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Gen Z's standout moments of 2018... and what to expect in 2019

by Hannah Ramsden
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    2018 was a big year for Gen Zs. We take a look back at key trends that mattered to to them in 2018, such as veganism and the plastic revolution and also explore what 2019 holds in store.

    Like the rest of the world, Gen Z had a big year in 2018. It wasn’t all Fortnite and Ariana Grande for these young adults. Whether it was making the transition from college to university, worrying about the future or taking a stand against issues that matter to them, Gen Z faced their own not-so-insignificant moments and milestones last year.

    Gen Z or Gen V?

    But taking the No 1 spot for Gen Z in 2018 is the rise of veganism. Following an entirely plant-based diet has become the latest trend for our late teens and early twenties demographic. With confirmed health benefits, the chance to improve their human footprint and the rise and success of web, print and app-based vegan influencers such as Deliciously Ella (who combatted health issues by following a purely natural and plant-based diet), and Made In Chelsea’s Lucy Watson, (who has a brand new 'Feed Me Vegan' range at Waitrose), veganism is certainly making its mark. BOL Foods, founded by former Head of Food at Innocent Drinks, Paul Brown, reported in 2018 that veganism had grown by 360% in the last 10 years alone which had inspired the roll-out of their pot vegan meal range – perfect for the full-time worker to enjoy over lunchtimes. BOL has confirmed this in studies with 44% of Gen Z viewing being vegan as cooler than smoking and 35% have been attracted to veganism to improve health and fitness generally. UK retail-legend Marks & Spencer has just jumped on the bandwagon, launching its vegan ‘Plant Kitchen’ range which is tipped to sell out. With annual personal feats such as Stoptober, Dry January and Sugar-Free February taking hold, Gen Z are taking back control of their health for all 365 days and are putting their best foot forward to reduce their human footprint for 2019.

    What’s ‘app-ening with mobile for Gen Z?

    Apps – they’re constantly updating and becoming better, forcing us to seek out greater versions and thrills than their predecessors. But isn’t that the nature of Gen Z? They don’t just want to settle but look to equip themselves with the best of the best to improve their situations. First it was Musical.ly – then China put out Tik Tok (or Douyin as it is known there) in 2016, which went global from 2018, allowing users to make short, snappier lip-sync karaoke videos. Offering music editing and special effects to share within the app, Tik Tok caters to Gen Z and their eight-second attention spans and preference for visually orientated social media platforms. According to reports, it was the most globally downloaded app in the first quarter (Jan – Apr) of 2018 with a reported 45.8 million downloads. Offering the chance to create “duets” with other users also, Gen Z want to retain more human interaction than perhaps their older or younger counterparts want – so the app market will need to bear that in mind when developing for this demographic in the future.

    GDPR – a consequence of Gen Z?

    When the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force on 25 May 2018, several lines of thought came forward suggesting that Gen Z themselves were instrumental in its creation. With many facets of their lives largely being online, businesses have sought to ensure that as many experiences as possible can be consumed by this group digitally – creating a flood of personal data in the process. As a direct consequence, sensitive information needs better management. Growing up with internet and social media, Gen Z has openly released personal data to interact with the online environment and keep up with peers by airing views on topics close to them, using dating apps to build relationships etc. With the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal in March 2018, GDPR was placed in the spotlight even further. Consequently, 89% of students (Gen Z age) are now concerned about the privacy of their online content. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica event, a Studyclix.ie Student Attitudes Survey found that 75% of Gen Z Instagram users had now set their page to private mode. In the Taking Part survey conducted by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport/Office for National Statistics, only 25% comprise Gen Z UK Facebook compared with 33% of Gen Z Twitter users now.

    Globally, eMarketer has estimated that the number of Facebook users between the ages of 12 and 17 would fall 3.4% to 14.5 million people by the end of the year – so potentially, the ‘GDPR effect’ will have a detrimental effect on various social media tools, but may promote more beneficial and healthier minds for Gen Z in the future. Perhaps Gen Z is going the same way as British fashion designer, Phoebe Philo of Celine? ‘The chic-est thing is when you don't exist on Google. God, I would love to be that person!’

    The Attenborough ‘Plastic Revolution’ and Sustainability ahead 

    When treasured broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough took to the stand in autumn 2017 and condemned the human use of plastic on our natural world, it was the first time that people stopped and considered their individual contribution to the problem. No one had meticulously thought before about how this 1960’s invention could be so detrimental to everything we do.

    Gen Z has been one of the most proactive groups to take this on and action it. In London in July 2018, The City Corporation launched its Plastic Free City campaign; a rallying call to businesses and individuals to reduce single use plastics across the Square Mile district of the City. The first businesses to adopt this were the City Corporation itself, the Barbican Centre as well as the universally known Bank of England, financial services group Nomura as well as banking and asset management group, Investec.

    The pledge prevents the use of plastic straws, cups or cutlery and stretches further by offering institutions the chance to register as a water refill site. The City Corporation is also supporting City residents and workers to go plastic free by installing 10 new drinking fountains across the financial district, in parks, retail squares and near transport hubs.

    Conducted by PR and media services organisation, Censuswide, a recent survey compared the attitudes of 1,000 people of Gen Z to enter the workforce with 1,000 Millennials and found a considerable shift in attitudes across the generations:

    • 80% of Gen Z considered tackling single use plastics as important or very important for employers, ahead of reducing electricity and water consumption and greenhouse gases;
    • 37% of Gen Z would consider a potential employer’s environmental responsibility when looking for a job, compared with 19% of Millennials when they applied for their first job;
    • Environmental responsibility is now in the top three considerations when it comes to employers’ corporate social responsibility for Gen Z and Millennials alike (36%), along with the gender pay gap (38%) and diversity policy (30%);
    • 43% said they would be shocked if their employer continued to use single use plastics in the workplace

    Many other initiatives are set to follow and Gen Z are certainly looking like they will be the torchbearers.

    Gen Z and the rise of the "influencer"

    With the rise of Instagram as the prime influential platform for business, many brands have been using “influencer marketing” to increase reach and continue to drive engagement. Gen Z has seen how these “influencers” are becoming successful with companies rallying to advertise their products on pages and stories which have the capacity to be absorbed by millions. With YouTube stars such as Zoella, the Saccone Joly’s and authors such as Louise Pentland turning to promote ads and products on their personal sites, marketers can now tap into the power. Being more affordable than traditional methods of marketing, influencers are more eager to partner with the right brands and with this comes the accessibility, familiarity and relatability that bigger campaigns have previously had.

    Gen Z can leave comments or send messages to that person they look up to and who may potentially respond. Influencer marketing is big business. With 75% of children aged 6-17 now wanting to be YouTube stars when they grow up, it is likely that as Gen Z start their careers, influencer involvement will most likely be on their minds.

    As for 2019...

    …well that remains to be seen. However, a few ideas that are likely to dominate the Gen Z mindset will no doubt include:

    Brexit and NHS awareness

    The UK is due to leave the European Union on 29 March, three years since the Referendum occurred. Gen Z has enjoyed the opportunities that being in the EU has afforded them – the chance to travel; the chance to work in a different country to the one they were born in and the chance to learn about different cultures. Around 70% of 18-24 year olds were reported to have voted Remain on Referendum Day, so it’ll certainly be interesting to see the effect in approximately 11 weeks’ time. One thing that UK Gen Z is particularly frustrated with and concerned about however is the potential effect on the NHS.

    As Will Adams, a business studies student at Lancaster University pointed out to The Guardian in May 2018, ‘The NHS is a national treasure and we should be proud of it. But we’ve got to make sure it’s fit for the next generation because the pressures it’s under are absolutely ridiculous. It faces all sorts of threats – Brexit making it harder to recruit staff [for one]. It’s going to have to adapt, no question.’

    59% of young patients think the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will have a detrimental impact on the NHS, compared to just 28% of older patients, according to the report by health communications agency, Pegasus. Google has also become the go-to for medical insight for Gen Z, with 6 out of 10 users searching for answers before choosing to go visit a medical practitioner for further help. Digital solutions are seen as the answer for curing the NHS’ problems and are viewed as the hope to navigate the choppy waters through the Brexit storm – 82% expect a ‘technology revolution’ to better manage health and care with nearly 63% happy for a “chatbot” to provide a medical diagnosis compared to 38% for those over 55 – something for discussion and something which may be needed soon given the potential issues to be faced after March.

    UK crime - the Gen Z conscience 

    Last year, there were around 40,100 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales. This was the highest number since 2011. Reported every day, it is not difficult to see why this is on the concern list for Gen Z. Within London, the highest rate of 168 offences were recorded; an increase of 26 offences from 2016/17. Gen Z is particularly receptive to campaigns and champion causes that resonate. As per the Digital Marketing Magazine’s 2015 initiative with the Ben Kinsella Trust, ‘talking heads’ meant stories were able to be shared amongst peers far quicker than previous years. By making campaigns digital and bringing it home and making them a point of youth discussion, messages will be able to be shared faster by this demographic and as a result are bound to be a point of discussion in 2019.

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