New Gen Z marketing insights: How going niche can help brands connect with them

by | Nov 28, 2023 | Public Relations

It’s not tough to figure out why Gen Z are presenting so many challenges for brands and marketers—if Gen Zers are defined by a single attribute, it’s that their fluid sense of individuality makes them harder to pin down than their older counterparts. New research from Horizon Media presents a new approach based on that truism—going niche.

The new Gen Z Field Guide: A Marketer’s Manual for Following the Niche Over the Norm, from Horizon Media’s WHY Group and Blue Hour Studios, provides a comprehensive yet simple approach to connect with Gen Z’s seemingly contradictory nature. Spurred by prolonged periods of social isolation and widening societal division, this increasingly influential generation has a growing hunger for niche interests and like-minded communities. 

New Gen Z marketing insights: How going niche can help brands connect with them

This can be understood in three key findings:

  • 89 percent of Gen Zers rely on social media to help them discover new content related to their unique passions
  • 65 percent consider themselves a “really big fan of something”
  • 2 in 3 put little-to-no importance on the size of an influencer’s following when determining that creator’s value to them

Further, Gen Z are 30 percent more likely than older generations to feel that having multiple “small interests” is better than limiting themselves to fewer, in-depth subjects. This generation is driving the “era of mass-niche.”

“Our report found that Gen Zers are transforming into active participants, not just passive observers within their communities. They’re actively co-creating, deeply engaging in storytelling, and forging strong bonds as they continuously shape and redefine their individuality across multiple subcultures every day,” said Maxine Gurevich, SVP of Cultural Intelligence of Horizon Media’s WHY Group, the agency’s intelligence center of excellence, in a news release.  “The study also showed the full embrace of individuality without the pressure to conform to their peers and that there is actually an opposite and equally strong pressure to stand out.”

New Gen Z marketing insights: How going niche can help brands connect with them

“New Social platforms like YouTube Shorts and TikTok led to major shifts in how we consume and how we search, increased the potency of these subcultures, and made social less social, and more of an entertainment channel,” said Matt Higgins, Head of Strategy at Blue Hour Studios, in the release. “Brands that see social as the driver of culture and consumption, connect by going niche, and take a social-first approach regardless of channel will win with Gen Z and the audiences they influence.”

This year’s report uncovered 10 new subcultures across five categories: Identity, Entertainment, Sports, Retail, and Music.

Here are a few highlights from the 10 subcultures identified:

  • Nu Third-Culture Kids: Forging safe havens, fostering community, and embracing their multi-cultural and mixed-race identities.
  • Comfort Creators: These self-care enthusiasts are granting permission to unwind in our hustle culture without disconnecting entirely.
  • TALE-gaters: Enter the world of sports by crafting narratives that extend beyond the scoreboard, inviting broader audiences to engage in sports fandom.
  • Copyconomists: Crowdsourcing cost-savvy workarounds that keep them on top of the latest trends without breaking the bank.
  • Country Revivers: Embracing country music’s lighthearted folk sensibility, they’re remixing styles for a broader, more diverse audience.

The 10 subcultures, while diverse, share intersecting passions. No single subculture lives in isolation, they cross-pollinate. In fact, on average Gen Zers participate in 20 different interest-based communities. This is promising for marketers, as embracing a “mass niche” approach doesn’t require isolating marketing strategies.

New Gen Z marketing insights: How going niche can help brands connect with them

Download the full report here.

Phase One of the research: The WHY Group analyzed over 1000 Gen Z content pieces to spot emerging trends and subcultures. Using WHY’s Cultural Intelligence library, they identified cultural drivers and confirmed them via a survey using Horizon’s Finger on the Pulse (August 2023, n=1,130).

Phase Two: The WHY Group undertook detailed interviews to grasp Gen Z engagement drivers. Horizon used MRI-Simmons USA 2023 research to profile subcultures as well as the WHY Group’s social intelligence practice to understand media and influencer ties. In partnership with Blue Hour Studios, they developed actionable campaign strategies tailored to each subculture.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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