INSIGHTS

Culture Next: The Trends Defining Gen Zs and Millennials

If you’re in the marketing world today, you know the drill by now: millennials and Gen Zs are a big deal, and you need to reach them. But if you really want to do that, it’s crucial to take a step back and understand the broader generational shifts taking place. What is it that sets these generations apart from others? What are some of the pressures shaping their unique standpoint? And how are they making their mark on culture?

Here at Spotify, culture is part of our DNA. So we tapped into our deep understanding of people through streaming to discover the top global trends among Gen Zs and millennials — unpacking their evolving relationship with brands, content, and digital communities. We teamed up with research agency Culture Co-op for a global journey spanning the US, UK, Mexico, Brazil, France, Germany, Australia, and the Philippines. Through a mix of qualitative exercises, expert interviews, survey data, and our own streaming intelligence, we identified five key trends that define this next generation around the world.

To get the full story, download our white paper, which dives deep into each trend with actionable insights for brands. Scroll down to explore a snapshot of these five trends.

Surround Sound

After a decade dominated by visual media and culture, sound is taking center stage. This is due in no small part to the innovation and ubiquity of streaming audio. Through playlists, podcasts, connected cars, smart speakers, and more, sound envelops our everyday. The globalization of music helps us discover; self-help podcasts calm our nerves; audio tours teach us about our surroundings. While sound has always been a part of our lives, we’re now taking a step back to realize just how influential it can be.

53% OF MILLENNIALS AND GEN ZS SAY AUDIO HAS SHIFTED FROM SOMETHING THEY SIMPLY TUNE IN TO, TO SOMETHING THAT COMPLETELY SURROUNDS THEIR EVERYDAY LIFE.

Brand Takeaway:
Thanks to the global ubiquity of streaming, listeners are tuning in everywhere and at any time. And because Spotify is everywhere that streaming is, brands can utilize our Audio Everywhere package to serve listeners in-context messages across platforms (mobile, desktop, tablet), gaming consoles, smart TVs and speakers, connected cars, and even wearables.

Band of Others

The world is more diverse, cross-cultural, and migratory than ever, and young people are responding by forming communities that span the globe. Made up of renegade tribes who celebrate the same micro-cultures, fringe fashion, and social causes, these groups are forging bonds beyond social media to incite change and push the boundaries of belonging. Unanchored from roots and rules, they are drafting their own cultural manifestos.

42% OF GEN ZS AND MILLENNIALS IDENTIFY MORE AS A GLOBAL CITIZEN THAN AS A CITIZEN OF THEIR COUNTRY.

Brand Takeaway:
With the phenomenon of fast-spreading global subgenres like K-pop, young people have become international mix-masters. Marketers have an opportunity to connect with this audience through genre and subgenre targeting on Spotify. This gives brands a unique opportunity to align themselves with emerging cultural trends, then target listeners with contextual relevance as they listen to specific genres.

Subliminal
Attraction

It’s not news that our real-world desires are often rooted in our digital lives. But underlying the way we see, experience, and discover the world is an invisible force that we’re just beginning to understand. The aesthetics, sounds, images, and voices that fill our social feeds and online existence are creating a collective unconscious — one that drives our attraction to people, places, and things, often unknowingly.

61% OF GEN ZS AND MILLENNIALS BELIEVE BRANDS HAVE THE POWER TO CREATE COMMUNITIES BASED ON COMMON INTEREST AND PASSION.

Brand Takeaway:
Podcasts have passionate audiences based around very specific topics. Tap into these niche communities with brand messaging that matches the specific show you’re sponsoring. Consider using a host read and leverage the authentic voice of the show’s creator to adapt your message for their audience.

PolyFly

PolySci has graduated from a college major to a cultural obsession. In today’s pop culture, politics is unavoidable — from late-night monologues to viral Twitter videos to your high school friend’s Facebook rants. It’s a far cry from the apathetic hipster culture that ushered in the aughts. Our research breaks down this wave of pop gone poly: the new strains of fashion, food, entertainment, and more born from today’s angsty and intellectual vibe.

68% OF GEN ZS AND MILLENNIALS SAY BRANDS NEED TO PROMOTE MORE PROGRESSIVE VALUES AND PLAY A MORE MEANINGFUL ROLE IN SOCIETY.

Brand Takeaway:
Don’t just take a stand — do something that helps make a difference. This generation respects brands who authentically express a point of view and spark change.

All the Feels

Drake told the world that he’s caught up in his feelings, and it’s safe to say he’s not alone. There’s a palpable strain of melancholy running through culture today that Gen Zs and millennials are openly addressing. Not only are they tuning into their bag playlists (sad music) and listening to emo-rap (Spotify’s #1 rising genre in 2018), they’re also proactively taking steps to improve their mental wellness. Plus, they’re finding deep camaraderie in openly expressing their feelings. Learn more about the profound community-building that’s arisen from this openness and vulnerability.

59% OF GEN ZS AND MILLENNIALS TOLD US THEY TURN TO MUSIC TO HELP THEM COPE WHEN THEY ARE SAD.

Brand Takeaway:
Consider finding moments to uplift this audience — music is a great place to start. Our audience turns to Spotify to enhance their moods and moments, and the “happy” mood is something we’re inviting advertisers into. Our "Level Up" package uses Spotify's streaming intelligence to target listeners during good vibes playlists, and serves an ad that matches the same upbeat mood.

We also talked to local experts to get their take on how these trends play out here in the US.

“Because podcasts can soundtrack something else that you do — walking, driving, running, working — [their rise] has given people time they didn’t even realize they had to do things like educate themselves on a new interest.”

Gustav Söderström, Spotify Chief R&D Officer

Since this is a Spotify report, it comes with a soundtrack. Listen to our playlist of songs that are defining the next generation around the globe.*

Liner Notes
For this project, Spotify conducted a combination of qualitative, quantitative, and first-party data analysis, looking at Gen Z (15-24) and millennials (25-38). We partnered with Culture Co-op to conduct focus groups in 4 US cities (NYC, L.A., Nashville, Miami), global assignments among 16 young influencers and trendsetters in all markets, as well as experts interviews. We also leveraged Lucid's capabilities to conduct a global survey among 4,000 respondents (500 respondents per market — US, MX, BR, UK, DE, FR, PH, and AU). We then analyzed Spotify's unique streaming intelligence and first-party data to support both macro and micro trends in audio, as well as in broader culture.

*This playlist represents a collection of songs from the artists most distinctive to Spotify listeners in these age ranges: 0-17, 18-24, and 25-29, as well as top songs in each country we surveyed.

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