New Research: Gen Z Harder to Win Over by Brands, Media, and the Companies Recruiting Them

Original study from Atlantic Re:think, Comscore, and Harvard College Consulting Group finds that what interests Millennials may not appeal to Gen Z

February 13, 2019 (Washington, D.C.)—A new comprehensive research study into Gen Z from Atlantic Re:think, The Atlantic’s creative marketing group, done together with Comscore and Harvard College Consulting Group, finds the media outlets, brands, and careers that appeal to Millennials aren’t as enticing to Gen Z—with the post-Millennial generation proving harder to win over as citizens, consumers, and professionals.

Among the topline findings: Millennial media is not a fit for Gen Z, with respondents reporting lower favorability scores for Millennial-targeted news outlets, compared to news outlets established long before Millennials came of age. They expect consumer brands to exhibit key characteristics, like social responsibility, and they’re less likely to be brand loyal than Millennials—when asked to rate 60 brands on a spectrum from “hate” to “love,” Gen Z had a lower score for “love” versus Millennials across all six categories (technology, entertainment, travel, auto, luxury, and finance). And as Gen Z begins to enter the workforce, the tech industry remains a “boys club”—the generation’s men are nearly 5x more likely to be interested in technology careers than women.

Atlantic Re:think is announcing the results of the research today in a white paper available today. Gen Z constitutes a significant and growing audience to The Atlantic: they comprised over 20% of’s digital audience in certain months in 2018.*

The quantitative and qualitative study surveyed 1,000 Gen Z respondents (aged 18-24) and 1,000 Millennial respondents (aged 25-39) for comparison, and conducted focus groups and interviews with 100+ students at Harvard and surrounding colleges. It was fielded between October-November 2018 and designed to focus on three specific areas as yet untapped in prior studies of this influential demographic: revealing Gen Z’s preferences as a user, a consumer, and a decision maker.

Some of the leading findings are shared below; the full report “Gen Z Doesn’t Love You...Yet” is available now to press. Among the results:

Gen Z the User: Relationship with media and technology

  • Millennial Media is not a fit for Gen Z: Among 13 media outlets surveyed, Gen Z show more than twice the favorability to news outlets established before 2000 than to emerging media companies. As one survey respondent put it: “Some of the more Gen Z oriented news sources are pretty patronizing…in a way that presumes that people who are young are also stupid.” Gen Z also has different content and format preference versus Millennials: they’re more likely to interact with video, and have a greater affinity for art & design, entertainment, and design content.

  • A rationale view on privacy: When it comes to sharing their data online, 42% of Gen Z respondents called privacy “very important,” compared to 54% of Millennials.

  • Utopian take on technology: Overall, Gen Z views technology positively, with 76% saying its made them more creative and 71% saying it’s made them happier, compared to only 47% who say it’s made them more anxious and 45% who believe it’s made them more stressed.

Gen Z the Consumer: Discovery of and loyalty to brands

  • Savvy and skeptical consumers: Gen Z has higher expectations for brands than Millennials, and they’re less likely to be brand loyal. 24% of Gen Z respondents believe the brand matters “a lot” in a technology purchase, compared to 28% of Millennials.

  • Less Love, More Social Responsibility: When asked to rate 60 brands on a spectrum from “hate” to “love,” Gen Z had a lower score for “love” versus Millennials across all six categories (technology, entertainment, travel, auto, luxury, and finance). In order to appeal to Gen Z, brands will need to adopt key characteristics important to them: 82% said social responsibility was a very important or an important characteristic of their favorite brands.

  • Personal Recommendations and Social Media Drive Action: When discovering new brands, Gen Z is most influenced by a recommendation from a friend or peer (55%) and a brand’s social media activity (48%). Influencers held more sway than celebrities (36% vs. 24%), but both carry more weight for Gen Z than they do for Millennials.

Gen Z the Planner: Career aspirations and future lifestyles

  • Tech remains a “boys club:” The divide between Gen Z men and women is most significant in the workplace; Gen Z men are nearly 5x more likely to be interested in technology careers than women, though both genders agree that start-ups are the least appealing companies to work for.

  • “Optimism Gap” between men and and women: Members of Gen Z are generally optimistic about their career prospects, however Gen Z men are more optimistic than women—47% of Gen Z men say they are “very optimistic” about future career prospects versus 41% of Gen Z women. They gap widens dramatically, when comparing Millennial men versus Millennial women—56% of Millennial men say that are “very optimistic” versus only 38% of Millennial women.

The full report, “Gen Z Doesn’t Love You...Yet,” is available to press now.

(*source: Comscore Media Metrix Multi-Platform, Audience: 13 - 24, January 2018 - December 2018, US).


Media Contact:

Helen Tobin / The Atlantic