race relations and halting climate change are the top three social and political issues consumers want brands to support.
      • The majority (85%) of Americans want brands to play a role in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and alleviating its impact.
      • The majority (59%) of Americans believe corporations bear the responsibility of fighting climate change – not individuals.
      • The majority (55%) of consumers across all generations acknowledge the urgency of taking action on climate change.
  2. Race and Ethnicity is the #1 Way Multicultural Americans Self-Identify, Regardless of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, or Sexuality­
      • Race and Hispanic ethnicity are the most common self-descriptors for multicultural Americans, ranking higher than personality, age/life stage, country of origin, being American, sexuality, gender and more.
      • Multicultural Americans report an increased interest in buying from brands that support people of their racial and ethnic background—an ~11% increase on average in 2021 comes on top of a 2020 baseline of ~52% of consumers.
  3. Empathetic Gen Z Support Black and LGBTQ+ Americans Much More Than Older Generations (+15%)
      • The majority of Gen Z consumers wants brands to support women (56%) and Black Americans (55%).
      • Inaction is risky for brands with younger consumers, as 26% of Gen Z would stop using or buying a brand if it did not take a stance on an important issue.
  4. COVID-19 Worries Remain for Two-Thirds of Americans, and Their Concern Is Tied Primarily to Economic Factors (64%)
      • Nearly two-thirds of Americans are still concerned about COVID-19, with Asian Americans feeling the most concern at 72%, up 4% since 2020.
      • Most Americans (64%) are concerned they may not have enough money to keep up with monthly expenses; Hispanic Americans are the most concerned with 3 in 4 (74%) citing the concern.
  5. Many Multicultural Americans Have Reprioritized What Matters Most to Them vs. One Year Ago
      • Multicultural Americans say being happy and healthy (41%), saving money (33%) and supporting family and community (27%) are now their top priorities.
      • The majority (54%) of Hispanic Americans say being healthy and happy is much more important to them today than it was one year ago.

“Engaging authentically with an increasingly diverse America can be hard, and missteps are easy,” says David Wellisch. “But our research illustrates that not engaging is not an option, especially during challenging times. This is consumer expectation.”

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Other Recent Gen Z Research Articles & Insights from Collage Group

Mollie Turner

Mollie Turner
Senior Director of Marketing

Mollie Turner is the Senior Director of Marketing at Collage Group where she leads growth, engagement and brand initiatives. She is a seasoned marketing and communications executive, with 20 years of experience spanning B2B, non-profit and agency roles across various industries.

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Fundamentals of Generational Marketing: Passion Points
Passion Points are the activities and areas of life people are deeply interested in.
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They are the “things” that people prioritize when spending their time, money, and attention. They are concrete expressions of culture. This research offers brands and marketers important insights to win over consumers from all generational cohorts.

Learn more in this download from our Engage Gen Z and Millennial Passion Points presentation.

Engage Gen Z and Millennial Passion Points

What matters most to Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z?

Our topline results show that consumers generally opt for TV and Movies, Music, and Food. Boomers and Gen Z consumers tend to have more fluctuations in their passions with higher peaks and lower valleys than Gen X and Millennials. Boomers are more likely to say they are interested in religion, while Gen Z over-indexes in music and games. Gen Xers often find themselves between Millennials and Boomers, such as their passion for traveling. 

Millennials, known for their love of new experiences, are significantly more interested in staying active than the older two generations.

Beyond these top-line results, we have much insight as to which generational cohorts over or under-index on various topics such as movies & tv shows, music, food and travel.

Here are four important data points from the study:

1. Movies & TV Shows

On the left, you see the favorite movie genres for the total population. Comedy and Action/Adventure are the overall winners. On the right, though, we see the responses of each generational cohort.

Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to prefer genres like horror (Gen Z), fantasy, and animation, including anime. Gen X and Boomers, however, are more likely to choose a drama, thriller, or science fiction option.

2. Music & Audio

Looking through the chart, you’ll see that the generations have distinct tastes in music genres – at least between older and younger generations. For the total population, Rock is most popular, with 42 percent of consumers saying it is in their top three music genres. But both younger generations under-index on rock music. Especially Gen Z, where only 25 percent say they choose rock. Gen Z and Millennials over-index on liking Hip-Hop and R&B and are more open to K-pop as well.

This is aligned with what we know about younger generations generally – they’re more racially and ethnically diverse, and this is reflected in their diverse music tastes as well.

3. Food

When it comes to food, one big question is whether American consumers consider themselves “foodies,” who prioritize taste and experiential eating, or “health nuts,” who prioritize nutrition and diets. 

Here, we see that more Americans consider themselves “Foodies” than “Health Nuts.”

We also see some interesting generational variation here.

On the left, we see that about half of Americans consider themselves “Foodies,” and that Millennials – at 61 percent – is more likely than all other generations to believe this.  And on the right, we see that less than a third of the total population considers themselves “health nuts.” Gen Z and Gen X consumers hold to that average, but the big differences lie between Millennials and Boomers. 

So far, we’ve seen a lot of trends hold to a younger vs older dichotomy, but when it comes to food-related identity, Millennials really stand out as being food-focused. Boomers are not as focused on considering themselves a foodie or a health nut. While most Americans call themselves “foodies,” Millennial Americans lead the “health nut” trend.

4. Travel

For many people, the main tossup is between domestic versus international travel.

On average at the total population level, consumers are pretty split between the two, but preference for domestic taking a slight lead.

However when we break the data down by generation, we see a pretty clear pattern amongst consumers. 

Younger people have a distinctly stronger desire to travel abroad – especially Gen Z, at 61%, they are significantly more likely than all other generations. Millennials are an even split. Older generations are where we see a stronger preference for domestic travel. Boomers are the most likely generation to prefer traveling within the US over traveling abroad – about three in four. Perhaps driven by a desire to stay closer to home.

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Principles for Engaging Younger, More Diverse Consumers: Deep Dive into Gen Z
Understanding America’s Diverse Consumers

Gen Z, the generation born from 1997 to 2012, is one of America’s most influential consumer segments.

One in five Americans are part of this generation and it is the second largest: at 75.6 million people, Gen Z is only slightly smaller than the Millennial generation at 75.8 million. These younger consumers, now 8-to-23 years old, are highly invested in their beliefs and passions, and orient toward inclusion and diversity not seen in older generations.

How can you capture the growing influence and expenditure of this influential, younger consumer segment and earn their loyalty for years to come?

Understanding the unique characteristics of Gen Z Americans – from trends and experiences to expression and entertainment – can help you authentically engage. In April 2021, Collage Group’s Chief Insights Officer David Evans explored key areas of our consumer fundamentals for Gen Z in this deep dive presentation hosted by the Insights Association.

Fill out the form to watch the full presentation and download an excerpt of the deck.

In the full presentation you’ll find a deep dive into Gen Z demographics and economic opportunity, identity-related marketing expectations, cultural traits and passion points. Read below for a five key insights into Gen Z consumers.

1. Gen Z is coming of age in an intrinsically diverse society, with multicultural consumers representing nearly half of all Gen Z Americans.

This generation is among the first in American history to be defined by the multicultural experience, and 27% of Gen Z are first- or second-generation Americans. You cannot appeal to Gen Z Americans without respecting their complex set of identities.

2. Younger generations, specifically Gen Z, are increasingly likely to identify as LGBTQ+.

This is an interesting phenomenon we identified in our research on consumer identity, which suggests that as society is more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, and people discover the myriad possible identities out there, young people are more willing to embrace their LGBTQ+ identities.

3. Gen Z is on track to be the most educated generation, but this comes at the steepest price in history.

Those entering collage now face approximately $37,650 in tuition and fees for attending a private, nonprofit four-year university.

The confluence of high levels of education, at a high cost, and the difficult economic and social realities of our current climate play into the cultural traits we’ve identified for Gen Z, specifically “pressured” and “skeptical”.

4. Gen Z has grown up in a period of unprecedented uncertainty, adding even more layers to the stresses of adolescence and young adulthood.

Most recently, amid pandemic, economic recession, political polarization and social justice movements, Gen Z has had a lot to bear within a very short span of time. Unsurprisingly, Gen Z is struggling to find balance between meeting others’ expectations and living their desired lives – and much more so than other generations.

5. Gen Z Americans see many challenges standing in the way of their futures that society has failed to address.

These young consumers tend not to trust many institutions and believe brands and corporations should play a role in addressing the problems they face.

Are you interested in learning more about Gen Z consumers and how to apply these insights to your campaigns?

Collage Group’s consumer research database now contains insights from hundreds of studies, thousands of questions and millions of data points on American consumers across ethnicity, generation, sexuality and gender. With more than 35 original studies released each year, you can dive deeper into the cultural traits, identity, passion points and more of Gen Z Americans, as well as other high-grow diverse consumers.

Through our Generations consumer research platform you can access to the insights you need to understand and engage the attitudes, behaviors and values of all generational segments: Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X and Boomer. Contact us to learn more.

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Five Essential Things To Know About Gen Z Consumers

Want to better connect with Gen Z? Read on for 5 takeaways and a presentation centered on enhancing your brand's ability to authentically connect with the Gen Z generational cohort.

Collage Group’s Essentials of Gen Z consumers presentation explores three areas of our consumer fundamentals research for the generational: demographics and economic opportunity, identity related marketing expectations, and Cultural Traits. Read below for several takeaways and then fill out the form to download an excerpt of the study.

Gen Z Essential Traits

1. Gen Z (aged 8-24yrs old in 2021) are more diverse than older generations. In fact, Gen Z is on the doorstep of becoming a majority minority cohort; 49% of the generation are people of color. Gen Z’s intrinsic diversity equates to greater expectations for inclusive marketing practices.

2. Gen Z is also significantly more likely to identify as LGBTQ+ than older generations. The difference between older Millennials (31-39 yrs. old) and older Gen Z (18-23yrs old), alone, is sharp: almost twice as many older Gen Z Americans identify as LGBTQ+ than their Millennial counterparts.

3. New Wave generations – Gen Z and Millennials—are more likely to say they go out of their way to support inclusive brands. Gen Z were also the only generation that included looking for brands that support LGBTQ+ and racial justice in their top five priorities.

4. Gen Z is uniquely open about their sexuality. This is even significantly different from Millennials. 20% Gen Z claim their sexuality as a primary means of self-identification. That’s a stark break from previous generations, where sexual identity is more of a taboo subject.

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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.

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Four Group Traits That Best Characterize the Gen Z Consumer Segment

Our Gen Z Cultural Traits research provides powerful new insights into America’s youngest and still-emerging consumer demographic. Read on to discover the four essential traits you need to know about Gen Z consumers.

One in five Americans are members of Gen Z, the generation born from 1997 through 2012. As of 2020, this segment is now ages 8-23, with many now finishing their education and (attempting to) enter the workforce. To capture the growing influence and expenditures of this consumer segment, brands and marketers must deepen their understanding of Gen Z.

Download an excerpt from our presentation, Appeal to Gen Z Cultural Traits:

Across the last several years, Collage Group has been developing powerful new tools to help brands become more Culturally Fluent. Our Cultural Traits are central to this effort. These data-driven tools provide measures of cultural variation that reveal insights into the similarities and differences across consumer segments.

Which Group Traits best characterize the Gen Z segment?

The four Group Traits which best characterize the Gen Z segment are Pressured, Skeptical, Recognition-Seeking, and Self-Expression.

1. Pressured

People sharing the Group Trait of Pressured tend to feel overwhelmed by their many obligations.

A major source of tension with these individuals is balancing the expectations of achieving external measures of success with the desire to live life the way they truly want to.

Gen Z faces a variety of life-stage pressures which manifest in ways no generation has seen before. Family pressures can be rather intense in the face of households navigating multiple economic disasters in the span of only a decade. Social pressures are more pronounced in the age of social media, where “fitting in” requires constant participation in the editing and filtering of one’s everyday life. And pressures to succeed academically and in the workforce have just recently hit a major roadblock in the combined recession and social distancing of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amidst these pressures, it is important to remind Gen Z consumers that they need to take care of themselves. Despite “self-care” having youthful connotations, America’s youngest consumers are the least likely to prioritize their health – physical, mental, or otherwise. 

2. Skeptical

People sharing the Group Trait of Skeptical lack confidence in their own specific futures and life journeys. Not seeing much to be hopeful for in the world around them, these individuals are more likely to fear the worst and worry about whatever lies ahead.

From Gen Z’s perspective, it makes sense to be worried about the future. From the ever-looming existential threat of climate change to increasing awareness of racism, sexism, wealth inequality, and gun violence, much seems to stand in the way of young consumers living happy and fulfilling lives. Gen Z doesn’t have faith in many traditional institutions as they currently operate, and they are on the lookout for new and innovative solutions.

And Gen Z is very open to brands being part of these solutions. These young consumers are most likely to say that companies and organizations should play an active role in addressing social issues, even if there is no direct relation to their product or category. 

3. Recognition-Seeking

People sharing the Group Trait of Recognition-Seeking are proud of their accomplishments and want to receive external recognition for their good work. These consumers are therefore more receptive to positive reinforcement, through reminders of what they have already accomplished and what they still stand to achieve.

Amidst all of today’s challenges and uncertainties, Gen Z wants to know they are on the right track. Moreover, these young consumers know they will have to distinguish themselves to get ahead in an increasingly competitive and specialized workforce. As a result, Gen Z prizes being perceived as intelligent, interesting, and successful at what they do.

But these young consumers also recognize the essential contributions others have had in their success. In the digital age, there is a growing awareness of reliance on shared platforms for educational, professional, and personal achievement. 

4. Self-Expression

People sharing the Group Trait of Self-Expression have talent and creative potential they can’t wait to share with the world. These individuals know they have something special to offer, and they are therefore more likely to take whatever opportunities they can find to broadcast their craft and artistry.

For Gen Z, Self-Expression is an important means of exploring and refining their individual senses of identity. Gen Z is more likely than any other generation to describe themselves to others based on their hobbies and special interests. Expressing these interests through creative outlets – including social media – is therefore a more personal affair than it might be for older consumers. Brands have ample opportunity, then, to facilitate Gen Z’s exploration and expression of identity.

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