Roya Zeitoune oversees YouTube's Culture and Trends team for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and Abdu Hussein for the Middle East and North Africa. Their teams delve deep into YouTube viewing data to uncover emerging consumer trends.
Modern life is stressful. Everyone has their own coping mechanisms to calm down. We write in gratitude journals, take deep breaths, and, in many instances, we turn to soothing YouTube videos.
A 2022 Ipsos survey of thousands of Gen Z respondents shows that 83% have used YouTube to watch soothing content that helps them relax.1
Popular forms of soothing content in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) include journaling, cooking, and ASMR videos (aka whisper videos). However compilations of ‘oddly satisfying’ clips and mukbang, live-streamed videos often produced by South Koreans and featuring a person eating large quantities of food while chatting to viewers, are also popular.
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:
Armchair travel through transportive and exploratory travel videos
Armchair travelling has never been as easy — and 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.2
YouTube has a particularly large library of soothing videos about faraway destinations. In MENA, exploratory travel videos are particularly popular. Their travel-show like visuals and narrative really do inspire wanderlust, if the many comments underneath these videos are anything to go by.
ASMR videos continue to hit the spot, figuratively and literally
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 often 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 be seen as obscure by some, the numbers tell a different story. In 2021 alone, there were more than 65 billion views of videos related to ASMR on YouTube.3
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 artefacts from their collection.
Revisiting favourites, even to watch them go about their everyday lives
Our latest research has shown growing interest amongst Gen Z for nostalgia watching to get the ultimate comfort boost. They will revisit older videos and tune into their favourite 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.4 And 76% of Gen Z in Saudi Arabia have used YouTube to watch content to feel nostalgic.5 This is even higher in Egypt, where this number is 81%.6 Think of it like the YouTube equivalent of rewatching a favourite movie or TV-show when you’re feeling unwell.
Gen Z even (re)watches their favourite creators doing ordinary things for a long period of time. This means they tune into long-form vlogs, featuring a creator cleaning, reading, gardening, cooking, or drawing — often set to calming music.
What Gen Z viewing habits mean for marketers
The Gen Z cohort has grown up in the midst of an ongoing pandemic and a climate emergency. These individuals are all too familiar with tension and anxiety.
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 aware of how Gen Z has formed new habits to cope.
Viewers will always 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, for example by partnering with a YouTube creator who is known for creating long-form, soothing videos. Or rethink your creative plans for an upcoming campaign.
When you look to build connections with your young customers, ensure they feel safe and secure.
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 Z are simply trying to cope with the stress of life… just like everyone else.