Confident Youth

Levels of confidence in teenagers are at an all-time low. Phoebe Trimingham explores the potential role of the media in unlocking self-confidence in young people...

We spend a lot of time at Crowd DNA hearing the hopes and fears of teenagers all over the world. We’re rooting for them, so we were particularly struck by the latest Youth Index from the Prince’s Trust, which states that 54 percent of young people in the UK believe a lack of self-confidence holds them back and 33 percent think it’s the biggest challenge to them pursuing a career.

While this is clearly a problem – levels of confidence are at their lowest since the index began in 2009 – there’s plenty that the media, brands and society can do to tackle reported low-confidence in young people. What’s more, the picture may not be as bleak as it seems. We’ve gathered together some of our recent global insights to explore a different side to the confidence issue and provide starters on how brands might help solve this challenge. 

Permission To Fail

With self-comparison constantly available at their fingertips, it’s no surprise that teens often feel pressure to succeed. Most we speak to are worried about not achieving their full potential or living their ‘best life’. Yet, young people also tell us that they don’t see failure as the end of the road. In fact, most teens think it’s better to try and make mistakes than not to try at all. 67 percent consider themselves to be entrepreneurial and 82 percent describe themselves as adaptable and flexible (Viacom 2017, My Teen Life). Is there a way of tapping into this spirit by promoting alternative, bumpy-road success stories? Or highlighting failures and the small steps that allow for adjustments along life’s journey?

Mosaic Identities

Last year saw us travel around the world talking to young men about attraction, relationships, and everything in between, on behalf of Lynx/Axe. Obviously, confidence has a huge role to play in the tricky game of teenage love. The majority we spoke to felt that confidence was gained by assembling their own mosaic of attractive features. For them, everyone has their own unique ‘offer’  to discover, which develops alongside their sense of identity. There is definitely an opportunity to help teens figure this all out. Not only by helping them develop skills and their own sense of self, but assuring them that being different is okay by celebrating diversity and the widening mosaic of modern masculinity.

Empowered Storytellers

The vast majority of teens we speak to think that everyone should have the right to stand up for their beliefs. They think that everyone has a story, everyone has a right to tell their story, and that everyone can learn from others’ stories. Young people are adept at seeing the world through different eyes and speaking out about what’s important to them. There is clearly an empowerment opportunity here to help more young people feel able to voice their beliefs; the key being to reassure them that there’s space and appetite for a whole range of stories to be valued, heard and shared.

The relationship between young people and confidence is definitely something to keep an eye on. But, by digging into the attitudes of teens around the world, the media can play a clear role in youth empowerment, promoting alternative success stories, and showing that being different is not just celebrated – it’s often the key to unlocking confidence.

Crowd DNA’s Joey Zeelen looks at the sobering-up of Gen Z through his own experience of teen drinking...

Growing up in Holland in the noughties, my use of alcohol – or drugs, we’re talking Holland here – wasn’t any different to others my age. I started drinking at 15 and, like most millennials, alcohol was a big part of life. It formed my identity; it was the centre of socialising and the entirety of my teenage fun.

Saying that, it’s sometimes surprising to read about the sobering-up of Gen Z. Most explanations (health consciousness, well-being) fall flat when I think of the importance of alcohol during my own teen years. To understand this shift, I sought out some explanations on an internal level. When looking at my own drivers for teen drinking, Gen Z’s rejection of alcohol starts to make a lot more sense…

Identity

As a teen, alcohol shaped my sense of self and influenced the people I looked up to. Liam Gallagher, Kate Moss, music from Nirvana and gabber house – they were all inseparable from alcohol (and drugs). Now, icons like Lil Yachty and Adwoa Aboah promote a new culture of abstinence where it’s okay to say no. Intoxication is no longer a requirement of ‘cool’.

Discovery

A big driver for teen drinking was experimentation. Alcohol made me feel different, brave; it enabled me to do things I’d not dare otherwise. But is this still relevant? When talking to Gen Z, it always strikes me how open they are to subjects that were once alien or embarrassing to me (unless drunk). Perhaps alcohol isn’t needed for experimentation anymore, and they are simply more capable of discovering on their own, sober, terms. It’s no doubt, too, that the online space has become a better and more efficient vehicle for discovery.

Social Connection

While socialising played out in the pub/club in my teen years, social connections now form in different spaces: usually in isolation, on social media or at home. Similarly, online entertainment and platforms now provide young people with the stimuli and experiences that would have once been gained by going out drinking with friends.

Enjoyment

Long-story-short, I enjoyed alcohol because it enabled me to ‘let go’. Now, young people are so focused on results and prospects (not surprising when you look at the societal pressures they face), which must influence their ability to go wild or be unproductive the next day. On top of that, when they do party, they’re image conscious – why become embarrassingly drunk when it might be immortalised on social media?

But I doubt the desire to ‘let go’ has gone for Gen Z; it’s just taken on different forms. New indulgences now exist, which are better suited to their needs. We only have to look at the growing Xanax culture – linked to rappers like Lil Xan or Lil Peep – to see how, from a cultural stance, it makes sense. The effects of these drugs are less noticeable (or embarrassing), and offer a potential way of dealing with the pressures and anxieties of modern teenage-hood.

Secondary sources can help inform insights, but to really get to know young people and understand their drinking habits, we need to deep dive into their actual lives, needs and daily motivations, too. Sobering-up then makes a lot more sense through the eyes of a boozy millennial – cheers!

Death Of The Teenager

Crowd DNA’s Andy Crysell asks whether the teen experience is in decline and, if so, what it means for self-identity and brands. To get a copy of our Death Of A Teenager cultural forecasting report, read on…

Hot on the heels of the widely reported scientific claims that adolescence now extends from 10 to 24, we thought it opportune to publish a revamped version of our Death Of A Teenager cultural forecasting report.

What would it mean to have never been a teenager, as we knew being a teenager? As grown-ups continue to avoid, er, growing up, and younger generations start connecting with culture – and even hitting puberty – at an earlier age, the previously well-defined ‘teenage years’ don’t make so much sense. A collective experience of ‘being a teenager’ seems to be coming to an end.

In this report we map out the driving forces behind this change and ask how it will impact self-identity formation. Also, given that the marketing communications industry has a habit (near obsession) with all things youth, we look at the relevance that this will no doubt have for brands.

For a copy of our shiny new report please email: DOTT@crowdDNA.com

Facebook asked us to find out what makes Canadian millennials tick. This is what we learnt...

We’re delighted to post some recent insights work for Facebook about Canadian millennials.

The research involved a road trip across Canada where we conducted in-depth interviews with generational experts and Canadians aged 18-34, as well as a quant survey.

We learned that millennials rely on mobile, find strength in online communities and take pride in their country’s multicultural identity. We also found that when it comes to defining success and spending money, they hold surprisingly different views than older generations.

Read more here.

Rise: Agelessness

Crowd DNA’s popular Rise breakfast events are back after a summer break. This time brand and communications expert Eleanor Sankey discusses how we can understand consumers in a world where age is just a number...

Date: September 14

Time: 8.15am-9am

Location: Crowd DNA, 5 Lux Building, 2-4 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NU

Consumer trends show that Gen Z is growing up faster than previous generations, millennials are delaying adulthood and Gen X and Boomers are living more ‘youthfully’ than ever before. On top of this, we’re living longer, working past retirement age and achieving major milestones later. As a result, brands are increasingly looking beyond age-based definitions.

In this session, we’ll help marketers understand consumers without age restrictions, moving beyond demographics to explore new ways of segmenting, targeting and making recommendations about how to communicate agelessness.

If you’d like to join us for coffee and croissants while discussing the secret of eternal youth marketing, please contact Jason Wolfe. And feel free to pass the invite onto colleagues of all ages.

Watch the trailer below:

Norwegian youth drama SKAM’s fourth series just finished, but its fan base keeps on growing. Head of insight & innovation Dr Matilda Andersson explores the role audience insights played in its success...

Those of you who thought TV is dead, think again. The fourth series of SKAM, a teen drama made by NRK (Norway’s BBC) has just ended, leaving its global following wanting more. From Stavanger to San Francisco, SKAM’s success has been fuelled by fans sharing images on Tumblr, distributing translated transcripts via Google Drive and making subtitled videos available on YouTube. With unprecedented high ratings and a cult following that’s seen fans invading the set, stalking characters and learning Norwegian, what’s the secret of its success?

SKAM, or SHAME in English, captures the everyday lives of teens in an average Norwegian high school, giving a raw and up-close view of love and friendship today (date rape, coming out and cyberbullying are just some of the topics covered). The series is digital first, with episodes released online (at NRK.NO) scene by scene throughout the week, to create the impression that events are happening live. The stars of the show come to life through their social media presence, each character has an Instagram account, updated when something interesting happens in the series. Even though the digital storytelling contributes to the show’s success, it’s the extraordinary realism capturing young people’s lives and relationships that has created waves reaching far beyond its suburban Oslo setting.

At the 2017 YLE Media Digital Summit, SKAM producer Marianne Furevold-Boland talks about using the NABC Method to get under the skin of Gen Zs. NABC originates from Stanford and stands for Need, Approach, Benefit and Competition. A familiar approach to us here at Crowd DNA, this audience-centric model focuses on needs first and then helps build value propositions to fulfill them. The team at NRK conducted surveys, content analysis of Instagram and Snapchat stories and visited schools to make sure they really listened to their audience. The producers of SKAM realized that if the consumers are willing to tell you their stories, there’s no point making things up.

A British broadcaster has yet to pick up the series, though Simon Fuller has bought the rights to produce an English language version for US and Canada. In the meantime, you can watch a subtitled trailer here.

At Crowd DNA we’re very proud to have contributed a young audience needs model to help future proof broadcasting, presented at the MRS Impact conference earlier this year. As their path to adulthood becomes less predictable, it’s even more important to take time to listen to young people today. Youth brands can learn a lot from SKAM’s strong audience needs proposition, innovative execution and digital first distribution.

We're recruiting people to take part in a global lifestyle community...


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Crowd DNA are looking for people to take part in a one-year community about city life for a global lifestyle brand. The community will explore people’s experience of living in a city as well as their behaviour and ideas around areas such as innovation, sustainability and retail.

We’re looking for 20-35 year-olds with good quality written/spoken English skills who live in one the following cities (and have been resident in the country for 10 years or more):

London, Mumbai, San Francisco, Shanghai, Stockholm, Tokyo

What do you need to do?

Over the course of a year, you’re asked to complete fortnightly ‘quick-fire tasks’ (e.g. polls, written responses, taking pictures) and one ‘major task’ every two months (e.g. interviewing friends, diaries). Topics will vary for every task.

What’s in it for you?

We offer remuneration in the form of Amazon vouchers for tasks completed, as well as prize draws for the best response, general engagement and overall contribution.

If you’re interested, please fill in this questionnaire:

Know someone who’s a perfect fit? Then feel free to share this post.

Thanks.

Child’s Play

Hot on the heels of awesome work on a couple of seriously weighty kids and families project (one very global, one getting into the nitty-gritty of need-states), Crowd DNA’s Berny McManus shares thoughts on best practice...

Nothing stands still with kids and families. For as many years as Crowd DNA have been researching them, we’re continually surprised by how they evolve in line with cultural influences, societal expectations and technological developments. We’ve become pretty adept at getting to the heart of what makes kids and parents tick, so we thought that we’d put a spotlight on a few of things learnt along the way.

Being authentic is key – don’t try to be ‘one of them’

As a former primary school teacher, I’ve seen many people (myself included) fall into this trap. Despite the fact that we’ve all been children, we lose touch with what it’s like to actually be a kid. We forget how we like to be spoken to by adults. So here’s a quick reminder: kids, especially tweens, really don’t like it when you try to be ‘one of them’. It usually results in one (or more) of the following: confusion, mockery, loss of respect, eye-rolling or – worst case scenario for a researcher – they just tune you out. Focus on being you; they will respect you so much more for that.

Help them express themselves

Kids have fantastic imaginations but they understand and communicate in different ways to us. Some decipher the world by reading, while others digest more information via images or sounds. It’s so important to give them a number of ways to engage and communicate with us. We run sessions that include drawing, role play, using apps on tablets – the list goes on. Our research with kids throughout the years has shown that characters from books, TV programmes and games play a huge part in helping the youngest ones practice relationships and experiences in a safe environment through play. Role-play is an easy way for kids to express themselves, so we’re big fans of working this into our projects. We actually recommend this as a strategy to content producers who we work with; albeit for slightly different reasons. We’ve found kids imaginative play to be a great litmus test for how successful a piece of content, TV, book or game is going to be. If they adopt them in their role play, then the characters are likely to be influential and liked. Ultimately, if you want to unlock their innermost thoughts, then you have to be prepared to use an array of strategies. The results can be thought-provoking; the kids enjoy it – and we get to spend working hours pretending to be spacemen/cowboys/the Prime Minister.

From my perspective

Unsurprisingly, it’s kids’ subconscious behaviours that can be the most revealing, especially when it comes to uncovering their real motivations or emotions. We’re strong fans of using GoPros to evidence their behaviours and actions. They allow us to completely immerse ourselves in their world and of course see the world through their eyes. (It’s also often startling seeing things from their ‘perspective’; adults are giants and the supermarket is still a wall of treats and distractions).

Give them ownership

It’s also important to give kids ownership of the session. There are a number of ways to achieve this. The younger children can be given mini-jobs to do such as, ‘You’re responsible for giving everyone a sticker’; while slightly older kids see value in being the declared ‘expert’ on a particular topic (I’ve had many walk-through demonstrations of Minecraft and I’ve learnt something every time!). My favourite is co-creation as an approach. I’ve seen some very insightful outputs from short sessions, such as the conceptualisation of a new gaming app within an hour… and this was with eight year olds. Giving kids ownership of the session makes them feel valued and results in a far more engaged and enthusiastic participants.

From co-creation to GoPro footage, working with kids is always fascinating. Give them the right tools to express their thoughts and creativity, and the insights are pure magic. We’ll be running one of our Rise breakfast events on the subject of kids research shortly – stay tuned.