Gen Z video viewing habits & trends

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Modern life is stressful. Everyone has their coping mechanisms to calm down. We write in gratitude journals, take deep breaths, and, in many instances, we turn to soothing YouTube videos.

A new 2022 Ipsos survey of thousands of Gen Z respondents shows that 83% have used YouTube to watch soothing content that helps them relax.

ASMR videos (aka whisper videos) have been around for many years and continue to be among the most watched formats in this category.

Gen Z is a young cohort — the oldest ones are just 25 — but this generation is a major force in shaping international culture and consumption, both online and in person. Being conscious of their needs and interests is key to creating relevant messaging and connecting with them on a deeper level.

Here’s what marketers need to know about this key Gen Z viewing trend to better understand this generation’s current mindset.

All-day comfort with nature live streams and hours long videos

Armchair traveling has never been as easy — or as tempting — as it is today. Transportive videos of faraway places are just one click away. For Gen Z, YouTube is the go-to destination for these journeys: 90% say they have watched a video that helped them feel like they were in a different place.

YouTube has a gigantic library of soothing videos about faraway destinations and the natural world. Popular formats include animal live streams and immersive nature films that are over 10 hours long, often set to meditative music.

And, if the many comments underneath these calming videos are anything to go by, the ethereal visuals and gentle music can even help people fall asleep.

YouTube video
Underscored by soothing music, sea turtles glide through their natural habitat, swimming over rocks and sponges, past fish, and occasionally resting in coral bowls.

ASMR videos continue to hit the spot

ASMR is short for autonomous sensory meridian response. When we talk about ASMR videos, we’re talking about soothing, often sedative videos that typically include placid sights and sounds. This content typically features people whispering (or making soft sounds), which can help listeners relax and give them a gentle tingling sensation across their scalp and body.

While this type of “brain massage” may seem obscure to some, the numbers tell a different story. In 2021 alone, there were beyond 65 billion views of videos related to ASMR on YouTube.

A graph showing the rise in worldwide search interest for the term “ASMR” on YouTube. It shows an upward-trending red line from July 2017 to July 2022.  Source: Google Data, Global, search interest for “ASMR” on YouTube, July 2017–July 2022.
Source: Google Data, Global, search interest for “ASMR” on YouTube, July 2017–July 2022.

Even major institutions are joining in with the trend. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, for example, has an ASMR at the museum video playlist in which they make soothing ASMR sounds with artifacts from their collection.

Grooming expert Elliot Forbes takes viewers through his ASMR-enhanced shaving routine.

Revisiting favorite videos as they go about their everyday lives

The latest research has shown growing interest among Gen Z for nostalgia watching to get the ultimate comfort boost. They will revisit older videos and tune into their favorite channels, even if the creators are doing something mundane.

Sixty-nine percent of Gen Z say they often find themselves returning to creators or content that feels comforting to them. And 82% of Gen Z have used YouTube to watch content to feel nostalgic. Think of it as the YouTube equivalent of rewatching a favorite movie or TV show when you’re feeling sick.

Gen Z even (re)watches their favorite creators doing ordinary things for long periods of time. This means they tune into long-form vlogs — featuring creators cleaning, reading, gardening, cooking, or drawing — often set to calming music.

YouTube Creator Emily Norris shares her cleaning routine with viewers who can tag along as she organizes her children’s dresser drawers and tidies up their rooms.

What Gen Z viewing habits mean for marketers

The Gen Z cohort is all too familiar with tension and anxiety, having grown up in the middle of an ongoing pandemic and a climate emergency. This research gives us insights into a young generation that copes with stress by turning to soothing online videos. They see YouTube as a safe space where they can press “play” and relax. Marketers need to be sensitive to this emerging reality and be aware of how Gen Z has formed new habits to cope.

When you look to build connections with your young customers, ensure they feel safe and secure. Viewers will constantly look for relevant content that adds value to their lives. Now is the time to incorporate these nuanced insights into your campaigns to connect with Gen Z on a deeper level. Be present where they are by partnering with a YouTube Creator who is known for creating soothing long-form videos, for example. Or rethink your creative plans for an upcoming campaign.

In the past, young generations were typically associated with loud music, risk-taking, and short attention spans. This research challenges those stereotypes and shows us that Gen Zers are simply trying to cope with the stress of life — just like everyone else.

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