Reprinted by permission of

While marketers and media expend massive energy and resources courting Millennials, their younger counterparts known as Generation Z shouldn’t be ignored. These young Americans (born after 1996) represent 23% of the U.S. population and are a diverse and influential demographic with rising spending power. And, in good news for broadcast radio, they also listen to significant amounts of AM/FM.

“It is critical that brands learn to understand and honor Gen Z’s defining attributes and values if they want to connect with and better activate against a demographic that is already changing the face of media and our culture,” says Radha Subramanyam, iHeartMedia’s president of Insights, Research and Analytics.

There are 74 million Generation Zers, about equal to the number of U.S. Millennials and Baby Boomers. According to a new report by iHeartRadio, radio is hugely popular with teens, with 81% saying it will always be part of their lives. And, in a key finding for brands, radio connects with 9 in 10 teens, the report said and is key for discovery. Three-quarters of Generation Zers said they use radio to find new music and two-thirds rely on radio to uncover new products, movies and events.

“Gen Z is an exclusive group that can be exceptionally hard to reach, but advertisers can connect to them in a big way with radio,” Subramanyam notes.

Generation Zers are also a diverse group, with 55% identifying as non-Caucasian and many were raised in non-traditional households, including one-third living with a single parent. They are active on social media and raised with digital technology as an integral part of their lives.

However, just because Gen Z is a diverse, socially conscious and tech-savvy group doesn’t mean they are replicas of the slightly older Millennials demo. In fact, “it would be a huge mistake to apply the same marketing strategies to both groups,” Subramanyam says.

For one, Generation Zers are more financially conservative, largely due to growing up during the most recent recession. They are also loyal customers, but thanks to their diversity and non-traditional upbringings, many reject labels, making it difficult for brands to win their business. That’s where radio can be a powerful tool, Subramanyam contends, as it fits with both Generation Z’s habits and sensibilities.

“It is interactive thanks to call-ins and social media; it is inherently mobile because it is available on everything from phones to cars; and radio DJs fill the desire of Gen Zers for authentic heroes by being funny, passionate, local and relatable,” Subramanyam says.