April 20 | 2023

The Robins offer insight on Gen Z’s complex relationship with AI

With so many exciting new generative AI tools available, brands are eager to jump in and apply them in their content creation, and overall advertising. While there’s something to be said about being innovative and ahead of the wave, marketeers should first understand how their audience feels about AI.

In a qualitative study conducted with The Robins, a freshly-launched insight generating Gen Z panel/ collective by SuperHeroes NYC, 30 diverse US Gen Z adults shared their thoughts on the rise of AI and the implications for themselves and their generation. The results show how Gen Z has a complicated relationship with AI, and why brands looking to adopt more AI tools in their advertising should proceed with caution. 

”Gen Z isn’t clamoring for it – at least, not presently – so an aggressive public embrace of the technology without a compelling benefit or some kind of playful take, is more likely to make them perceive brands as out-of-touch than relevant,” says Susan Vugts, Managing Director of The Robins/ SuperHeroes NYC.

The five key takeaways are:

#1 – Where’s the me in AI? 

For Gen Z Robins, the process of creation is just as, if not more, important than the final product. AI misses the joy in flow for an area of expertise or the feeling of accomplishment when confronting a challenge. The time and energy they put in a project produces a sense of pride and ownership. This thinking also applies to brands’ use of AI. Robins are more invested in a product or ad when they understand its source, like this example from NotCo that incorporates the use of AI into their storytelling.

#2 – Ok for play and productivity, but not to move the cultural dial

While they recognize AI’s promise of greater productivity and support with work-related tasks, Robins wouldn’t qualify any product of AI as truly creative. However, from a ‘play’ perspective, when brands like Heinz are asking an AI generator to create images of ketchup, the novelty of the technology does invite experimentation and these early encounters can be entertaining.   

#3 It’s hard to feel empathy and compassion

As a non-human, AI has no lived experience, emotions, compassion, perspective, intention, passion, or energy.  There is nothing authentic there with which Gen Z can identify, purpose to rally behind, nor process to make it relatable or appealing. 

#4 More frightening than promising

Gen Z is worried about AI’s potential for harm. Employment is a salient concern for those about to join the workforce or just in the nascent phase of their career and many fear AI will eliminate jobs. Like one Robin said: “I am going to be looking for work after graduation, so of course I want there to be opportunities when I get there…” We saw the Gen Z attributes of socially conscious and pro-Labor emerge as well. Robins are concerned about the marketplace, in general, and how other people might be displaced.

#5 – Walk don’t run

Brands should approach generative AI with caution. At this point, Gen Z doesn’t seem to show an overwhelming interest in it. Hence, brands should only consider adopting it if it aligns with their strategy. Enthusiastically embracing the technology without a clear advantage might make brands seem out-of-touch and unrelatable. 

Don’t just target Gen Z, talk to them

Powered and curated by SuperHeroes, the Robins are a diverse team of Gen Z artists, TikTokers, entrepreneurs, activists, philosophers, designers, and other opinionated young adults. Their mission? Deliver fresh insight about their generation and culture. 

“The Robins are a creative collective that act as a modern day panel” says Susan Vugts. “We launched The Robins to be the bridge between brands and their audience. From cultural insights to reflections on brand ideas and product development, we help brands to be more relevant and successful with Gen Z.”  

The Robins was launched this week by SuperHeroes NYC as a US based collective/ panel. SuperHeroes Amsterdam is also preparing to launch a European Robins collective in May. 

Want to read the full report or find out what The Robins can do for you ? Contact Susan Vugts or send an email to hello@hellorobins.com




This study was designed and executed in partnership with Jesse Caesar Consulting.

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