Generation Z: Socratic more than Meta

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 @ 11:23 AM

At the Share.Like.Buy Conference this fall, we were honored to share findings from our YouthBeat® Global studies. And, we were struck by the portrait of Generation Z painted by the cumulative insights garnered from both days of the conference.

YouthBeat® concluded that Generation Z is not just a “meta” (i.e., self-referential) generation, but a Socratic one (i.e., truth-seeking by reflecting on others). 

For example, Generation Z has moved past the “Talk Soup” TV summaries of pop culture content of the ‘90s, to ‘Afterbuzz’ online. They call themselves the “ESPN of Talk TV” and include multiple hosts in varied studio locations espousing everyman analysis on the entertainment programs of the day. They cover 300+ shows a week in 100+ broadcasts, including calls from “real-life” viewers as well as chats among their hosts.

In another vein, “access over ownership” companies like Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, Airbnb, and the like, rely on user reviews to determine what constitutes a “good” company or individual provider with whom to do business. On a similar tack, Tugg offers teens the ability to choose the movie at their local theater—as long as they can crowdsource enough friends to sell out that theater. 

Even cause-related activities can become viral for Generation Z.  DoSomething.org, started way back in 1993, offers modern youth avenues to give back in ways that fit their social and lifestyle needs. From promoting “Teens for Jeans” drives, to encouraging youth to flag elephant ivory sellers on Ebay, to suggesting period product collections for local women’s shelters, DoSomething.org connects young people with a drive to give to in tangible ways they see can make a difference. 

In a similar way, the new app Dlyted, (pronounced “Delighted”), gives users of any age the opportunity to mash up their usual spending with myriad ways to flex their prosocial muscle.  Through the app, shoppers can purchase a wide variety of digital gift cards (think everything from Amazon to Texas Roadhouse), earning points that can be accumulated and donated to the user’s favorite cause. Plus, savvy philanthropists can double-dip—by buying an Amazon gift card and spending it on AmazonSmile, shoppers can designate further contributions to their causes of choice.

Our POV is that brands that matter to Generation Z engage them not just on an individual basis, but also embrace the shared experience and feedback loop they value so highly.

Tags: youth research, Youth, kids tweens teens, Gen Z, generation research

Is YouTube Stardom Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be for Today’s Youth?

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Tue, Oct 31, 2017 @ 11:50 AM

Every month, we ask YouthBeat® respondents what they want to be when they grow up.  In the last few years, we’ve seen growth in STEM-based careers like “Scientist” and “Architect,” among both male and female youth.  In the first half of 2017, the youngest kids are most likely to want to be a professional athlete (17%), as are Tweens (12%, tied with “I don’t know”).  Teens, facing down their careers most closely, are the most uncertain—they are most likely to answer “I don’t know” (21%).*

Yet, a recent study in the UK reported that 75% of youth ages 6-17 want to be a YouTube influencer.** Other popular career choices include model and pop star.  The authors attribute these aspirations to a desire to express youths’ creativity and personal uniqueness, while also acquiring fame.  Meanwhile in the U.S., SocialStar Creator Camp grooms teens who want to appear on media from YouTube creations to Saturday Night Live.

But are performance-based career goals truly fulfilling?  A recent NPR article suggests that they are hard work, and not always self-actualizing.  YouTube personalities generally write, direct, edit, and produce their own material.  And they’re met with trolls on every post—hating on posts is the modern form of bullying by anonymous critics.  Waiting for the dopamine rush generated by more followers, likes, and clicks is fraught with worry about such trolls.

At YouthBeat®, our POV is that social media stardom is at best a fleeting pastime.  Young people are sure to be adored by their parents, grandparents, and acquaintances, but need to be protected from the bilious anonymous criticism of the public.  Careers can only be developed by the random few—and trades and STEM lines of work are likely to be more psychologically and financially profitable for most of Generation Z.

*Source: YouthBeat® Jan-June 2017
**Source: TheSun 2017

Tags: youth research, Youth, kids tweens teens, youth media, YouthBeat, YouTube

Teens Taking the Scenic Route to “Adulting”

Posted by Jane Ott on Thu, Oct 26, 2017 @ 01:45 PM

The Journal of Child Development recently released a study showing that modern teens are exhibiting a slower developmental path in adopting adult behaviors like dating, alcohol use, working for pay, and driving.  These phenomena have been evolving gradually, even before today’s ubiquitous access to information through technology, and across parenting styles.

So what’s going on?  Are parents doing a better job at raising responsible teens?  Is technology delaying behaviors teens historically chomp at the bit to reach (e.g., using Uber instead of driving)?  Are teens just too busy to have time for anything other than their activities and homework?  Or, are today’s teens’ choices and behaviors a result of being raised with comfortable lifestyles and immediate access to information?  The study’s authors argue the latter.

They suggest that there has been a fundamental change in the social and cultural atmosphere of U.S. teens’ childhoods. Overall (across ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, and geographies), their childhoods reflect a “slow life strategy.”  From an evolutionary perspective, this represents a less urgent need to undertake adult-like behaviors to sustain the succession of their gene pool.

In contrast, a “fast life strategy” is one in which life expectancy is lower, higher education is less prevalent, and fewer resources are available.  In those times, the focus becomes survival; so teens and young adults are more likely to have a need to act on adult behavior sooner (like driving oneself, getting married, and working outside the home).

Don’t get us wrong, teens are still engaging in these “proto-adult” activities, but the number of teens doing so has dropped off considerably over time (first identified in 2000).  And, their childhood milieu generally reflects a population with higher levels of education, smaller families, and fewer stresses on resources than those of previous generations.  As a result, there is less of a drive to act on these adult behaviors because there is less of a need to grow up “now,” now. 

Here at YouthBeat®, we see that despite these broad cultural trends, teens’ lives aren’t completely carefree.  Their top three most common fears aren’t about friendships, appearances, or social lives; they are weightier ones about their loved ones and their ability to thrive:

  • Being a failure
  • Family member dying
  • Not getting into a good school

Our POV: Give teens a break! They are worried about moving forward in life and need to know that adults are looking out for them and paving the way.  How can your brand be reassuring for teens building their life plans?

Source: YouthBeat® Total Year 2016

Tags: Teen Culture, youth research, kids tweens teens market research, Youth, Teens, kids tweens teens

Generation Z 2017 Summer Spotlight!

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Thu, Aug 03, 2017 @ 01:07 PM

It’s August already, and Back-to-School is just around the corner.  Plenty of families have already started the rush of shopping for school supplies and the all-important First Day of School new outfit.  Youth still do have a few precious weeks of summer left, though.  Check out our infographicfor the YouthBeat Summer Spotlight 2017!

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Click here to download YouthBeat's Generation Z 2017 Summer Spotlight!

 

Tags: youth research, kids, kids tweens teens market research, Youth, Back to School, kids tweens teens, Gen Z

YouthBeat's Youth and Parents Thoughts on Bullying

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 @ 01:30 PM

Here at YouthBeat, we focus not just on the products youth consume, but also on their well-being. Bullying remains a topic of concern for youth and parents, despite programs like the Random Acts of Kindness days and the Kindness Rock Project.

In this climate, brands have the opportunity, if not the responsibility, to encourage pro-social behaviors as well as tell youth stories of caring and kindness.  We asked youth and parents from our YouthBeat survey their thoughts on bullying. The YouthBeat team compiled this factsheet.  

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Download YouthBeat's Fast Facts on Bullying

YouthBeat Celebrates Dad!

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 @ 02:30 PM

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According to the U.S. Census, 16% of stay-at-home parents are now Dads—more than ever! Even if Dads work outside the home, they love spending time with their kids.

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Kids love any story that involves exploring a frontier—physical or emotional. And who better to have by their side during the exploration than their Dad?

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Modern dads are plugged in to the media their children find so compelling. They stay in touch with old besties on Facebook, and share their ideas, humor, and great food pics on Twitter and Instagram.

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Today’s Dad isn’t a dictator. He discusses purchase decisions with the whole family—including where they will eat out. Everyone has a say.

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When he listens to his kids’ requests for restaurants, Dad hears throwbacks to his own childhood. McDonald’s is still the place his kids ask him to go the most.

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Emotionally in-touch Dads are a reality today. Not only do they try to spend more time with their kids, but they talk about substantive topics.

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Half of dads cling to the way they were raised, and the other half branch out to try new approaches. At YouthBeat®, we call these the “Om” parents—they exhale, let the little things go, and focus on raising good (not entitled) children

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Dads have a tough job today, as always. Their biggest priority is conveying their personal values into their children, and moms agree that this is the toughest and most important part of parenthood.

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Despite the greater number of stay-at-home Dads today, most Dads work outside the home. Work and commuting take a bite out of the time Dads would love to be spending with their families.

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'Fun Dads' are a thing! A third of fathers love playing Mario or other games alongside their children. Today’s Dads don’t have to be stodgy—they can enjoy the pastimes of their youth with their own kids.

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Source: YouthBeat® 2016 (full year)

Tags: dad, kids tweens teens

YouthBeat Celebrates Moms!

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Fri, May 12, 2017 @ 03:53 PM

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The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Moms today are forging a path in a world very different from the one in which they were raised.  And at the same time, some maternal practices and principles are eternal.

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Girl power!  Momming involves a series of decisions that span the mundane (do they HAVE to match their socks?) to the pivotal (which high school will they attend?).  Most moms are at peace with the way they handle them.

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Compared to prior generations, today’s moms are less “helicopter” and more “Om.” They exhale, let go of the small things, and focus on what’s really important in raising their children.

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For her grade-schoolers and middle-schoolers, mom’s most important goal is teaching them to be decent human beings.  It’s the hardest thing she has to do, but well worth the toil.Mothers Day_infographic elements_4.png

 

The Mommy Wars aren’t completely over.  That said, girlfriends will cut each other some slack because they know parenting can be such a challenge today.

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Be it comic books, TV, or the Internet, media has always spurred adult worry about children becoming addicted or ill-influenced.  Most of today’s moms aren’t too worried, but some carry a glimmer of doubt.

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Tags: parents, mom, kids tweens teens, parenting

Youth Marketing Strategy London Takeaways 2017

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Fri, Apr 07, 2017 @ 09:28 AM

The YouthBeat team was recently in London to present findings from YouthBeat Global at the Youth Marketing Strategy conference.  While YouthBeat’s focus is on kids, tweens, teens, and parents, most of the other presenters telescope in on young adults 16-24, given European restrictions on messaging to youngsters.  And there was particular focus on English college freshman who are exploring their identities and open to new brands during the initial transition from their parents’ home to college housing. 

We were intrigued by several of the presentations—our top takeaways were:

“Ticketmaster knows everything about you.”

Big data isn’t brand spanking new anymore, but companies are still exploring how to utilize it to maximize cross-selling and marketing efforts.  Ticketmaster is able to overlay Experian data with its customer records, so anyone who buys tickets with a credit card contributes to the pool of what is known about how such concertgoers behave.  It might sound shocking, but really any company who engages in credit card transactions can buy this kind of data.  We believe they’re using it for purposes of good –  to enhance the experiences, products, and messaging that they offer to today’s consumer.

More than half of Birchbox’s sales are now via mobile device.

The beauty service, which began as mail-order subscription and retail, has moved into the brick + mortar space.  They’ve organized their stores differently from typical beauty retail (which is brand blocked), to a broader focus on product categories.  This allows in-person shoppers to explore all of the mascaras or moisturizers at one time, rather than having to search through each brand for a particular product.  What does this mean for brand loyalty in the future?  We’re not sure, but it is a social foot forward in physical retail spaces.

“1,000 True Fans.”

Hearkening back to Kevin Kelly’s 2008 article about the point of momentum it takes for a musician to have a viable commercial career, start-up brands in every category are embracing this concept.  Even without large marketing budgets, they can form one-to-one social relationships with hardcore fans who will go on to evangelize for them to their own networks.  They don’t necessarily have to be influencers, just people who find a brand that speaks to them, and have the willingness to let their friends know.  We’ve seen this in our teen research in the U.S. also—a highly-paid celebrity endorser has far less credibility and influence than a “regular” person on Instagram who really believes in a product..

“Insights aren’t free.”

This is true—there is a lot of widely available information (including this YouthBeat blog), but generating targeted insights into your brand’s category are usually more complex and delicate than the blunt instruments available online allow.  That’s why it’s important to partner with an insights agency who is intimately familiar with your target consumers or shoppers and knows how to reach them in the way they like to communicate.  It’s worth the investment.

For more information on YouthBeat Global, register for our free webinar on April 27 or reach out to Mary McIlrath at [email protected]

Tags: youth research, kids, kids tweens teens, millennials, Gen Z

Toy Fair Recon 2017 – Major Trends in the Toy Industry

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Thu, Mar 02, 2017 @ 09:18 AM

The YouthBeat team once again attended Toy Fair in New York, and it was another exciting year!  There’s a lot going on in the toy space, and here are a few of our favorite themes:

  • Danger is fun! Our subscribers have heard us talk about Millennial parents’ greater acceptance of a little bit of risk in their children’s play.  There was no shortage of toys that will feed into this.
    • Our favorite was Fiesty Pets--they look cuddly until their heads are squeezed, then “Rawr!”
    • Marshmallow guns and bows and arrows aren’t exactly new, but they are as prevalent as ever and super fun to play with, even if the child just wants to have a snack.
  • Clean sandbox play. Think of it as an evolution of kinetic sand.
    • Floof (a snow version), Mad Matter (colorful dough to play in), and Sands Alive (snow or sand) all offer the ability to mold and create without getting too sticky or dirty.
  • Bubbles, in any form, never go out of style.
    • Zuru makes large plastic ones that envelop each player, for fun Sumo-style wrestling.
    • Candylicious Bubbles was there with their blow-able and edible bubbles and toys. Yum! 
    • Their parent company, Little Kids, was there with their 25-year-old brand Fubbles and a costumed Fubble giving out free hugs!
  • Mystery and surprise are still thrilling.
    • Half Toys open up to reveal a skeleton inside, which can range from a dinosaur to a human. Perfect for a budding scientist. 
    • Surprizamals are miniature, adorable plushes that are a mystery until opened—and highly collectible.
    • Sourcebooks is offering a range of “How to Catch…” mystical creatures books, including elves, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and new this year, a Leprechaun.
  • Do-gooding is rising to the forefront.  We saw several companies with overt “giving back” components—not necessarily new programs, but more prominently proclaimed than in prior years. 
    • One of our favorites was Bears for Humanity. For every purchase of one of their animals, they donate one to a child in need.
    • United Healthcare Children’s Foundation is another great example. They run a book program in which proceeds from book sales go to grants for families with disabled children (things like a specially equipped ski so the child can ski with his or her family). 
    • Many other companies are using sustainable materials, to “give back” a healthy planet to all children, regardless of whether they use their products.

The exhibition floor contained plenty of drones, robotics, and other electronic toys.  And there is plenty of time for kids to engage with digital entertainment too.  But the toys that really stood out and touched our hearts this year are the ones that offered good old-fashioned fun, excitement, and kindness.

Tags: youth research, toys, kids, kids tweens teens market research, Youth, kids tweens teens, toy trends

2016: The Year in Review of Youth

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Thu, Jan 26, 2017 @ 03:41 PM

Many adults on social media have declared themselves glad to be done with 2016.  For youth and their parents, there were certainly moments of angst and uncertainty, but also moments of inspiration and just plain fun.  A few of the highlights we noted across the year:

American Academy of Pediatrics Changes Recommendations for Screen Time

In our YouthBeat® and YouthBeat® Jr. surveys, parents routinely report 
that preschoolers, kids, and tweens have about 2 hours of screen time a day—which we believe is woefully underreported.  But we know why.  For many years, pediatricians have been telling parents that children under the age of 2 shouldn’t have any TV time, and that older kids should have no more than 2 hours—so that’s what parents tell themselves is happening. Over the last five years, the presence of tablets and smartphones in year in review image 1-1.jpghomes and schools has accelerated, as has the beneficial content available to youth—including not just educational material, but also high-quality entertainment in television programming and online content.  The American Academy of Pediatrics last fall defined “screen time” as only the digital exposure that is entertainment-related.  Schoolwork doesn’t count.  For 2-5 year-olds, the new recommendation is an hour a day, and for 6 year-olds and above, there is no time limit recommendation.  Rather, parents are encouraged to have their children take breaks, spend quality face-to-face time, and help their children understand what high-quality entertainment looks like.  We expect in coming years that parents’ estimates of screen time will increase.

Sea World Announces End of Orca Whale Breeding and Shows

Though spurred by pressure from adults over the breeding and treatment of the marine mammals, the gesture is consistent with what Generation Z expects and demands from the adults who are the custodians of nature.  seaworld.jpgAlong those lines, an 11-year old Michigan boy started a non-profit called Polar Army with the aim of raising awareness of the impact of global warming on the polar bear population.  Some teens even became activists for climate change, suing the federal government for knowing about the threat of climate change for decades, but continuing to endanger the lives of future generations.  They say this limits their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Stay tuned for news from the courts to see what happens—and know that this generation expects adults to be responsible in their use and care of the environment and the human and animal creatures that inhabit it.

Flint, MI Water Crisis Extends Across U.S.

Since the tainted water crisis in Flint became national news in 2015, other municipalities began testing their own water supplies—particularly those in schools.  An alarming number were found to have unsafe amounts of
lead.  So much so that in our YouthBeat Global study, U.S. parents wereelite-daily-flint-michigan-water-crisis-twitter.jpg more likely to encourage their children to drink bottled water (66%) than tap water (57%).  Parents only in Mexico, China, and India were more likely than parents in the U.S. to prefer bottled to tap water.  In late 2016, criminal charges were filed against several local government officials in Flint who allegedly knew of the dangerous water content and did not act to protect the children in their constituencies.  Youth were unable to stand up for themselves as these dangerous waters flowed to them—but the effects of the tainted water could be felt for decades.

Pokémon Go

It’s rated E for Everyone and took the country by storm in the summer of 2016. C+R Research even blogged about the #GottaCatchEmAll craze and why it was a game changer…in the adult world.  For kids, just like adults, it represented a fun way to get out and move around without consciously exercising.  And, when played with parents, it was a great way Pokemon-GO-APK-DOWNLOAD-for-Android-Latest-Version-and-PC.jpgto bond and spend time together. But the parents in our Parentspeak community had mixed feelings about the game. As one mom summed it up, “The 10 year-old wanted to play but I didn’t want her wandering off and getting into places she shouldn’t be, so she entertains herself with other games.” Their concerns were largely around children playing by themselves—parents were happy to allow children to play from the car while driving past Pokémon, or with parental supervision.  Our take at YouthBeat® is that the Pokémon Go craze is perfectly fine for kids to play, with a responsible adult playing alongside.

Colin Kaepernick Takes a Knee

Colin Kaepernik of the San Francisco 49ers made headlines last fall for kneeling during the national anthem before football games.  His actions, in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, caught a lot of backlash on social media as being Anti-American and anti-veteran.  Moreover, in a Yahoo/YouGov poll, a third of NFL fans said they were watching less football than usual, and 40% of them blamed Colin Kaepernick’s protests.  At the same time, he inspired some high school football players to kneel during the national anthem at their own games.  From Seattle to North Carolina, teens followed suit in support of BLM.Colin-Kaepernick.jpg  We’ve written before about the importance of the movement to multicultural youth, as it was inspired by the deaths of African-American children as young as age 12. Kneeling is their way of saying they’re aware, they care, and they are taking sides.

These are just a few of the events that shaped the lives of youth in 2016.  For creators of content and products for youth, 2017 represents a new opportunity to inspire, to entertain, and to delight the youngest consumers.  We look forward to seeing what our youth + family clients provide to support their well-being, and we are here to help.

Tags: youth research, kids, kids tweens teens market research, Youth, kids tweens teens, trends