The Youth Lab


In this week’s 52INSIGHTS, we share some topical internet conversations and themes from The Love Network, our unique global network of 16-35 year olds that we engage with for our insights. (Learn more by requesting a one-to-one introduction.)


Last week, Love Island All Stars reported some of their lowest ever viewership with a dismal 860,000 tuning into Monday's episode. A show that once dominated the timelines of young people all over the country has now lost the sense of lightness or fun that it once had and is now, according to some viewers, ‘cringe’. The dating show, which has always been a celebration of ‘traditional’ and often ‘unattainable’ good looks has come under a lot of criticism over the last few years, with contestants dealing with mental health issues after leaving the show. Its demise has been steady over the last couple of series, however Gen Z’s preference for more genuine and authentic content has to be a considerable factor.


‘The Traitors’ (BBC) is arguably the runaway success story of TV programming in the last year. If you’ve somehow managed to miss it, it’s a fresh format reality show hosted by Claudia Winkleman. Those who appear on it, like Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity… before it have a high likelihood of fame (or infamy) based on their behaviour on the show. The show recently made an unlikely icon out of a 63 year old teacher called Diane (with nearly 5 million people tuning in every night to watch her play the game of treachery and betrayal). The show has successfully spawned a million memes; as the media centre says ‘The Traitors’ recent success “has cemented its place as the biggest entertainment show on demand/VOD across all broadcasters and streamers in at least the last two years” as it continues its success in developing Entertainment content for 16-34’s.


The fabulous microcosm of Gen Z aesthetics is always changing, inspired by, and in response to, the world we live in. In an interesting development, two seemingly opposing aesthetics popped up this week; both the ‘Mob Wife’ and ‘Beige Girl’ styles were trending across social media. On the one hand we have the rise of ‘Mob Wife chic’ with fashion choices inspired by retro, faux-leopard-print-coat-wearing, big haired sassiness (Miss Piggy is peak Mob Wife chic); on the other we have the clean, synchronised, A-type personality, matching everything energy of the ‘Beige Girl’. Which one are you drawn to?

“..You absolutely just get it when you see it [Mob Wife chic], I’m all about maximum everything, so I love it lol.” Ciara, 26 The Love Network, London, UK.


Oscar season is upon us and there was serious conversation online about who wasn’t included in nominations. Actor Margot Robbie (star of the record-breaking Barbie film) was not nominated in the ‘Best Actress’ category - along with Barbie’s director and visionary, Greta Gerwig in the directorial category. Social conversations were split; some furious at what they see as a ‘blatant snub’ and potentially another signal that the Oscars as an institution is becoming too far removed from genuine audience values. Some in retrospect, were incredibly ‘over’ the Barbie hype and looked to the 8 film nominations that the film did achieve in other categories as proof of its recognition. Dazed Magazine goes further to say that, just maybe, “Barbie fans need to stop complaining.”

Ryan Gosling (who was nominated in the ‘Best Actor’ category for his role as ‘Ken’ in the Barbie film) shared his reaction, “To say that I’m disappointed that they are not nominated in their respective categories would be an understatement…” While the hype around the Barbie film was incredibly pink, fluffy and fun, it has a very meaningful message for so many and so it’s not surprising that audiences feel so strongly about these Oscar nominations. Fun films are important too!


If you’re reading this 52INSIGHTS while sipping from your reusable cup (and we hope you are) we have a question for you: is it a Stanley? The internet has seen record levels of conversation and consternation about these trendy keep cups. If you love them, then there is a high likelihood that you are female, in your twenties and have significantly more than 1; this collector, limited edition mentality has helped the Stanley cup business revenue increase by nearly $700 million in just the last 2 years.

The rise to fame of this seemingly ordinary, everyday cup brand has taken many people by surprise but it started back in 2019, when influencer Ashlee LeSueur championed the iconic "Quencher" by stocking 5,000 of the handled mug with the straw, to sell on her own website (soon selling out). Enter ex-Crocs (another Gen Z obsession brand) CMO Terence Reilly as Stanley President, who saw an opportunity to develop the range. The limited edition runs (with endless colourways, fun themes and brand tie-ins) rolled out, with fans camping overnight at retailers to get their hands on their new favourite colour or partnership cup. There’s a booming economy now in ‘blinging’ up custom Stanleys - with creators making big money with original or niche designs. Once the excitement of the hunt passes, it’s on to the next one - and that is the issue that many people have with the phenomenon. It’s an unsettling consumption pattern, involving a product which is meant to be used and re-used rather than collected and left on a shelf, over the course of a lifetime.


EMBRACE THE FUN FACTOR: Whether it’s the next emerging aesthetic, must-have product or fav streaming content series, successful brand to audience connection often comes from a core sense of fun. So embrace it; make that meme, get involved in conversations. We’re loving the fun-loving Adidas x Predator ads; short, shareable and funny - swapping out famous footballers’ names with the word ‘goal’ - all set in quirky, unexpected scenarios.

Lucozade Energy is a brand that totally gets the fun factor, shown through its mix of ATL and digital comms placements with positive, sunshine-filled, musical vibe aesthetics. Sara Philpot, Senior Brand Manager at Lucozade Energy says a big bold idea is key: ‘We were looking for a bold, disruptive platform idea to activate all Summer long, and THINKHOUSE worked with Mindshare to deliver big with this innovative music-themed concept that lives all throughout the media mix.'

AUTHENTICITY IS THE WAY: The success of programming like The Traitors, shows how reality content, and comms more generally, are successful with Gen Z audiences for their ability to connect on a human level. This is an essential basis for the fun factor.

AESTHETICS VS. BRAND STAPLES: Playing with meme culture and aesthetics should never replace your brand essence. Pick and choose the right themes to play with based on your core brand values.