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How to cut through noise and get Gen Zs listening? One word: music.

If you’re looking for a way to connect with Gen Z, there aren’t many better ways of doing it than through music.

Just as every TV show has a theme song, every generation has its music. Boomers reverently sing along to their favorite Beatles and Stones songs. Gen Xers still gush on and on about their favorite Nirvana, Blur/Oasis and Wu-Tang tracks. Millennials, some now closing in on 40, still keep their favorite concert acts flush with cash. Gen Zers aren’t any different, save for one key distinction: Their tastes run truly global — more so than any previous generation.

A recent study by Sweety High finds 97 percent of Gen Zers report listening to at least five genres regularly: SoCal rap, Norwegian black metal, Nashville country, Seoul K-Pop, UK grime… You can file it under “world music” when it comes to Generation Z.

Given its historic links with advertising, music remains a major opportunity for advertisers to get their messaging across to Gen Z audience segments, niche or otherwise. That being said, there are new strategies for using music to open Gen Z’s ears to what you’re offering.

Hamburger brands dropping mixtapes and diss-tracks? More, please!

One recent UK study finds 85 percent of Gen Z respondents saying that “music is an important part of their life.” Those are massive stakes... but how best to get Gen Zs to the (turn)table?

One good way is through the massively popular Gen Z music apps like TikTok, SoundCloud and others. Much as in the heyday of Myspace, the Millennial-focused social media/music platform that catapulted bands like The Arctic Monkeys out of garageband obscurity and into global superstardom, today’s musicians upload new songs that readily become hits with Gen Z audiences. Brands and companies can use these platforms to reach consumers.

How? Well, take the cases of brands like Wendy’s or Hamburger Helper — and how they dropped “mixtapes” that cursed and dissed on competitors and basically went full-on viral. By putting quirky, inescapably catchy songs into their heads, songs that have all the trappings and studio quality of major-label artists, you can get Gen Zers listening to the brand (and not just the band).

“De-celebrifying” music celebrities so they come across as, y’know, real people

We’ve talked before about how Gen Zers prefer social media influencers to celebrity sports stars and musicians — and that it remains a pain-point for brands who rely heavily on celebrities to help move their product lines. But there are clever ways for brands to get around the “red-carpet” factor and market to Gen Zers via celebrities.

Take Adidas’ recent partnership with top-selling UK grime artist and all-around Gen Z icon, Stormzy. Adidas portrayed Stormzy as a real, raw person — with character faults and all — making him come across as both authentic and relatable to both his fanbase and beyond. It also didn’t hurt when a new Stormzy track name-dropping Adidas “accidentally” got released online, receiving millions of social media shares.

It was a masterclass in Gen Z influencing: By “de-celebrifying” Stormzy into a regular person (who just so happens to be a celebrity musician), Adidas was able to amplify Stormzy’s appeal beyond a niche audience.

Diversity in music equals diversity in marketing opportunities

 Whatever the music genre, brands have near-endless opportunities to broadcast directly into Gen Zers' headphones: rappers like Khalid, Migos, Cardi B or Denzel Curry; country musicians like Tegan Marie; rockers like Muse, Portugal. The Man, Beach Fossils or Maggie Rogers; and Latin-American megastars including Maluma, Becky G and Bad Bunny. With so many acts to choose from — international celebrity-grade or otherwise — it’s an opportunity that brands would best not miss.

John Wheeler
John Wheeler
Contributor, Gen Z Insights

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