The Youth Lab


With festival season in full swing but extreme weather events and inflation surging, this summer is something of a roller coaster for young people around the world. From TikTok trends to summertime spending, this week’s 52INSIGHTS explores the cultural mood of summer 2022.


Feral Girl Summer is a TikTok trend with over 125 million views. The world feral doesn’t normally bring up positive connotations but it has been reimagined - this is about not caring so much. It’s a backlash to polished perfection, clean living and ‘Hot Girl Summer’ vibes, it embraces fun, freedom and chaotic energy. The creator of the trend and video that started this whole discourse calls out to her followers "I am feeling some f***ing chaotic energy, I think we all deserve it…life is supposed to be fun. I want so see you all thriving, having the time of your life and, most importantly, running around like feral rats."

“​​Basically, it’s living your best life without giving an iota of thought to the notion of propriety or self-care, a way to make up for lost time during the stultifying days of the pandemic, and a refreshing perspective in an age where picture-perfect green juices and Pilates routines are taking over our FYPs [for you pages].” Rolling Stone

It’s coming to life mainly in meme format and on TikTok, but you see other versions of anti-conformity culture reflected in mainstream Gen Z behaviours and digital creation. For example, the 0.5 selfie trend on Instagram. These are selfies taken with an ultra-wide-angle lens - the opposite of the perfect symmetrical filter, they are just whimsical and wacky looking. Why? It makes the creation process and the result more fun and carefree (similar to the focus of new apps like BeReal).


Love Island, the reality TV show, has a lot of glamour and looking “perfect”; not-so-feral aesthetics but feels on the edge of it with big chaotic energy. Reality TV has evolved, as the people on camera are more aware than ever of high-value endorsements after the show while still needing to bring the drama. Many aspiring to reach the heights of fame as seen by Molly Mae. This year’s group of beautiful people living in a villa coupling off are not disappointing the internet. Spicy reactions can lead to “Good girl” vs “Bad girl” narratives (without viewers at home seeing the full picture behind the edits) and slutshaming women. One example is the polarising Turkish actress Ekin-Su. She presents herself unapologetically, becoming a meme sensation with “Oscar-worthy” moments between her and the passionate Italian Davide. As couples get together and break-up, disappointments by toxic behaviour (from mostly men) brings more chaos online. We just hope after the show is done, they all get to thrive and be feral too.


Another chaotic TikTok trend has resulted in cinemas banning formal suits. TikTokers - mainly groups of teenage boys - have started turning up to screenings of Minions: The Rise of Gru in suits. The joke is largely harmless and a progression from the internet’s worship of the minions. It mainly consists of groups filming themselves going to the cinema in fancy clothing and copying characteristics of the main character Gru (see example here and follow the hashtag with over 5 million views on TikTok here). But some cinemas have had trouble with rowdy behaviour - hence the ban. But that hasn’t stopped the movie breaking box office records.

#Gentleminions is obviously both nostalgic and ironic, but it’s less focused on expressing irony than it is about using a piece of internet content to actively mobilize people. It’s about bringing a bunch of people together, doing something objectively weird, and then sharing videos and posts about it back on internet platforms with the expressed desire of inspiring others to do the same. It’s about testing the limits of what’s possible, not digitally, but physically and culturally.” Garbage Day

The trend not only shows how much of an ‘occasion’ social trips to the cinema can be - it’s a reflection of Gen Z humour. Youth internet culture today manifests as a constant ‘shitpost’ - no real meaning beyond the ‘joke’ itself, especially if you’re not in on it. The trend itself is fascinating as it's a live example of how online trends impact and translate into the real world - and how these lines are blurring more and more simultaneously. It’s a simple example of how the digital world is sparking new behaviours and possibilities in the real world.


Summer party season is in full swing, but youth finances are seriously constrained. This is leading to a battle between the need to indulge post-covid, and the reality of surging inflation (with predicted recession on the horizon). In fact, ‘cost of living’ recently topped a UK poll on the biggest problems faced by 13-39 year olds, taking a lead over climate change. Three of their top five issues have to do with the economy in the UK and in Spain. But at the same time, the pandemic experience has left young people hungry to enjoy the moment.

As a result young people have been rethinking how to manage their daily expenses and financial habits. It’s less about saving for the future and more about pursuing passions and living for the ‘now’. A recent NY Times article found that many under 35 year olds are ‘throwing financial caution to the wind’ - 45 percent of people aged 18 to 35 “don’t see a point in saving until things return to normal.” In that same age group, 55% said they have put retirement planning on hold. Using the term ‘financial nihilist’, Hannah Jones (27) interviewed talked about the new framing she’s applied to her spending:I’m not going to deprive myself some of the comforts of life now for a future that feels like it could be ripped away from me at any moment.” She also jokes “No, I’m not saving for retirement. I’m going to spend my money now, while we still have a supply chain at all.”


Activism is an ongoing passion for younger people and unfortunately, summer ‘22 brings another wave of intersectional issues to rage against. Particular outrage has been expressed at the U.S. Supreme Court for overturning Roe v Wade and abortion rights. From the main stage in Glastonbury to TikTok (check out Gen Z for Change) Gen Z are celebrating getting loud about the issue. Which is no surprise. According to Cosmo 2 out of 3 Gen Zers identify themselves as pro-choice – 20% higher than the national average, and nine in 10 believe they have the power to make a significant impact when it comes to safe abortion access.’

This activist and future policy-driven mindset is translating into the corporate world of work via employee activism and younger generations wanting to work for companies that share values and provide an opportunity to make a meaningful impact. This isn’t new, but it’s definitely becoming more mainstream in the context of the Great Resignation. In response, many leaders are advocating for companies to create safe spaces to listen to younger employees:

The traditional top-down approach to leadership where decisions are informed only by the people in the greatest positions of power will no longer work in the changing landscape driven by employee-led activism. Rather than responding to a crisis situation where employees are quitting in droves or staging walkouts, a smarter approach would be for leaders to put structures in place now to truly listen to their employees.Ashish Kaushal, Forbes


An opportunity to bring & share good vibes - As the energy is all about living your best life, there is space to play in simply focusing on comms that are all about enjoying the summer. This is something that stands out to us in Lucozade’s ‘Burst Into Summer’ campaign, tapping into that feeling of excitement.

"Lucozade’s message to all this summer is about bringing the positive energy, whatever your vibe, whatever your Lucozade drink of choice. By using a unifying message across the brand portfolio, our summer campaign bursts across all touchpoints with bright and bold messaging that is welcoming to all. The big takeaway is Lucozade is giving everyone what they need to unlock the best-tasting summer!" Conor Farrell, Marketing Manager - Lucozade Energy

Consider the value and impact on offer - find ways to give back to consumers - Worldwide people are feeling the pinch and stress from increasing costs. That doesn’t stop the desire to have fun. Orchard Thieves Follow The Fox whatsapp activation did this, tapping into the need for fun in a frictionless way via whatsapp. Fans of the brand were rewarded by Orchard Thieves who were offering free tickets to hotly anticipated summer events and guest passes to the Fox’s Den, their one-off immersive brand event.