NEW GEN Z 101: Unlock & Outlast Microtrends
Apr 01 2020
YPulse is carefully monitoring COVID-19’s impact on young consumers and how brands can respond. We’ll be providing new data and insights for you weekly to cope with the crisis, including special reports, exclusive data on Coronavirus and the next generations, and actionable insights on what brands need to be doing now.
You can access everything here on our young consumers and COVID-19 hub.
Just one month ago, we told you about some of the TikTok trends that brands should know about. Four weeks and a pandemic later, and a lot has changed on the app. Videos posted by Gen Z—and increasingly Millennials as well—are still getting billions of views on the platform, but hashtags like #WeLovePizza have given way to content that shows what life is like for a generation of young consumers stuck in quarantine.
Out of school, and many out of work, young consumers have been turning to social media en masse to get through the crisis. In fact, phones and WiFi topped the list of what they can’t live without during quarantine. With 93% of Gen Z and Millennials feeling affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s understandable that they’re turning to their familiar platforms and activities to ease their anxious minds. Not only are they using apps like Houseparty and Netflix Party to connect with the friends they can’t see in person, they’re also sharing their experiences, fears, questions, and, yes, COVID memes, on social platforms. YouTube is full of quarantine vlogs, while views of #athome, and #withme content is spiking significantly. Over on TikTok, Gen Z is sharing and watching clips to cope during the pandemic. As Paper Magazine reported, many are showing their day-to-day lives while they’re stuck indoors, and song clips about isolation have become increasingly popular. The app has also taken measures to inform and entertain them, adding an information tag on videos that are tagged #coronavirus which leads to an information landing page featuring sections on how to protect oneself, a Q&A forum, and a mythbusters section.
YPulse’s brand tracking data shows that TikTok use has indeed increased during the quarantine, jumping from 55% of 13-18-year-olds who used the app in the first week of March to 59% who reported using it last week. They’re using the app to stay entertained, share information, and joke their way through the pandemic. They’re getting their parents to perform TikTok dances, and sharing DIY hacks to make at-home coffee that can stand-in for Starbucks (#whippedcoffee has 852 million views). The hashtags that are currently trending on the platform say a lot about the generation’s daily lives, their concerns, and their ability to find bright spots and humor in a dark time. Here are five that are earning millions and billions of views:
#DistanceDance (4.6B views)
Yes, there have been plenty of headlines about how Gen Z isn’t social distancing, but our COVID-19 data shows that 79% of 13-18-year-olds have been self-quarantining—and this hashtag shows that many are spreading the word about it. The hashtag and dance challenge was actually started by the app, who partnered with Proctor & Gamble for the campaign to encourage users to “Stay home and keep your distance with the #DistanceDance!” They tapped fifteen-year-old TikTok influencer Charli D’Amelio, who has 42.6 million followers and has been called the “reigning queen of TikTok” by the New York Times, to ask users to join in on the #distancedance by tagging her and using the hashtag. P&G will be donating to Feeding America and Matthew 25, an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization for the first 3 million videos using the hashtag. The ad appears on the For You page, pops up as an ad when users open the app, and currently has 4.5 billion views. The fact that the dance has gone viral speaks not only to the power of TikTok influencers like D’Amelio and Gen Z’s love of a good TikTok dance, but also their desire to do some good right now.
#OnlineClass (2B views)
Students all over the world have been forced to quarantine at home, with 93% of 13-18-year-olds telling YPulse that their school has closed as a result of Coronavirus in our most recent survey. Now, their computers are their classrooms—and the transition has been swift and not without hiccups. In between Zoom classes, they’ve taken to venting their frustrations with home school (and making each other laugh) on TikTok with a hashtag that has 2 billion views. Gen Z is comfortable with the technology needed to complete classes online, but many of them are missing the quintessential experiences of being in class—like seeing their friends and being on campus. Between sharing wholesome videos of professors reading them bedtime stories to ease their anxiety, to teaching each other hacks for skipping class via custom Zoom backgrounds, to showing off the prom outfits that high school seniors may never get to wear, they’re using the platform to commiserate with each other about an unfortunate situation, and bonding over the shared experience of trying to attend school while isolated.
#NBAMoments (507M views)
Sports are cancelled, and fans are getting desperate for competitive content—even making marble racing videos trend during the quarantine. Still, only 12% of 13-39-year-olds tell us that they are interested in watching a non-traditional sport / competition to take the place of cancelled sports during Coronavirus. They’re looking for something closer to the real deal, and so they’re turning to vintage clips of the sports they can’t watch now. TikTokers are posting their favorite “NBA moments” to fill the void, and the hashtag currently has over 500 million views. This is actually an official sponsored hashtag by the NBA, which kicked things off by posting seven videos of classic NBA moments of Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and other athletes and encouraging TikTok users to imitate the feats and duet the original videos. But viewers have clearly been watching. This is a great move by the NBA—they were able to use content they already had and rework it in a way that reached their young audience in a way that entertained them and kept the brand front-of-mind even during a sports blackout. The league is continuing to be creative about reaching fans: they’re planning an NBA 2K tournament between players, turning their athletes into esports stars.
#RealLifeAtHome (2B views)
This hashtag—which now has 2 billion views—was made to show off how quarantined TikTok users are recreating their regular routines from their pre-COVID days, without leaving the house of course. To distract from the fear and negativity surrounding Gen Z, many TikTokers have taken to posting positive content, a move that we know works well to combat the innate anxiety of most Gen Z. Videos feature users using objects (and rooms) to reenact activities both typical—going to the grocery store and making their daily Starbucks runs—to more exciting activities like clubbing, Disney parades and 21st birthday parties. Brands would be wise to lean into this trend by providing filters, backgrounds and products to normalize the anxiety-producing life of daily quarantine for young consumers.
#CelebrateDoctors (735M views)
Doctors are obviously at the forefront of this pandemic, working overtime, spending time away from their families and travelling cross-country to aid other states. As a way to honor them during National Doctors’ Day, the #CelebrateDoctors hashtag quickly grew in popularity and now has 735 million views. The collection features videos of doctors being applauded for their sacrifices as well as their daily lives during the global pandemic. Other videos include brands and individuals that are taking measures to support healthcare professionals whether through providing them with additional protective gear or amenities like lunch. AS mentioned above, Gen Z wants to be able to make a difference, even while quarantined. Though sharing videos might not seem like much, it’s one way they can feel like they’re taking action. Brands need to show young consumers they care and are trying to fight the pandemic—but they should also consider providing ways to allow young people to feel involved in that fight as well.
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