YouGov Teen Profiles – a better way to understand and engage Gen Z
July 23rd, 2021, Hoang Nguyen

YouGov Teen Profiles – a better way to understand and engage Gen Z

As the most diverse generation in American history and the first true cadre of digital natives, Gen Z is growing in its influence. Like every generation before it, Gen Z is beginning to reshape our culture and media.

In order to help brands that rely on younger audiences or those that want to take a closer look at how to communicate to Gen Z, YouGov has launched Teen Profiles - a profiling tool which collects consented data direct from 13- to 17-year-olds.

Let's look at a few of the insights available from the database and how brands might engage with the Gen Z marketplace.

What America’s future wants from their own futures

After a year of disruptions and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to understand Gen Z’s attitudes and aspirations. Many high schoolers around the nation were forced out of classrooms as education shifted online for safety and health reasons. This may explain why the top ambition in the next five years among pre-adults in Generation Z is to graduate high school (72%).

Coming in at second is learning to drive (48%), followed closely by graduating college (41%), learning new skills (41%) and traveling. Notably, roughly two in five pre-adult Gen Z respondents seek a sense of independence and say they want to move out of their parents’ house in the next five years (37%).

Looking ahead to Gen Z’s looming impact on the economy as they enter the workforce, YouGov’s Gen Z survey finds key differences in the career hopes of teenage boys and girls, as well as what they want from their jobs:

  • Teenagers dream of fame and creating video content. The data reveals that just as many Gen Z teens say they want to work for themselves (23%) as say they want to work for a company (21%). This idea aligns with their job aspirations and of the job roles listed in the survey, one in ten Gen Z respondents aged 13 to 17 say they want to be a vlogger, YouTuber or professional streamer (11%).
  • America’s youth also gravitate toward careers in health care. 8% of Gen Z say they aspire to be a doctor or nurse, with notable divergence by gender. Teenage girls are also significantly more likely than boys to desire a career in health care (13% vs. 5%).
  • Arts or sports? There’s a gender divide. One in 11 Gen Z boys (9%) say they want a career in professional sports compared to just 1% of girls. Girls, on the other hand, are significantly more likely to aspire toward being actors (10% vs 3% of boys) or artists (7% vs. 3%)
  • Money is important but so is a sense of purpose and knowing their career will help others. When asked about the characteristics they want to see in their future jobs, 22% of America’s youth say that money will be most important to them, followed by feeling fulfilled through a sense of purpose and the ability to help others (16%). Teenage girls are nearly twice as likely as boys to say they want a sense of purpose from their future job (23% vs. 12%) and a greater share of girls say this is more important to them than monetary compensation.

Ways to reach and engage with Gen Z

Gen Z tends to spend a lot of time in front of screens and on social media—more than a quarter of teenagers say they use social media more than five hours a day—making digital marketing and advertising the best way to get brand content in front of this young crowd.

Virtually all Gen Z respondents say they rely on a streaming service or platform for their TV content (94%) though more than three-quarters of this audience say they watch TV live (78%).

Diving deeper into the platforms they use to stream TV, Netflix (73%) reigns among teenagers and especially among girls (80% vs. 67% of boys). YouTube (68%) is a close second for TV streaming and again, teenage girls over index in their use of the popular video platform (74% vs. 63% of boys).

While YouTube’s market share for TV watching is strong among Gen Z teenagers, no other video platform commands the attention of Gen Z when it comes to user-generated content (UGC). We asked America’s youth about the platforms they use to watch videos created by other people and YouTube dominates 92% of the UGC marketplace among teenagers with little divergence between girls (93%) or boys (90%).

Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat are also critical players in this space, with teenage girls over indexing in their use of the platforms when compared with boys. Tapping into UGC can be a great way to attract the attention of Gen Z especially if brands are able to partner and work with creators who resonate with this younger audience.

When it comes to advertising, it’s no surprise that social media is one of the best channels to reach Gen Z (39% say this channel is most likely to grab their attention). There are some notable distinctions here, though, especially with half of teenage girls (51%) saying this is the best platform to catch their attention compared with just 28% of boys.

Marketing to teenage boys may be nearly as effective on video game channels as trying to reach them via social media (24% vs. 28%). In a separate analysis, we look at video gaming behaviors and advertising on gaming as a channel.

Find out more about Gen Z and how YouGov Teen Profiles can help brands resonate with this audience

Methodology: The data is based on an overall sample size sample size of 2,187 US teens aged 13 – 17. All interviews were conducted online in June 2021 and panellists were recruited via YouGov Chat. Data is weighted by age and gender.