YOUTH CULTURE UNCOVERED 2021: EMERGING IN AN EMERGENCY
Understanding youth doesn’t happen by accident. It happens with curiosity, investigation and investment.
The Youth Lab’s mission is to demystify youth culture to help organisations better connect with young people and unlock tomorrow’s opportunities. Youth Culture Uncovered is an annual self-funded research project by THINKHOUSE. This investment is part of our ongoing dedication to developing insight with our Love Network of young collaborators.
‘Emerging in an Emergency’ is the 2021 Irish edition of Youth Culture Uncovered; its fifth annual youth culture investigation exploring the hypothesis, “what’s it like to be young today?”.
We ask this question because it helps us to understand how to respond to the needs of the next generation, and to better connect with them — it allows us to see around corners; to get a sense of what the future holds; to respond to their challenges and to ensure continued relevance for brands and organisations in the short and long term.
WHAT DID WE EXPLORE?
The 2021 version provides a raw, real perspective on how young people, already understood to be the first generation to not see the same sort of advancement relative to their parents, and further disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, are emerging from the crisis. The investigation challenges the idea that 16-35 year olds will simply bounce back back into a pre-covid ‘normal life’ existence, and explores how youth’s pent up energy is manifesting into a brave confidence to “voice out” - challenging society’s expectation of young people and society itself.
The investigations (incorporating both qualitative and quantitative research) are designed to understand life through the lens of 16-35-year-olds in Ireland, providing businesses and organisations with insight and intelligence to resonate better with youth audiences, respond to their challenges and ensure continued relevance for their brand/ organisation in the long term.
WHAT DID WE FIND? A NEW CULTURAL DYNAMIC: THE ROADING TWENTIES 2.0 - 'VOICING OUT IN THE 21ST CENTURY'
“There's a deep existential crisis among young people. Particularly about the climate crisis and also social justice - about class, race, mental health. It's a now or never attitude and sentiment flowing from young people. These issues are a battery on the back of young people who want to see things right. I don’t think that’s been seen before like this in Ireland. It brings bravery - there’s a lack of fear.” Eric, 19, Black & Irish
In an Ireland where 61% of 16-35 year olds believe “Ireland is a society run by the old for the old” young people are emerging from the pandemic as unapologetically outspoken agents of change, into a new world ripe for a youth-centric reset.
Pandemic history has taught us to expect a post-pandemic radical upheaval and 2021 post-pandemic landscape is not dissimilar, although the flapper flamboyance of the 1920’s has been replaced with an outspoken youth voice - a now or never attitude and sentiment flowing from young people, because in a world stacked against them, young people have no other choice but to roar.
- 66% claim to have a new perspective on life and how society is organised after going through COVID-19
- 73% believe that society needs systematic economic and societal restructuring
- 59% are energised to fight for more systematic economic and societal change
- 69% of 16-24 year olds claim to consciously choose to support businesses that deliver more sustainable products and services, (up from 66% in 2021).
- 64% of 25-35 year olds claim to consciously choose to support businesses that deliver more sustainable products and services, (up from 53% in 2019).
“Young people’s voicing out is a rallying call of togetherness against the inequalities they face, but it is also a cry for help to older generations to shift old systems, realise new orders and re-balance the social contract in a way that gives young people a fair chance of security, opportunity and happiness. The brands and businesses that take leadership roles in voicing out for young people are those that are likely to resonate with young people. Choose not to act, and it could be a dealbreaker.”
-Claire Hyland, Head of The Youth Lab
“It really does feel like a huge, historic moment - one where we are being called to carefully listen to others (and our planet) in new ways in order to find the right questions and feed our collective resilience into the future. The post-pandemic world for young people is a groundswell of discontent, combined with a collapse of trust. This research provides the opportunity to be part of an evolving brand landscape with justice, harmony and possibility at its core; to nourish the human things we’ve learned to value most and recognise the practises that no longer serve us.”
- Laura Costello, Strategy Director, Purpose & Planet
What about brands? The Youth Lab findings highlight that to be relevant to this generation of young people during this period of upheaval, the immediate opportunity is to be “a voice for youth”, suggesting three pathways to relevance: Dismantling the Old, Delivering the Now and Welcoming the New…
“The worst thing a brand could do is not care. If you’re not even trying or not bothered, it’s really unappealing.” Ben, 22
"Investing in Youth Culture Uncovered is a no-brainer for us. It helps the team to understand deeply what is going on for our audience, feeding into our approach across a number of areas in the business. The Youth Lab and THINKHOUSE bring a diversity of thinking...They bring the consumer to life in an accessible and memorable way, and always give actionable takeaways to the team. Their realistic approach to presenting what's going on with young people helps us to really critically assess how our brands are supporting them. This work uncovers insights that are crucial for people, brands and businesses to understand."
- Head of Marketing, Suntory Beverage & Food Ireland
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