Trend forgetters: new IPA research lifts lid on how to connect with Generation Z

Over two-thirds of Generation Z don’t follow popular trends and only one in ten would call themselves a trendsetter. These are some of the key findings of a new IPA report published today (4 April 2019) that uncovers the motivations and values of Generation Z to address how, in light of the lack of mass-market trends, brands can connect with them.

Commissioned by the IPA’s Insight service and carried out by YouthSight, the ‘Gen Z: Exile on Mainstream?’ report is based on the survey findings and unique MaxDiff analysis* of 1,000 16-23-year-olds. It asks whether mainstream cultures and trends matter to Generation Z, questions them on what they want from the world at large and throws up answers as to what brands should be aware of when considering this emergent generation of consumers. It is accompanied by ad agency commentary.

Key findings (with 100 indicating average importance, where relevant):

Their priorities:

  • Generation Z prioritises spending time with their friends and family - with a rating of 171; their wellbeing/mental health at 168 and ‘Having a job they enjoy’ at 149.
  • On the flipside, Generation Z place very little importance on ‘Having a high number of likes on social media’ with a ranking of only 8; ‘Owning the latest brands and products’ at 10; and ‘Being up to date with the latest trends’ at 15.

Their personalities:

  • They do not define themselves as having one personality – with only 4% saying the like to follow the crowd, but instead identify as having a combination of identities, such as foodie, feminist, bookworm etc.

Their future and lifestyles:

  • In light of growing up in political and economic uncertainty, they are focusing on building stability into their futures, with ‘Saving for the future’ given a rating of 130, and ‘Securing a job for life’ at 104, in terms of importance. Coupled with this, over a third (34%) prefer to plan ahead, rather than live day-by-day (12%).
  • They are not hedonistic – and are more likely to care about starting a family (38), than they are to prioritise partying with their friends (32).

Their way of life:

  • They are time poor and choice averse – with 60% feeling an abundance of choice makes it harder to choose, and 69% considering tailoring a product to them in the future. Brands that provide convenience and tailored content therefore appeal most to them, including Netflix, Spotify, ASOS and Monzo.

Their values:

  • Generation Z are principled, empathetic and care about the wider world, with 64% claiming to be activists in some way. They also give ‘Standing up for what they believe in’ a rating of 115, with their top five issues including climate change (38%), mental health (29%), the gap between rich and poor (19%), Brexit (19%) and the NHS (17%).


Says Damian Lord, Head of Insight, IPA: “We find ourselves on the cusp of a new decade and a new generation of young adults born from the mid-1990s up until the early 2000s who are now entering the workplace, earning their own income, and exercising their own collection of attitudes and beliefs. As the research reveals, they are complex, nuanced and at times contradictory. If we are to engage them we must fully understand them and approach them based on their values. We hope this report facilitates this.”

Says Helen Rose, Head of Insight & Analytics, the7stars and Report Contributor: “One of the most interesting and positive themes we’ve seen from Gen Z is their progressive attitude. They’re open minded towards fluid definitions of demographics, other cultures and alternative viewpoints. They’re also positive, but have a realistic filter on what barriers might hinder their future desires. With a view to 2020, Gen Z will have increasing influence on the way brands communicate and engage them as consumers. Three factors for brands to consider are – how to align with their core values, how to be an enabler for the stuff they care about, and how to provide them with recognition for their contribution.”

Says Hannah Jones, Head of Insight, Goodstuff and Report Contributor: “This research reminds us of the importance of understanding people from their own point of view. To throw off assumptions. To explore differences to our own attitudes and expectations. To explore contradictions both within groups and within individuals. This is where the fascinating stuff lies. For example, 16-24s recognise the importance of hard work, but also prioritise their work-life balance. It is these types of contradictions that fuel ideas, and this is a generation who, according to the research, are comfortable with contradiction.”

The report ‘Gen X: Exile on Mainstream?’ Is available to download from the IPA website. Free to members, £99 to non-members. The findings will also be brought to life at an IPA breakfast event on 10 May – free to IPA members and £25 to non-members. The session will include presentations from Tanya Michelsen, Associate Director, YouthSight; Dominic Weiss, Head of Planning, ZAK; Dominic Roe, Planning Director, Recipe; David Yates, Managing Partner, Elvis; and Dan Flynn, Head of Product and Commercial, TouchPoints. They will be joined by a panel of Generation Z.

Last updated 21 January 2022