Looking Back: Youth
30 : 12 : 19

In 2019, Generation Z took a more nuanced approach to identity, exploring new routes to self-expression through peer-influencers, piercings and meme culture.

The Trend: Paradox Personas

Zalando sneakers autumn/winter 2019 by Superimpose Zalando sneakers autumn/winter 2019 by Superimpose

This year, we experienced a huge transformation in how teenagers use social media. As we moved closer to peak visual culture, our macrotrend Paradox Personas explored how Generation Z drove a new approach to Instagram that rejected self-promotion in favour of self-awareness.

Making it clear that their multifaceted identity is not a product or a brand, Generation Z turned to their peers for entertainment in a celebration of Everyteen Media, focused their real-life friendships with the help of Snapchat, migrated to TikTok to parody their online selves and harnessed Tinder to form alternative curriculums.

Brands cannot rely on a URL to find these teens. To these consumers, the offline and online worlds exist in harmony, and digital platforms are enabling them to form a more multifaceted analogue self. As Julie Weitz, a visual artist who explores the psychological impact of digital media on selfhood, argues: ‘The critical distinction is to recognise the difference between the persona they project in bits of information versus their complex, constantly growing selves.’

The Big Idea: Teen Tech Welfare

With technology increasingly invading on the private lives of young people, this year brands stepped in to help Generation Z and Gen Alpha achieve a healthy screen-life balance. In Teen Tech Welfare, we explored the ways brands played a more supportive role to parents and children in the war against tech addiction.

To encourage more responsible digital citizens, the BBC launched Own It, an app that provides guidance and support when a user’s behaviour strays outside of the norm. Own It monitors the impact of certain words and phrases, tracks mood and gives instant advice about digital wellbeing, and has been designed to help parents and young people have a conversation about their experiences online.

Meanwhile, TikTok recently partnered with the Digital Empowerment Foundation to create a campaign to help young people in India think about what they are posting online. Awareness workshops are being held in key cities while an accompanying video, Wait a Sec to Reflect, draws attention to the possible negative results of posting risky or offensive content.

Play by Spark Play by Spark

The Campaign: 999 Cold Remedy by Serviceplan

999 Cold Remedy 999 Cold Remedy
999 Cold Remedy 999 Cold Remedy
999 Cold Remedy 999 Cold Remedy

The most successful youth campaigns of 2019 tapped into the younger generation’s cynical nature. In China, cold and flu medicine brand 999 Cold Remedy released a digital and print campaign to refresh its old-fashioned image.

Created in partnership with advertising agency Serviceplan, the campaign tapped into the Chinese tradition of wearing leggings in winter to prevent colds, which young people are snubbing in favour of fashion. To encourage this generation to wear leggings and stay warm, the brand re-imagined the garments as high fashion, tongue-in-cheek styles emblazoned with large logos.

999 Cold Remedy is a household brand – it is the top selling cold and flu medicine in China and its classic green and white packaging has made it highly recognisable. The campaign, which represented the brand’s first change in visual identity since its launch in 1991, aimed to rejuvenate the brand for a younger, meme-savvy audience. According to Serviceplan, the campaign garnered more than 430m online impressions within a month of its launch.

The Interview: Atika Malik on new Indian femininity

NorBlack NorWhite and Fila, India NorBlack NorWhite and Fila, India

At Cannes Lions 2019, we discussed the damaging stereotypes that Indian women face in the media with Atika Malik, chief operating officer at Cheil India. With the Indian film industry representing women as either evil or inherently good, Malik believes that brands have the opportunity to step in and debunk myths about Indian culture.

‘In our presentation at Cannes Lions, we posed a question based on data from the American Psychological Association – how do you see Asian women? The four answers to choose from were: tiger mom, exotic beauty, silent submissive and a hard-working, conscientious housewife. In 2019 are those really the only choices?’ asks Malik.

In our interview, Malik explores how young women themselves are challenging these stereotypes, especially when it comes to relationships. ‘Tinder and Bumble, which used to be unheard of in India, have had a huge impact. And girls are making the first move on these dating apps,’ she says. ‘Another Chinese dating app, Tantan, is huge in India, especially in tier two and tier three towns. So we’re not talking about urban, educated, English-speaking girls. We are talking about girls who come from rural areas.’

The Space: Studs

Studs, US Studs, US
Studs, US Studs, US
Studs, US Studs, US

Generation Z retail spaces evolved in 2019, as phygital innovators took over from old-fashioned mall veterans. In New York, Studs brought Instagram-optimised interior design to the piercing parlour, re-inventing ear piercing services for a new generation of teenagers.

Opening in the Nolita district in November, Studs was conceptualised after co-founder Anna Harman found piercing services in tattoo parlours didn’t fit in with today’s consumer tastes and expectations. As a result, Studs occupies the gap between mall brands, tattoo parlours and luxury studios. Making the experience more comfortable, its piercings are done in private rooms with a needle rather than a gun. Its selection of jewellery includes Earscapes – personalised combinations of earrings that can be mixed and matched to create unique looks – that are priced accessibly to appeal to Generation Z.

‘We tried to envisage: what does today’s late teen to early 20-year-old want, so we did a lot of playing with light, materials and colours in a way that we wanted to feel fresh, but also a place that felt zen and spa-like, appropriate for what is effectively a small medical procedure,’ Harman told Adweek.

Download the Future Forecast 2020 report

Now that you know what shaped 2019, discover what’s on the horizon. Download our Future Forecast 2020 report comprising 50 new behavioural patterns across 10 key consumer sectors, expert opinion pieces and interviews with global innovators.

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