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Want to engage Millennials and Gen Z? Press play on melding cultures, politics and emotion

Technology & Data

Want to engage Millennials and Gen Z? Press play on melding cultures, politics and emotion


The streaming generation – Millennials and Gen Z – wants your brand to promote progressive values and understand its struggles, a new Spotify report confirms.

This article was sponsored by Spotify for Brands to let readers know about the Culture Next global trends report »

In Australia, 59% of Gen Z and Millennials believe brands should convey messaging of moral support and show they understand consumers’ struggles, says Spotify for Brands’ ‘Culture Next’ global trends report.

For the ‘Culture Next’ global trends report, Spotify conducted qualitative, quantitative and first-party data analyses looking at 5000 Gen Z (aged 15-24) and Millennials (25-38), including 500 in Australia.

The study was commissioned to better understand what’s on the horizon in technology, fashion, music, sport and culture through the lens of the generations driving it.

Other key findings include:

  • 47% of participants believe brands need to ‘soften up’ to consumers who find camaraderie in sharing deep feelings including sadness and loneliness.
  • 61% agree brands should create communities based on common interests and passions.
  • One-in-four agree culture is not influenced by one defining group (like celebrities, online influencers, brands or politicians) but rather by all of them.

The report uncovers a number of themes, exploring the influence of globalisation and connectivity on the generations, our social and real life experiences, what we look for in audio content from brands, and our new ways of consuming media.

Think global

Young people are forming communities that span the globe as it becomes more diverse, cross-cultural and migratory than ever. 60% in the study say they’re friends with someone from a different country and 35% identify more as a global citizen that as a citizen of their country. Cultural cross pollination was made possible by social media, and as these global natives straddle two or more cultures, they feel they have their own ‘third culture’ or personal culture. According to the report, these generations have become natural internal mix-master; in fact, 67% of those making mahraganat music – a genre originating from Egypt – on Spotify come from outside the country of origin. Similarly, “40% of desi hip-hop artists are not from South Asia, and 20% of Afropop creators are not from Africa,” says the report.

Many in the study were found to venture off the digital grid to find tribes, truths and pursuits that make them feel whole. Their choices are driven by purpose.

Spotify recommends exploring new sounds and genres to cleverly tailor messages through genre-based targeting. Podcasts are another popular way streamers are finding their tribes. “Podcasts are built on niche audiences,” says Kathleen Moroney, global head of creative and content at production house Red Apple Creative. “That builds an incredible amount of loyalty.” Thinking small and bridging the gap to real life when using social media for developing campaigns is also advised. “Consider sponsoring smaller, intimate, experiential moments in order to serve a micro-community near you. Or, find emerging artists distinctive to a particular city or microgenre and put together your own concert lineup,” says the report.


There’s no doubt about it, social politics is well and truly unavoidable in pop culture. A feeling of newfound engagement, activism and awareness has overtaken Millennials and Gen Z. 65% in the study say brands need to promote more progressive values and play a more meaningful role in society. Respondents chose environmental protection and honesty as the two top ideals brands should convey in their messaging. For brands, taking a stand may not be enough. Ones that actually make a difference have a much better chance of resonating with these generations. Once again, podcasts emerge as an obvious choice for marketers looking to find content with the right political message.


Perhaps driven by a never-ending news cycle of drama, and with the support of social media friends and networks, Millennials and Gen Z are more comfortable feeling and sharing their emotions. A positive result is our openness to discuss mental health – 47% believe their generation finds camaraderie in sharing deep feelings including sadness and loneliness. Wellness is becoming good business as we experiment with steps to improve our mental and physical wellbeing. Another trend that has emerged is what Spotify calls “homebody culture”. The growing popularity of at-home alternatives such as Uber eats, online shopping and streaming services for bingeing TV all point to a growing demographic of people who favour convenience and are less charmed by nightlife. The research validates the trend. 57% of Millennials and Gen Z say they often want to stay or sleep in, instead of going out. Sleep playlists on Spotify were the third most-played globally by hours in February and March this year.

A majority in the study believe brands should convey messaging of moral support, and show they understand people’s struggles. But here too, they must be authentic, demonstrate an understanding of emotional range and cultural compassion. 55% in the study turn to music to help them cope when they are sad, so it’s a good idea for brands to dial up the emotion; but focusing on the positive, too, can help marketers reach the right audience.


The full report goes into deeper detail on their preferences, behaviours and motivations, and explores how streaming and branded and targeted audio can help marketers cater to them.

Culture Next Spotify





Image credit:Blake Barlow


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