Youth Culture Trends To Plan For In 2016


December 2015

Gen Z Trends To Plan For In 2016

December is the right time to reflect on the important youth culture trends in 2015 and identify the big opportunities they may present in the coming year. Here are the top 4 trends we think marketers ought to plan for in 2016.


Social Media as Broadcast Media

By 2020, 2.44 billion of the world’s population will be on social networks (eMarketer.) 2015 was the year platforms like Periscope and Meerkat entered consumers’ consciousness. 2016 will be the year many brands will evolve from experimenting to more deeply integrating live streaming video into their marketing strategies. Brands will be able to enable sneak-peaks, special offers, events, and more – all with an insider, behind-the-scenes appeal.

We predict the use of live streaming video platforms to grow rapidly in 2016 and over the next few years. Soon youth culture will be always connected and always broadcasting. And in a world where everything from pro sports events to local news happenings will be broadcast by thousands of young fans and eyewitnesses, brands that are not present may be largely outside of how youth culture will be engaging with social media.

virtual social

Virtual Reality as Social Media

Much of the buzz about virtual reality has been centered on the gaming industry. That’s understandable given the immersive environments that VR will allow a gamer to become a part of. But 2016 will be the year consumers see what virtual reality will mean for non-gaming experiences too. For example, the VR studio has already created experiences that include the viewer “living” inside a music video of their favorite artist. We think the wide range of applications will be the beginning of VR’s mass appeal to youth culture.

We predict in 2016, that virtual reality will begin to become a central component of what youth culture deems “social” media. While today, two friends use a phone to post a selfie to Facebook from a live concert they are attending – soon, they will be “attending” that concert virtually with all of their Facebook friends. Brands with virtual reality competence will understand the implications on consumer behavior, its challenges to their current brand marketing, and VR’s new advertising opportunities.

In 2016, more brands will begin to adopt a curated commerce strategy to make consumers’ purchase decisions frictionless.


Speed of Everything

Internet savvy Gen Z and Millennials expect convenience, service, and speed. According to Harris Interactive, 88% of Americans expect to be able to schedule a service “on-demand.” In 2015, Amazon took speed to a new level. Amazon Prime Now delivers tens of thousands of daily essentials and gift items in one and two-hours.

We predict that 2016 will be the year that industries that haven’t kept pace with youth culture’s expectation for speed will begin to catch up. For example, look for print publications (yes, young people still love print) to reduce the time it takes for a consumer to receive their first magazine. Brands who lack speed are at risk on multiple fronts. First, is a brand’s DNA; can a brand that lacks speed really be a brand loved by Gen Z and Millennials? Second is competition; today a brand’s greatest competitor isn’t necessarily another brand in their industry – it’s an entrepreneur who engineers a way to provide similar services with speed (ask the hotel and transportation industries if they anticipated Airbnb and Uber.)

curated objects

Curated Commerce

Teen and young adult consumers have become overwhelmed with the infinite number of options for consumer products, entertainment, and activities. So brands like Frank & Oak, which helps young men discover stylish clothing, or Tribeca Shortlist, a service that “hand picks” movies for its customers, are leading the way in simplifying the customer experience by offering on-target recommendations.

In 2016, more brands will begin to adopt a curated commerce strategy to make consumers’ purchase decisions frictionless. This kind of curated commerce will not only allow for better customer engagement, but also act as an alternative to hyper-competitive search marketing (searching “dark jeans” on Google returns 63 million results and unless you’re Levis, Macy’s, or Nordstrom’s, SEM is a challenging tactic.) The experience consumers are looking for is one with fewer, but better options that feel customized for them.