Bauer Media’s AI research that reveals emotional signature of Gen Z

• The research used sophisticated AI semiotics to analyse more than 2,000 Instagram posts

Generation Z are not who you think they are, a major research study commissioned by Bauer Media has revealed.

They push boundaries but take care to be playful, considered and less radical than previous generations. They are playing off script and brands need to understand this to effectively communicate with this audience.

Here are details of the findings as released by Bauer:

Gen Z are more grounded, pragmatic and interested in being ‘average’ than many people trying to engage or connect with them realise. The group of 14-24-year-olds – who represent 3.4 million Australians – prioritise ordinariness over individualism and ambition, with community ties and enduring relationships paramount. While they have an entrepreneurial appetite, they also have modest financial goals and grounded aspirations.

These unexpected findings form Bauer’s latest thought-leadership research, OFFSCRIPT. Commissioned using artificial intelligence (AI) technology to understand the thoughts, feelings and social media behaviours of Gen Z, it identifies the group’s emotional signature and how advertisers can tap into it.

The research used sophisticated AI semiotics to analyse more than 2,000 Instagram posts to discover and classify the underlying clusters of themes that connect this generation. This methodology was supplemented with qualitative research and manual semiotic analysis to provide context.

Despite there being many permissible identities and behaviours for Gen Z – with no clear ‘lanes’ –  the study revealed four broad scripts that brands can tap into to connect with the Gen Z audience, with detailed executional guidelines.

The primary four scripts are:

• Celebrating the average – This is the primary script and is a celebration of the average; a representation of the real values and vulnerabilities that drive deep connections.

• Radical artistry – They push boundaries by provoking in a playful and gentler way than you would associate with other generations that are more strident.

• Intelligent play – Creativity is used as a way of dealing with uncertainty for Gen Z, finding purpose and creating communities through witty (often political) content or experimental design.

• Go easy – They relish moments and places that are natural and untainted, getting away from the urban grind and the pressure of everyday life to feel free through travel and outdoors.

Bauer noted it reaches 1,562,000* Gen Zers with brands including Girlfriend, ELLE, Who, InStyle, Marie Claire, BeautyCrew and Syrup. They are one of the top publishers uniquely reaching women aged 14-24 years, via social, print, digital and experiences.

Anna Preston, head of strategy at Bauer Media said: “It was great to partner again with the leading research agency, The Lab, to apply this ground-breaking methodology to uncover the emotional signature. We have never seen a generation like this one before. They are less rebellious than those which preceded them. They are also more thoughtful about how they chose to live and the choices they make.

“For advertisers, Gen Z is an opportunity, but also a challenge as it’s clear that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. Communication needs to be tailored, authentic and engaging in order to connect with them and through this study we now have a clearer understanding of the best way to achieve that.”

The research findings were integral to shaping Bauer’s newest Gen Z product, Syrup – a digitally-led fashion, beauty and culture brand launched earlier this year that targets 16-22-year-olds who are still discovering themselves and where they fit in the world.

Across content pillars including Fashion, Beauty, Love & Sex, Future Focus, Real Life, and News & Politics, the Syrup website features articles, galleries and video content. Social channels such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Snapchat utilise separate and specific content strategies, rather than acting as supporting platforms for the website.

Mahalia Chang

Editor Mahalia Chang said Syrup has a responsibility to give Gen Z the tools they need to take on challenges, a sentiment that informed Syrup’s ‘We Arm The Future’ purpose.

“Whether it’s optimism, positivity, self-love, information or inspiration, Syrup wants to provide this generation with the tools they need,” Chang said. “From questions on identity, sexuality and expression, to even ‘How do I pay my taxes?’, Syrup is a trusted and authentic resource.”

*Source: Roy Morgan Single Source Australia, March 2020 – Print and digital reach and frequency (1 month campaign), AP 14-24

Top Photo: Anna Preston,


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