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Gen-Z Roundup: December 2021

Matt Lacey

17 Dec 2021 · 9 min read


Gen-Z has arguably the most impactful online presence of any generation, with 98% of Zoomers smartphone owners. Taking this into account, it’s no shock that Gen-Z influencer posts see +2061% higher engagement than brand profiles. As they join the workforce, many zoomers are finding ways to turn social media into their jobs, likely contributing to the group’s average daily screen-time of 4 hours. With all this time spent online, it’s no shock that Gen-Z has a loud presence on social media, controlling many trends, and even selling out stores when products go ‘viral.’

Using Tagger’s Signals Social Listening platform, we measured how some of these trending topics, news events, and music releases from the past month have been shaped by Gen-Z’ers, and what that looks like on social media.

SZA's "I Hate U" meets TikTok

One thing that is becoming more and more undeniable in this age of social media is the influential power of TikTok. This past August, SZA decided to “experiment” and dump a short three-song project on an anonymous Soundcloud account. One of those songs, titled "I Hate You," became the most successful out of the bunch, calculating around 3.8 million plays. By September the song has found its way into a large number of TikTok sounds. The simple line in the hook seemed to resonate with millions of users. The trend propelled the song so much that after SZA found out about the mass reception to essentially a throw-away song, she decided to give it an official release. Since it has formally surfaced on DSPs, "I Hate U" has already gained 33 million streams on Spotify. SZA noted in her Instagram announcement that “Honestly this started out as an exercise. I just wanted somewhere to dump my thoughts w[ith]out pressure. y’all made it a thing and I’m not mad lmao. ask and u shall receive.” Regardless of if she chooses to continue marketing this song (videos, performances, etc.), the fact that she initially released a song in a no-pressure context and then her fans demanded it so much that the pressure made a diamond is insane. There are several avenues for marketing and monetization that are continuously being created for the music industry by way of TikTok. Millennials and Gen Z are in a very interesting space in terms of our multimedia landscape, and it's showing that with enough digital power, influence, and passion, as consumers, we can really get what we want—without dehumanizing the artist.

Since the trend emerged on the platform, SZA’s profile has seen a huge jump in followers from a constant 2.5M to 3.3M (+800k followers in less than a month). The official sound also has over 650k TikTok videos using it (not including the number of videos put out when it was just a Soundcloud release).

Paige Buecker signs groundbreaking NIL deal with Gatorade

The NCAA ruling that was announced in June—and has since proven humongous aftereffects. In short, the NCAA finally allowed collegiate athletes to benefit from their name, image, and likeness. Due to that ruling, we are seeing more athletic marketing cases than we’ve ever imagined as sports fans. Paige Bueckers is a 20-year-old phenom, playing for UConn’s exceptional women’s basketball program—and she’s one of these unimaginable cases. Last Monday, Paige inked a multi-year deal with Gatorade—the first of its kind for the brand. Earlier this month, she formed a partnership with StockX and signed to sports marketing agency Wasserman. Undoubtedly, she’s an amazing athlete, snagging both the Wooden and Naismith player of the year awards. Sports and Entertainment Law professor at the University of New Hampshire, Mike McCann, believes that Bueckers is a "unicorn," and that no other female athlete can reach those levels. I beg to differ, I think that this presents a very bright light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to both the collegiate influential space as well as the women's athletic space. In addition to action shots, trendy dances, and deal announcements, Bueckers uses her platform to shed light on serious issues involving injustice and women’s rights. "Unicorn" can only work as an appropriate term right now, because once we start to see more women athletes utilizing their personal brands, the overall engagement surrounding these athletes will be through the roof.

Paige’s follower count has been on an exponential rise since she landed this Gatorade deal, starting at 930k followers, Bueckers now sits at 950k—gaining 20k followers in just two weeks. She also experienced a surge of mentions from other accounts which resulted in a sum of 366.7k engagements in that one day.

Spotify Wrapped vs. Everybody Else

Two weeks ago, Spotify released their annual Wrapped series—which is basically when they extract and analyze all of your personal listening data to calculate an accounting of your top songs, artists, and playlists from the past year. Over the years, this has become a monumental season, mainly because everybody is either looking forward to sharing or seeing each other's stats. Spotify's presentation is colorful and dynamic, with the overall intention of making it easy to post to different social media platforms. In its 6 years since conception, Spotify Wrapped has walked a fine line between inclusion, F.O.M.O., and free promotion—since everybody is engaging with it in one way or another. Apple Music has also had its own Replay feature since 2016, but it hasn't fared as well in the context of social media. As Spotify continues to set a grand example on how to set a trend, companies like YouTube Music and TIDAL are both starting and expanding their own year-end highlights program. Music is finding more ways to infiltrate and inform our current social media landscape, it'll be very interesting to see what emergent trend comes next.

On the date of the Wrapped release, December 1st, both the Spotify and Spotify for Artists accounts saw a peak of 6.5k mentions. This is a sizable deviation from their joint average of 1.5k mentions (which is primarily maintained by new songs usually released on Fridays. On the same day, Spotify also recorded a sum of 1.1M engagements and 57.1M estimated impressions—a huge spike compared to average numbers.

Gen-Z Takes on the Workplace

Zoomers across the country are bucking back at workplace standards that have been in place for longer than they’ve been alive. Gen-Z is setting expectations for workplaces with 4-day work weeks, hybrid options, and schedule flexibility. Gen-Z is more diverse in terms of race, sexual orientation, and gender identity than any previous generation while also being the second biggest generation to date. Most notably and seen actively on social media, Zoomers have adopted a generally progressive and activist mindset that’s informing them to create and transform their own workplace environments and atmospheres.

90% of Gen-Z workers desire and value a human connection when it comes to their at-work communication.

Virgil Abloh, Your Favorite Influencers Influencer, Passes Away at 41

On November 28th, a highly celebrated fashion designer, creative mind, and entrepreneur, Virgil Abloh, passed away from a two-year battle with cancer. This is an unfortunate loss for the greater portion of Gen Z and a massive blow for the multiple brands that Abloh was associated with. For the contemporary (hype) fashion scene involving anybody younger than 35, Abloh was one of the most influential figures—Time magazine named him 1 of 100 in 2018. In 2012, he founded the Milan-based luxury fashion label, Off-White. The company has had notable collaborations with Nike, Levi, Jordan, IKEA, Warby Parker, and many more. Abloh’s iconic influence came from his overall mission to merge streetwear with luxury fashion. He wanted to make his products and designs credible in all spaces, not just in the NYC streets or a Paris runway. In 2018, Abloh was named artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear line—making him the first person of African descent to do so. Abloh has dabbled in contemporary art with collaborator Takashi Murakami, and he is also an internationally known DJ. He indeed was the new rendition of a renaissance man in every aspect. A lot of things won’t be the same now that Virgil Abloh is gone, but incidentally, many things will never be the same again due to his impact while he was here.

On November 28th, the day of Abloh’s passing and announcement, Louis Vuitton’s sum of engagements across all platforms hit a local peak of 947k. Virgil’s account was also mentioned 3.8k times over the following days with a cumulative sum of 10.9M engagements. Since the 28th, LV’s engagement has generally declined—alluding to Abloh’s true influence.

Adele Back on Top

On November 19th, Adele released her fourth studio album, 30, which debuted at No.1 on the Billboard 200 charts and iTunes in every country. She set a record with the largest first-week sales of 2021, resulting in 839,000 equivalent units being moved. The last time anyone sold more units was in 2017 when Taylor Swift released Reputation. This highlights the intriguing nuances of music artists and consumers existing within a new streaming economy. The industry’s album sales figures are generally declining due to the unfair accessibility of music on specific streaming platforms for fractions of cents. It’s interesting to see what some artists do themselves to overcome this circumstantial curve. For her last project, 25, Adele kept it off of streaming services for six months to promote physical sales. This time, she’s asked Spotify to remove their album shuffle feature, to which they complied. She explained, “We don’t create albums with so much care and thought into our tracklisting for no reason. Our art tells a story, and our stories should be listened to as we intended. Thank you, Spotify, for listening.” In an ever-evolving industry, it’s refreshing to see what kind of changes Adele can inject into our current media landscape.

On November 18th, the night of Adele's album release, we racked mentions of Adele’s 30 including the keywords “new album,” “30,” and “album.” While the mentions spiked around her album announcement, the 18th found 1.2k mentions of the artist in reference to her new album and a whopping 157M impressions.

Drake and Ye Squash Beef and Share the Stage

If you weren’t on Twitter when the rest of the world was watching, on December 9th, Kanye West and Drake headlined an Amazon-sponsored Free Larry Hoover benefit concert, set at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The concert’s primary function was to bring awareness to and support national criminal justice reform efforts, but it also doubled as a public space for them to squash their months-long feud. In tandem with the primary goal, a portion of the event's merchandise—designed by Balenciaga and sold through Amazon—sales will go towards non-profit organizations like Hustle 2.0, Uptown People’s Law Center, and Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change. This event was quite a spectacle; with two megastars reuniting onstage, working in support of one the most infamous black gang leaders in the US, and having it sponsored by Amazon, and executed by their subsidiaries—Amazon Music, Amazon Prime Video, and Twitch. If the money doesn’t eventually turn into a successful clemency petition, and if the two stars never share a stage again, this event can be deemed successful solely off of the eyes opened and heads turned.

On December 10th, the following day, Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, and Twitch’s combined sum of estimated impressions was at a whopping 65M (in comparison to the consistent average of 10-20M impressions over the most recent quarter).

Red (Taylor's Version) (Tagger's Verison)

If you're not aware, since her signing with Universal Music Group, Taylor Swift has been on a mission to re-release all of her albums in an attempt to gain autonomy over her master recordings. Swift re-released her wholly-owned version of her classic album from 2012, Red just under a month ago. This new version was quickly swallowed up by fans, breaking the single-day Spotify streaming record for any female artist with 90 million streams. The hype could be due to multiple things: timeless songs with new renditions, Taylor's newly found financial freedom, or just some deeply rooted fan loyalty. Either way, throughout this exhibition of re-releases, Red has found a way to raise the bar. One of the album's biggest promotion tactics was the supporting social media hype which easily translated into specific brand associations. Once the album was released, Starbucks announced their long-awaited collaboration with the star, giving her favorite drink a spot on the menu in concordance with their red holiday cup rollout. And though they may not have exclusive partnerships with her, many other brands have jumped on the bandwagon by trying to associate with Taylor's most recent release—Sour Patch Kids, Panera Bread, Modsy, and more. This is a rare example because of Swift's mega-stardom, but it does provide an exciting look into multi-layered brand associations—that come secondary to the catalyst.

On November 15, Taylor Swift’s combined sum of estimated impressions was at a whopping 134.8M (in comparison to the consistent average of 5-10M impressions over the past year).

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