How Brat Captured the Hearts and Eyeballs of Gen Z

An ‘Always On’ Blueprint For Creating A Gen Z Media Empire

Derek E. Baird
Dec 31, 2018 · 6 min read

As TV continues to be an increasingly fragmented medium, entertainment brands are struggling to figure out the best way to reach young audiences. One company, however, seems to have cracked the code.

Brat, the Gen Z-focused digital studio and network, already has nearly 2.5 million subscribers on its YouTube channel and is capturing the attention of teens and tweens with original scripted content like Chicken Girls.

When Gen Z consumes media, it’s always on their schedule. They have no concept of traditional or linear viewing. Gen Z media consumption is time-shifted to fit their schedule, mood or current emotional need. When Gen Z decides they want to watch Chicken Girls, Riverdale or Tyler Oakley videos, they can — with a tap of a finger- stream their favorite shows, anytime or anywhere.

Compare that media consumption experience to their grandparents who mostly consume media on traditional television. They have to see when their favorite show is on, they have to go to the room where the tv is and they have to sit through commercials. It’s a totally different experience.

In order to attract Gen Z, first and foremost brands need to make sure they have a really great mobile experience. Secondly, timing is everything. This means doing something as simple as releasing new episodes after school, not before. Or leveraging Subscriber notifications on YouTube to get a network effect that pushes your content to trend.

Third, engage with your fan community on social media. Stan with them. Share show GIFs. Share memes. Fourth, brands need to create content that reflects and resonates with your community (more on that in a minute).

“We want to be where teen eyeballs are right now, which is YouTube & Instagram. Too many companies invest too much time on business development and not audience development. If and when new destinations emerge where our demographic is, we’ll go there.” — Rob Fishman, co-founder of Brat

Leveraging Community To Build A Youth Media Brand

Many brands are struggling to reach Gen Z because they fail to take tweens and teens seriously. For Gen Z, fandoms and influencers are important and media brands need to give Gen Z audiences what they need in order to “stan” and celebrate their favorite shows and/or influencers. It’s important to make them feel like they’re part of a community. Bottom line: If it’s important to Gen Z, it should be important to your brand.

When it comes to Gen Z, the cardinal rule is this: Does this make them look cool? For teens of any generation, being perceived as “cool” by their friends is their core motivation. How is your brand helping them achieve this core basic need?

I like to call this ‘seeded serendipity.’ This means brands need to create content so that teens feel like they ‘discovered’ and they can it’s cool enough that can share with their friends on social channels and earn social capital within their friend groups. Seeded serendipity is the secret sauce to attracting Gen Z eyeballs, trust and brand loyalty.

So how do you know if your YouTube series is “cool” enough for them to share it with friends? Ask them. Gen Z, more so than other generational cohorts, expect you to engage in a dialogue with them — set up a Gen Z focus group and start listening.

If brands take the time to listen, they’ll not only get great ideas from their community on how to make content that’s “cool,” they’ll also make Gen Z feel like they have a stake in the outcome.

Want to Reach Gen Z? Think Mobile.

At this point, the number one thing media brands need to recognize is that for 21st Century teens and tweens, mobile devices are deeply ingrained into their daily lives and they use them almost constantly without really thinking about it. The majority of Gen Z are going to consume your show on a smartphone or tablet.

So rule one for every brand is to go where they are. If you’re a Gen Z brand and not using YouTube, IGTV or YouNow to host your content, you’re missing out an opportunity to reach your core demographic’s eyeballs.

Given the rapid popularity cycle of social platforms, (hello,, brands should focus on how social channels can be utilized to connect with Gen Z, and not relying on a specific platform.

BRAT CHAT | Ariel & Tayler | 6.10.18

There are ways to take advantage of smartphones beyond them being used as a device to stream content. Savvy media brands drive Gen Z engagement and views by taking advantage of native smartphone features like push notifications. Remember that “cool”’ thing I mentioned earlier?

Imagine you’re a Gen Z teen and you’re the first one of your friend group to share that new episode of Total Eclipse. By being the first to know and share that content, you’re going to gain social capital with your friend group and the brand helped facilitate that by utilizing push notifications with their community.

So yes, the smartphone as a streaming device is important and it’s changed a lot of viewing habits. But it’s also a tool that media brands should be using to build community, drive engagement and build a sense of belonging among your audience.

Keep Your Content “Snackable” and Authentic

The conventional wisdom about Gen Z attention spans being “like a goldfish” is a false narrative. Look at the hours they spend creating tutorials, fandom or unboxing videos on YouTube or IGTV. Gen Z isn’t afraid to spend time creating or watching media that they are passionate about or resonates with them and their friends.

Earlier this month I went to Disneyland. It was a crowded day with most lines lasting 60 to 70 minutes. Almost every teen and tween spent that time in line streaming snackable videos. I saw teens watching slime videos on IGTV, while others watched nail art or Brat Chat episodes on YouTube. In this context, snackable content filled an important need for the “always-on” generation.

One of the reasons Brat is so successful is that they are creating content that mirrors the Gen Z experience. Like every other generation, Gen Z wants to see shows that reflect their reality and feature people that look and act like them.

Chicken Girls: Ep.7: “Photograph”

The buzzword du jour is “authenticity.” It’s cliche, but it’s true and explains why Brat is succeeding with this generational cohort. Forget about attention spans, their success has to do with creating content that feels authentic, resonates and makes the viewer feel good about choosing to watch that show.

With an average running time of 15–20 minutes, Brat’s shows star predominantly young actors who mirror the profile of their audience. It’s most popular series, Chicken Girls, is in its third season and was recently turned into a full-length movie on Brat’s YouTube channel.

Brat and the Future of Gen Z Media

The Brat approach to creating a media for Gen Z is right on target: different kinds of media (snackable vs. long form), reinventing the music video, leveraging fandoms and influencers, harnessing the power of streaming media platforms like Spotify to distribute music and being a mobile-first media platform are all smart strategic moves.

This approach could also be used to create podcasts that appeal to tween and teens. There’s a real need (across all age demographics) for more “snackable” podcasts that are only 10–15 minutes long that you can listen to quickly instead of investing the hour or more required by other podcasts.

Moving forward, Brat can create an expanded ecosystem of content based around a show. For example, take a YouTube show, augmented with a podcast, behind the scenes snackable video and even original YA fiction series. Teens do read, but just like media, they want to read things that appeal to them and reflect their reality. So down the road, who knows — Brattpad may be the next big thing.

The important thing takeaway is that Brat is taking mainstream media consumption habits and tailoring everything — from content, community to platforms — to meet the needs of their Gen Z audience. In doing so, they’ve found a blueprint for success.

Youth Pop!

The #1 Place to learn about youth culture, trends, and research.

Derek E. Baird

Written by

Entertainment, creative executive, focused on kids cultural strategy, media & youth advocacy. Formerly at Disney, Yahoo! Kids & Facebook. Currently in Stealth.

Youth Pop!

The #1 Place to learn about youth culture, trends, and research.

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