Reaching the Unreachable: Connecting with Generation Z

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Learning how to deal with Generation Z will be communicators’ next problem, but it can also be their next solution. Two organizations that are already welcoming the challenge are Vice Media and Hulu. Vice CEO Nancy Dubuc and News Correspondent & Producer Isobel Yeung sat down with Hulu CMO Kelly Campbell for a discussion about how they’ve kept their brands relevant in a constantly evolving state of media.

While anyone between the ages of 15 and 24 years old are generally tossed into the Gen Z bucket, it’s important to recognize that generations are shaped by so much more than age, according to Campbell. They’re shaped by technology, culture and the political climate, among other factors. Regardless, estimated to have more purchasing power than any other generation within a few years, Gen Z is coming in hot, and brands need to adapt accordingly.

Even Vice, dubbed by many as a “millennial whisperer”, according to Yeung, are challenged by the task of appealing to an even younger generation in Gen Z. Vice recognizes that this new generation uses different platforms for different things, and they’ve started catering specific content to different platforms to match those media habits.

Hulu pays special attention not just to where Gen Z is consuming content, but how and why they’re consuming it as well. Gen Z sees television, for example, not as a collection of channels and networks, but as a gallery of shows, according to Campbell. They’re less interested in newer content than older generations because they want to be able to watch a series from the pilot to the last episode of the last season, and they want to do it on their time.

Aware that the on-demand format comes at a price, Gen Z is more receptive of ads, according to Campbell, who says that value tradeoff has made Gen Z-ers 39% more likely to watch an ad, and 29% more likely to pay attention to it. If you keep giving Generation Z what they want, they’ll keep giving back.

That’s why Hulu takes such a personal approach when it comes to creating and recommending content for Gen Z-ers. And it’s why Vice considers it important for news correspondents and other on-air storytellers to look, think and talk like the generation they’re addressing, according to Dubuc.

Separate from the need to cater digital content specifically to Generation Z, Dubuc thinks it’s important to get outside and meet the audience in the real world by way of experiential content. The sense of anxiety and isolation resulting from constant screen time is a reflection of Generation Z’s growing desire for experiences like concerts and travel that come with a personal feeling of community, according to Dubuc.

Vice already plans in-person events and activations like the Vice Expo series in Santa Monica, but Dubuc believes that the experiential nature of their content and their ability to utilize technological innovations like augmented and virtual reality will help keep their brand relevant even as consumer needs shift.

Hulu’s new Culture Lab is one of their plans to keep up with those consumer needs, according to Campbell, who says it’s important not only to pay attention to culture, but how it may be seen through the lens of another generation.

The most effective way to understand another generation is to listen, and not just listen, but ask questions, according to Campbell. It’s because of this that it’s so important that the room you’re in is as multi-generational and diverse as the world we live in, according to Dubuc.

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