How my Gen Z teenager consumes content

My wife and I sat down recently to watch the initial episode of The Amazing Race where they introduce the teams that are participating.  This season, all the participants are famous due to social media and I didn’t recognize any of them.  As my Gen Z teenager entered the room, he quickly recognized almost all of the participants.  It got me thinking about how he consumes content and how that might impact his purchase decisions or affinity towards something or someone.

His mobile device is constantly wired to his head and  I often think there is an invisible line that connects his eyes to the screen.  Since he influences some of the larger purchasing decisions in our house (he recently got me to purchase a new PC for him), and he will be a target consumer in the near future, I wanted to get his take on how he consumes content and interacts with brands.

Does he even knows what a brand is? – More on that later.

Below is a Q&A session that I had with him:

Question:  How much live or recorded TV do you watch each week?  What are some of the things that you watch?

Answer:  I don’t watch much television anymore, but probably at most it’s an hour a week. I usually watch things that my parents have on, like The Big Bang Theory, Law & Order and Modern Family. When it comes to live or recorded shows, most of them are recorded, but when we run out of those we switch to live television.

Q:  What are the top five places where you consume content?  What percentage of the content you consume is text, video images or other?

A:   I use my phone the most. I usually watch videos/live streams but I also listen to music and play the occasional video game. I also use it to communicate with my friends by texting.

Q:  How many email or social accounts do you have?  What do you use them for?

A: I have one personal email account and I also have a school email account. I use my personal email account for almost everything that requires an email, and I use my school one during school on the issued iPad. I have a couple of social media accounts but do not post on them, just look at what people are saying or see what is happening.

Q:  Through what mechanisms do you talk to your friends?

A: I mostly use texting and email (to communicate with friends that have moved overseas). I also communicate with a few through videogames, because either they have moved away or I don’t get the chance to talk to them much in real life.

Q:  What brands do you have the most affinity for?  Why?

A:  [Note – my son couldn’t answer this one.  He really struggled with the word “brand” and affinity to any brand.  I followed up with the next question to try to clarify.]

Q:  What are the key factors that would make you purchase from one brand vs. another?

A: The key factors would definitely be how much sufficient quality I could get for a reasonable price. The type of brand doesn’t really bother me, unless it is something like clothes, which can have a completely different feel/texture to them.

Q:  If a new brand was going to try to reach you, what is the best way to engage you?

A: The best way would probably be through a call or an ad on a video. Very rarely do you see an ad on a website or through a text and think “Oh, this seems interesting.”  Usually it seems too good to be true. While watching a video ad, you can usually see more of what the ad is about and have more of a chance of the viewer thinking “Oh, this seems interesting.”

So what does all this mean? 

First, it really confirms some interesting statistics:

Second, the creation of content within a brand’s owned media or on earned or paid media is continuing to become increasingly important.  If you don’t start to reach Gen Z’ers now in the channel where they are frequenting, then your opportunity reach them in the future may dwindle.

Third, to reach Gen Z’ers, you have to think mobile first.  They are less engaged with the big screen on the wall and more engaged with their mobile devices. They also prefer one-to-one communication. They may watch what you’re doing on social media but don’t expect a two-way dialogue.

Lastly, differentiation and quality are still important.  Robert Rose states it perfectly in his article on The State of Content Marketing – “Successful marketers will adapt and change in a constantly evolving media operation that focuses on creating delightful experiences to inform, entertain, engage, and evolve the customer – that’s the business’ sustainable competitive advantage.”