News & Insights

Culture Next: The new rules for marketing to millennials and Gen Z

Chapter three of Spotify's annual global trends report highlights the most important cultural shifts for advertisers to know. Download the full Culture Next report.

Cultural change is happening faster than ever — and millennials and Gen Zs are at the forefront, driving that change and building a “new normal.”

In Culture Next vol. 3, we unpacked the biggest shifts for marketers to know in order to make meaningful, effective connections with these generations. Our research found that these generations defy the neat demographic segments of marketing past. No longer defined by age, race, gender, or geography, the similarities among young consumers lie in shared cultural tendencies and passions. We also found that, in the midst of the pandemic, brands had to quickly adapt to reach a new consumer whose lifestyle has radically shifted. In our report, we share our predictions for which pandemic-era habits are likely to stick around. And one thing is for sure: Audio is a rich space for reaching audiences through the culture they love, with 70% of millennials and 62% of Gen Zs believe that streaming platforms at large, including audio, have significantly shaped how they discover and connect with broader culture.1


Young consumers can’t be boxed in — to genre, geography, language, or any other passive identifier. Their communities are formed around what really matters: cultural affinities, e.g. shared cultural passions or interests, no matter how niche. For marketers, this has sparked new, innovative approaches for reaching increasingly fragmented consumer groups of Gen Zs and millennials. After all, cultural affinities are transparent — both for millennials, who have driven the mass adoption of social media, and Gen Zs, who were born into a world shaped by the internet. We often see a spike in community-focused streaming pop up around key moments in culture, from Black History Month and the World Cup, to International Women’s Day and Oktoberfest.2

One podcast’s audience may span several demos, but indicate interest towards one specific topic.

Brianna Hanan

Marketing Lead at Squarespace

Remote connections

Lifestyles have shifted, but as it turns out, millennials have adapted well to parenting, working, and generally living their lives in a more home-based world — and connecting to audio via home-based devices is one of their coping strategies. The past year has seen a 30% increase in smart speaker use in the U.S.,3 for example.

Meanwhile, people are increasingly connecting to streaming content while driving. Spotify in-car listening has increased by 124% in the last year, as drivers use their time behind the wheel to catch up on news or entertainment content in the form of podcasts.

“The car, the home. These are the killer platforms for listening... The infrastructure has been built out to enable the next generation of digital audio to flourish.”

Jay Richman
Spotify’s Head of Global Ads Business and Platform
As told to the Wharton Tech Toks podcast

Making an intimate connection with audiences is every advertiser’s dream. Spotify gives advertisers a rich, immersive environment to reach listeners as they stream what they love. From online gaming soundtracks to playlists that celebrate specific cultures (and subcultures) to lifestyle-oriented podcasts, brands have all kinds of opportunities to join the conversation.

What it means for brands

At a time when the digital marketing landscape is more saturated than ever, how do advertisers harness these trends to reach their target audience?

At Spotify, we believe that digital audio offers brands something unique: intimate connection with listeners as they stream what they love, on a platform that elevates the world’s most beloved creators alongside emerging up-and-comers. We’re constantly working on news ways to deepen that connection, with tools to create digital audio campaigns that are contextual, deep, relevant, and original. In fact, our advertising vision is to connect millions of advertisers with billions of listeners. Here’s how you can work with us to reach your audience.

  • Get started instantly with Ad Studio. Our self-production tools available to produce video and audio ads on Spotify enable advertisers to quickly and easily create an audio ad. You provide the script, Spotify takes care of the voiceover — selected by you from a wide range of talent — and the recording. Prefer to keep production in-house? Advertisers can also choose to upload their own audio. Brands of all sizes can experiment with digital audio, best of all, your success is measurable. You'll get real-time performance metrics, so you can fine-tune your efforts and reach your goals.

  • Turn podcast fans into your fans. Two-thirds of millennials and Gen Zs around the globe said they currently listen to podcasts weekly, according to our research.4 In short: Your audience is listening to podcasts – and Spotify is the best way to reach them. We’re passionate about making podcasts ads a better experience all-around for listeners, creators, and advertisers. That’s why in early 2021, we introduced the Spotify Audience Network: a brand-new way for advertisers of all sizes to connect with listeners who stream podcasts across our own network and leading third-party podcast publishers. Spotify Audience Network gives our audience easy-to-use targeting tools, so they can reach listeners based on demographics, audience segments, and contextual targeting.

  • Be heard in the moment. Our ad formats are made to engage. That way, listeners get a great experience and advertisers get better results. Spotify’s Streaming Intelligence enables advertisers to understand listeners’ habits and tastes — all in the moment. Brands can offer motivating messages to listeners while they work out, be an entertaining companion while they cook dinner, and match the vibe at party time. Interest targeting allows brands to reach relevant audiences based on topics they’re passionate about, whether it be history, gaming, or literature. And genre targeting helps brands introduce themselves to new listeners by connecting with them through beloved categories from New Age to EDM to Folk. With Spotify, ads connect when, how, and where it makes sense for audiences — resulting in optimal impact for advertisers.

Ready to reach millennials and Gen Zs around the world on Spotify? Get started instantly with Ad Studio.

1 Spotify Culture Next survey, U.S., among 510 respondents 15-40, April 2021 2 Spotify Culture Next survey, U.S., among 510 respondents 15-40, April 2021 3 Spotify First Party Data, Q1 2021 vs. Q1 2020 4 Spotify Culture Next survey, U.S., among 510 respondents 15-40, April 2021

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