In March this year (2018), there was a 2-day conference on Youth Marketing in London. The conference is part of a series of events organised around the world by an inspiring company called Voxburner.

Voxburner is the go-to youth insights consultancy informing marketing professionals of 16-24’s trends, habits and attitudes that are about to impact business now and in the future. They uncover insights into trends that are shaping youth behaviour of what is commonly being termed as Generation Z (Gen Z).

The themes and trends discussed at the event were incredibly interesting and insightful and I have collated a few of them that I thought were very relevant for the healthcare and charity sectors. The top 5 themes that particularly caught my attention were as follows:

1. Emotional

Themes within youth culture in 2018 have a very emotional foundation. The topics at the forefront of this culture include anxiety, loneliness, depression, gender and modern masculinity. The youth consumer of 2018 is a sensitive and emotional person, one who is open to talking about feelings and delicate issues that other generations have been uncomfortable to address before. The window into engagement with this group of 16-24-year-olds requires being aware of allowing a genuine and open conversation to evolve about feelings and self-awareness.

Voxburner’s survey of over 2000 16-24-year-olds in the UK uncovered that 66% are experiencing a form of anxiety or have done in the past. 65% suffering or having experienced depression, 69% having a feeling of loneliness, and 39% having low self-esteem.

The youth generation feel strongly about the brands they associate with that they have caring affiliations and partnerships. They want their brands to have empathy with the community and social pressures, who have ethical values and are aware and connected with issues such as mental health.

73%  of the 16-24 year olds say they would like a brand more if they were partnered with a mental health awareness charity.

2. Emotional Technology

As a natural extension of the emotional infrastructure of youth culture, it is not surprising that devices and software are becoming increasingly humanised. With the need for technology to improve social connectivity as a direct response to the youth generations experiencing increasing emotional issues.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) for example bring emotion to the forefront of technology. More and more brands are using AI and VR to bring emotion to the forefront of experience and engagement, creating computer-generated scenarios simulating experiences through senses and perception. In Voxburner’s survey, 18% would trust technology to be their friend, 20% would trust tech to find them a date, 18% to listen to their problems. We only need to see the dramatic rise in dating apps, online consultations, health and wellbeing apps to see how intelligent emotional technology is being harnessed to answer the need of the youth culture.

18%  would trust tech to listen to their problems

3. Tech Personalisation

A further linked trend is innovative personalised tech – this is reaching extremely high levels. In 2018 personalisation is going to be very important and key to successful engagement with consumers in general but never more so than in youth culture where it is part of the emotional package. Ads, packaging, marketing, apps, websites will all be using personalisation to engage. Online marketplaces like Notonthehighstreet and Etsy are all booming and thriving providing products with increasing personalisation. A further example and one of my personal favourites at Christmas were the Nutella and Marmite personalised jars. Simple but very effective.

Entertainment and music streaming companies such as Spotify and Apple Music create personalised playlists and daily/monthly recommendations. Amazon recommends products based on previous searches and purchases. The technology that evolves by learning behaviour feeds back and becomes a tech-driven individual ‘personal shopper’.

Personalisation taps into the emotional need and adds individualism and belonging to a shopping experience.

Due to the vast information-led experiences and the innovation surrounding technology, it further fuels the investigative nature of youth culture. Young consumers demand more knowledge and background about a pre-purchase product for example. Millennials and Gen Z are armed with knowledge before making any purchases. Research and reinforcement are a pre-requisite.

68% personalisation is very important to them

4. Community Content

As Facebook continues to take a back seat and even more so amidst its current issues, it is thought that Instagram will further come into its own and be the social channel of 2018. It’s all about Instagrammability.

Other social media channels are available … but Instagram is the channel of 2018. It has at the time of writing, 500m daily users. Social media and it’s sense of community is the response and need for belonging, the response to the feeling of loneliness and low self-esteem in youth culture. Connections become online relationships and evolve into kinship, societies, ‘tribes’. You may have heard the saying ‘your tribe is your vibe’. Organisations are becoming very aware of the power of tribes, not only the opportunity of creating one but the tribes that are inspiring content. There is a chance for brands to join the conversation about the current themes that important to youth culture.

62%  think a brand’s Instagram account is very important

5. Truthful Content

Another natural continuation and trend that is important to youth culture is truthful content. This is the recent backlash and response to fake news. Not only fake news but inauthentic voices, influencers and posts, including false paid promotions and endorsements. Young consumers are now savvier than ever about forced promotion and marketing. Authenticity is key. Whether the content is via social media, tribes or marketing and brand voice in general, truth is paramount.

63%  say truthfulness is one of the most important factors to online content.

Truthful also means vulnerability, honesty and championing imperfections. The young consumer requires a voice that connects with their emotional sensitive nature and a brand that responds to that. There are some great examples of truthful content by sports brands, such Reebok, Adidas and Nike who are tapping into honest reflection and portrayal with their specific women content channels. They are catching young influencers with their content through specifically created Instagram accounts such as @ReebokWomen@nikewomen and @adidaswomen with inspirational images and quotes from real modern women. A no holds barred approach which evokes inclusion and empowers self-esteem.

Shanu Walpita , Trend Forecaster said of this “This isn’t a coincidence, it’s a smart tactic, because 68% of Instagram users are women. Not only are they tapping the right demographic, they are also fighting sexist connotations about sportiness.”

“It’s also ok to be uncool – a lot of content trends boast realness by embracing (and celebrating) fault and imperfections.”

youths on mobiles with coffee

18% of 18-24 would trust tech to listen to their problems

At Door 22 Creative we make sure we regularly attend insightful conferences run by deep specialists to help us achieve better outcomes for our clients. Youth Marketing is an important constantly emerging area, and one that requires constant monitoring, especially for health and charities that rely on the new generations. Our clients like Snow-Camp, FoodCycle and Energise Me all communicate and rely on the youth market and we love how they are celebrating the success of an exciting and open generation.

The VoxBurner full report and others are available here.

Photo: Godisable Jacobs from Pexels