Examining The Human Project Insights: Do you want to connect with youth? Then be a Best Friend.

As brands and organizations sink into their engagement efforts around Millennials, there is a new generation right behind them who look and act very differently than any youth generation before. At Zeno Group, we call them Gen WE, a most influential generation spanning in age from 0-19.

As marketers, there’s a real challenge ahead of us in terms of connecting with youth because we have never seen a more digitally intuitive and highly influential group. Brands need to become just like a best friend to win trust and loyalty from the WE generation, especially since they use brands to build their own personal brand.  This is a different proposition versus the brand loving Millennials who proudly join brands that provide both experiences and solutions in their daily lives.

In 2016 Zeno Group’s The Human Project, a proprietary research and methodology that connects brands and humans through core values and behaviors, studied youth (ages 14-25) across two generations—Gen WE and Gen Z – in six countries – US, UK, Canada, India, China, and Australia. The research reveals seven global insights into what makes this dynamic group of youth unique.  It also points to the need for brands and organizations to swiftly connect to these young people who are literally shaping the culture in which brands compete.

Some of the most compelling insights are…

Today’s youth wield powerful influence across the globe. The voices of Gen WE and Z are louder (and more respected) than any young generation of the past. One spirited youth has the power to enact unprecedented change that extends across borders, cultures and languages. Boundary-breaking teens like Malala and Jazz Jennings epitomize this.

In this generation, everyone expects to be heard, which is transforming the role of leadership. They place a strong emphasis on equality; traditional hierarchies simply don’t resonate. Global youth are creating a new leadership paradigm that favors a collaborative, lead-by-example model over the traditional command and control model. This behavior is already impacting workplaces and will likely shape businesses and politics in the future.

When it comes to relationships, global youth’s friendships are built on shared values. While parents perceive proximity and convenience to be the key drivers of their kids’ friendships, young people place the most importance on shared morals, ethics and priorities. My guess is that as  societal gaps narrow and shared values expands, this will have a positive impact on peer pressure and bullying.

Like their attitudes toward friendships, this cohort shows unprecedented maturity in another sector of their life—tech. For global youth, tech is a love-hate proposition. They have a keen awareness of when tech is supporting their larger goals, and when it’s working against them. Contrary to stereotypes, today’s youth do know when to unplug.

Gen WE and Gen Z (19-25 year olds) are the most informed youth generation in history, and their attitudes towards health are more sophisticated as a result. Youth are highly health aware and are guided by balance. They have a more expansive and holistic view of what counts as “healthy” or “normal”, with a prevailing attitude best characterized as “otherwise, I’m healthy.”

The Human Project found that today’s youth are approaching happiness in a very thoughtful way. It’s not surprising that young people value happiness, but this cohort is creating their own “Happy Equation” in which Happiness = Balance + Success + Purpose. Unlike generations past, Gen WE and Z are neither governed by folly nor focused purely on success. Their notion of happiness and the good life is grounded in balance—a life filled with meaningful pursuits and personal success is the ultimate goal.  And one more caveat: they’re not afraid to demand what they need in order to get there.

Today’s global youth is poised to dramatically shape every category in which brands operate, and they’re well on their way to making their mark. Understanding how they see themselves, their future and the world is the first step towards anticipating their needs and becoming a best friend brand. Are you ready to connect?

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