Gen Z is looking at your YouTube channel

Nina Eisenman, Client Services Director, MerchantCantos, on how corporations can better communicate with Gen Zs.

Show me the video

On a recent episode of the podcast Skimm’d From the Couch, Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg asked SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan if it was true she had a millennial mentor. Not a millennial mentee – a millennial mentor. “True” Whelan replied enthusiastically, listing the numerous customer insights she had gained from her 20-something mentor.

I had been working with a summer intern for several weeks following a traditional “I teach, you learn” mentor/mentee format. But Whelan’s comments made me wonder: had I been missing an opportunity?

My Gen-Z intern had been researching the corporate reports of the 100 largest US companies compiling stats including how many published online reports. Beyond the usual information, his research included an extra section summarising data I hadn’t asked for – an analysis of YouTube channels.

Without intending to, my intern was showing me a Gen Z’s perspective on corporate reporting that pretty much said: “If these reports are important, then where’s the video?”

Like tumbleweed in a ghost town

Gen Zs default search engine is YouTube. 50% of Gen Z ‘Can’t Live Without YouTube’ according to Adweek, while 33% watch video online at least 1 hour a day with a whopping 88% preferring YouTube over other channels.

Big numbers, big potential. Yet out of the 100 companies in our survey, only 11 published an annual report film. 11%!

Companies with an annual report film like those posted by AIGPuma Energy and Anglo American – that tell the company’s story in a relatable, digestible way – are broadening their reach across generations. Despite this, the dearth of report-specific videos perplexed my intern, who, along with his Gen Z peers, attains information through punchy, information-dense videos.

Wait, it gets worse…

The state of corporate YouTube channels was even more dire. Most Fortune 100’s channels looked more like a hodgepodge of content than platforms that seek to elevate brand presence.

While 61% of the companies we reviewed had attempted to bring reports such as sustainability or diversity to life through film, content was often buried and hard to find. Only a few of the companies in our survey organised their YouTube channels into topic-specific playlists to make viewing easier.

Also, very few companies had a coordinated, on-brand style creating a consistent look for their video thumbnails.  When it comes to a branded, coherent content experience, the majority of corporate YouTube channels pale into comparison with YouTube celebrity or influencer channels.

Let’s be honest, both have the means, both certainly have the money but only one recognises the potential.

YouTube snooze, you lose

61 million Gen Zs are about to enter the US workforce. From a corporate communications and recruiting perspective, it’s essential that companies know how to communicate with this increasingly relevant generation, a generation that is savvy enough to expect quality film that utilises high-end b-roll footage, music, animation and speaks to a range of topics.

Sure, readers of traditional annual reports tend to be older, wiser with spare cash.  But next-gen investors represent a tremendous opportunity. And that’s the point.

This is a generation that knows its brands but at the same time is desperate for authenticity. Film, done well, is a vital ingredient of showing your worth and building trust.

Companies that embrace the use of film and take the time to optimise their YouTube channels with relevant, narrative-driven videos backed by consistent branding will be ahead of the game… and it’s a game few can afford to lose.

For more information, please contact Nina Eisenman, Client Services Director, MerchantCantos

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