2019’s Most-Clicked Gen Z & Millennial News Stories
Marketing campaigns shot by teens, Instagrammable products, and, of course, VSCO girls are just some of the most-clicked youth news stories of the year…
Every day, YPulse curates the biggest news about the next generations to help brands understand young consumers. (Don’t get our newsletter? You can sign up here.) From tech and social media to fashion and marketing, if it involves or impacts Gen Z and Millennials, we’re keeping you up-to-date on it. Today, we’re rounding up the 12 most-clicked youth stories of the year (the top clicked from every month) in a list of the news, research, campaigns, and products that made the biggest impression on readers like you. From Instagrammable wine and bibles to, yes, VSCO girls, here’s 2019’s most clickable youth news:
American Eagle’s Spring ’19 campaign was shot by teens, on their iPhones. Adweek reported that the brand scoured social media posts hash tagged #AExMe to find talented Gen Z creators to hand over the advertising reigns to. Those who were selected had the opportunity to style themselves with their favorite American Eagle pieces and shoot ads they would want to see. The campaign also showcased how diverse Gen Z is, with one creator saying they had the opportunity to show that “brown women and LGBTQ+ members…can be represented commercially.” YPulse cited the campaign as an example of the Cult of Ugly trend – a shift away from too-perfect imagery on social media and in marketing.
A new rosé brand won over Millennials with its Instagrammable bottle. According to Adweek, The Wonderful Company, known for brands like Fiji Water and Pistachios, brought a new wine brand to market just in time for Valentine’s Day—and it quickly began outselling their other labels. JNSQ (an acronym for the French phrase “je ne sais quoi”) sells rosé and sauvignon blanc that come in glass containers designed to look like retro perfume bottles. Influencers and a national marketing campaign helped propel the brand. The wine is just one example that products designed to be shared on social media continue to thrive, even as Instagrammability is being redefined.
Alabaster’s Instagrammable bible turns Christianity into a “content-rich lifestyle brand,” according to the Washington Post. The young founders took cues from trendy magazines and startups like Kinfolk and Warby Parker to create a version of the bible that Millennials will want to read—and share on social media. They sold 10,000 books last year to an audience primarily made up of 21-35-year-old females. And they’re not the only ones trying to Millennialize religion and spirituality by leveraging social media; just take pastors like Carl Lentz, who have become influencers with massive followings.
Instagrammability as we know it is dying, so influencers are opting for a new aesthetic. The Atlantic reported that the look popularized by the platform (think: perfectly edited rainbow bagels and pink walls) is being replaced by messier, more authentic posts. Gen Z influencers like Joana Ceddia and Jazzy Anne are racking up likes on unedited, shot-on-their-phone pics, while DSLR-wielding online celebs are losing followers. Take it from one 15-year-old: “It’s not cool anymore to be manufactured.”
Calvin Klein’s new Billie Eilish ad was applauded for its lack of sexuality, as BuzzFeed News reported. One Twitter user explained, “I love how this is a Calvin’s commercial that focuses on how she feels & doesn’t actually show the product, usually those commercials are so sexual but this is a nice change.” The Gen Z music star revealed in the ad that she wears baggy clothes to hide her figure so people can’t judge her. The brand best known for underwear is making a bold statement by having a fully-covered spokesperson, and the message resonated with young people.
The comment section of Instagram is stealing the show. According to The Atlantic, users are making friends, sparking debates, and yes, sometimes harassing each other in the comments of posts. For instance, people aren’t following same-pic-every-day accounts for the content; instead, the account owners are giving users topics to talk about below each pic. Wendy’s has become well-known for their quirky comments, and ad execs expect more brands to follow suit.
There’s no secret formula for a clothing item going viral—but the Influencer Effect helps. Refinery 29 reported that Dior saw searches for their Saddle bag jump 957% in the 48 years following 100 influencers’ posts sporting the upscale accessory. But it’s not just luxury brands going viral. Réalisation Par’s cheetah print skirt took over everyone’s feeds and an account dedicated to spotting the item in the wild has over 5,000 followers. A Zara polka dot dress also went viral this summer for being seen everywhere, and its dedicated account hot4thespot earned 26,000 followers.
Teen girls are turning to screen sharing app Squad to scroll memes with their friends, according to TechCrunch. In just eight months and with no marketing, the app has registered over 450,000 users—and 70% of those are teen girls. In 2019, they’ve spent over one million hours on Squad calls. The app’s Gen Z female audience sets them apart from other social viewing platforms, like Twitch, and its added privacy features provide a safe space for girls to digitally hang out with friends. YPulse spoke to Squad’s founder, who told us, ”The live piece of [Squad] is what’s so powerful—there’s no performing; you’re being yourself in your room. There’s not a stage and a whole bunch of people you’re sending out to.”
The new Barbie has what The Cut called, “a bad case of Instagram Face.” Four new Barbie dolls debuted as part of the toy brand’s collaboration with trendy fashion label Kith, and their features have been updated to reflect the beauty standards of 2019. But critics say they have the Facetuned, filtered features of social media stars, including enhanced pouts and downsized noses. Barbie has evolved for every generation, from worrisomely thin ‘60s dolls to an inclusively-sized 2016 line. Now, the influencer Barbies have arrived.
The VSCO girl is the latest “largely white and largely middle-class” trending teen aesthetic, according to Vox. YPulse gave readers a download on the VSCO girl trend in July, and how they became a viral meme, but it’s worth noting that VSCO girls are not the first of their kind to fascinate the media world. Every generation, a group of basic teen girls with deep, parent-padded pockets comes along and becomes stereotype fuel, like the headband-wearing, Starbucks-wielding young women of the early 2000s. And as we’ve seen with the enduring myth that Millennials are splurging on avocado toast, any time a trend signifies wealth, it tends to stick around.
“Ok Boomer” became a “rallying cry” summing up Gen Z’s frustration with the older generation. The New York Times reported that it all started with a TikTok video of a white-haired man criticizing Gen Z and Millennials for never wanting to grow up, to which young viewers commented “ok boomer.” The phrase took on a life of its own, a response to “basically any person over 30 who says something condescending about young people—and the issues that matter to them.” It was being scrawled on notebooks, carved into pumpkins, used in senior photos, and featured on tons of merch sold by teens on websites like Redbubble and Spreadshirt. This story got so big, it also made it onto YPulse’s list of the most viral stories of 2019.
Young people are starting to take adulting courses, according to the LA Times. YPulse’s adulting research found that 77% of young people find many things about being an adult overwhelming and they want their schools to teach real-life skills. But emphasis on high test scores has made home economics courses in high school more rare than ever. Now colleges and libraries around the country are meeting demand, providing adulting classes to teach skills like budgeting, time management, cooking, and more. One Adulting School instructor explains, “We’ve had clients who are [M]illennials having major anxiety that they didn’t have these skills and didn’t feel successful as an adult. There’s a lot of self-loathing that happens.”