Marketing to Gen Z: Subcultures are the New Demographics

From Gamer Girls to Adult-ing Hackers to Real-Time Fashionistas: New Horizon Media study highlights five categories and 12 emerging subcultures and action steps for brands

NEW YORK, Oct. 3, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Mass marketers be warned: in a new study by Horizon Media, 91% of 18–25-year-olds say there's no such thing as 'mainstream' pop culture.

Gen Z Field Guide
Gen Z Field Guide

As Gen Z's influence on commerce and culture grows, brands that learn to connect with these subcultures will thrive.

Of all Gen Z's defining characteristics, perhaps the most important is the degree to which popular culture and counterculture have been replaced by a passion for subcultures and niche communities. With an estimated $360 billion in buying power, the highly influential youth culture is defined by its social media habits and algorithm feeds.  Reaching the Gen Zers meaningfully requires marketers to follow them through the labyrinth of personalized worlds they discover through their unique interests.

The Gen Z Field Guide: A Marketer's Manual for Following the Niche Over the Norm identifies five categories and 12 emerging subcultures within the key sectors of Gaming, Entertainment, Education, Fashion, and Beauty. The report, a collaboration between Horizon Media's WHY Group and Blue Hour Studios, provides a roadmap for marketers to connect more deeply with Gen Z consumers, including an audience breakdown and insights into the myriad branding and creative content opportunities that exist within each group.

"As Gen Z's influence on commerce and culture continues to grow, brands that learn to connect with these subcultures will thrive," said Maxine Gurevich, SVP, Cultural Intelligence of WHY Group, Horizon Media's intelligence center of excellence.  "To drive critical mass and conversion, niche and relevancy at scale will trump traditional reach and frequency tactics. Capturing Gen Z's attention requires breaking conventions to develop brand experiences that authentically suit their algorithms. There's a lot of noise when it comes to influencer content, and Gen Z is looking for more intimate spaces to connect on a personal level."

The five categories and emerging subcultures are:

  • Gaming: Streetwear X Gamers, Gamer Girls

  • Entertainment: Horror Healers, Poetic Connectors

  • Education: Adult-ing Hackers, Scientific Edutainers

  • Fashion: Maximalists, Real-Time Fashionistas, UP-thrifters

  • Beauty: Cursed Cosplayers, Beauty ASMR-tists, Cover Boys

"Gamer Girls," for example, are a rising subculture of 3.1 million Gen Zers within the overall Gaming category. These take-no- prisoners Femme-Faze Clan-ers are driven by a cultural shift toward equity and inclusion, breaking gender norms in the spirit of belonging in traditionally male-dominated arenas.

Gamer Girls follow streamers who go beyond gameplay to create vlogs, cosplay, or makeup tutorial content, as well as stylish musicians with a strong online presence. They construct their stylized look through a range of cosmetics, decked-out PC setups, and eye-catching accessory brands.

"A traditionally male-focused consumer brand that wants to connect with this rapidly growing audience can tap into subculture signals to build a breakthrough campaign for female gamers," said Matt Higgins, VP of Strategy at Blue Hour Studios, Horizon Media's full-service content agency. "The brand could build community and fandom by launching a female-focused esports team with anime-inspired apparel and co-branded content channels on YouTube or TikTok that mirror the visually stimulating social media experiences this audience seeks."

Click here to access a marketing roadmap to connect more deeply with Gen Z consumers. For further guidance on how to crack the Gen Z code leveraging these subcultures, Horizon's WHY team and Blue Hour Studios also offer custom ideation workshops tailored for specific business goals.

Methodology

Phase One: Horizon conducted a robust audit of 1000+ pieces of Gen Z-generated content across popular apps and media to identify emerging themes and affinity groups.  Horizon then leveraged WHY's Cultural Intelligence library of established and emerging trends to identify cultural drivers and relevant signals behind each subculture and validated these drivers with proprietary research fielded among Gen Z from Horizon's Finger on the Pulse panel (May 2022, n=986).

Phase Two: The WHY Group conducted in-depth interviews to understand what drives intrigue, fuels connection, and how brands can better engage them. Using MRI-Simmons USA Winter 2022 syndicated research, Horizon profiled each subculture to understand their demographic make-up and audience size among Gen Z's 18+. Horizon Media's proprietary Distillery social intelligence approach was used to dive deep into the media, influencer, and brand affinities of each subculture. In partnership with Blue Hour Studios, the WHY Group ideated tangible and tactical executions to power campaign initiatives and ideas for creative, product innovation, and communications resonant with each subculture.

Horizon Media

Horizon Media, Inc, the largest U.S. media agency according to AdAge Data Center 2022, delivers data-driven business outcomes for some of the most innovative and ambitious brands.  Founded in 1989, headquartered in New York, and with offices in Edmonton, Los Angeles and Toronto, the company employs 2,500 people and has media investments of more than $9.5 billion.  Horizon Media's fundamental belief is that business is personal, which drives its approach to connecting brands with their customers and engaging with its own employees resulting in industry-leading workplace satisfaction levels (Glassdoor).  The company is consistently recognized by independent media outlets for its client excellence and has earned several "Best Workplaces" awards reflecting its commitment to DEI and the life and well-being of everyone at Horizon Media.

Blue Hour Studios

Blue Hour Studios is a social-led content agency that was formed in 2019 and is an affiliate of Horizon Media. Blue Hour builds community and fandom by playing at the intersection of creators, culture, content, and commerce. The company is headquartered in New York and Los Angeles.

(PRNewsfoto/Horizon Media)
(PRNewsfoto/Horizon Media)
Cision
Cision

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SOURCE Horizon Media