Cosmopolitan & The Reformation Generation

type - features
Features
sector - youth
Coming of age in a global crisis, Generation Z are questioning current systems and reforming the world so that it works for them

We partnered up with Cosmopolitan to take a look at the impact the past year has had on the next generation and what we can expect from them based on key insights and trends.

The Future Laboratory's senior foresight writer, Holly Friend, shared how Gen Z earned the moniker, the Reformation Generation, and what role brands play in their future success.


What inspired Reformation Generation and this deep dive into Gen Z?

At The Future Laboratory, we do an annual deep dive into the future of different sectors, including Youth & Media. Last year, we explored the identities of Gen Z – how these have been shaped, or unshaped, by social media – and this year I was personally excited to focus on the shaping of society. After all, the last year has been a reckoning for Gen Z, and it’s been impossible to ignore the actions the impact they’re having on culture at large – it’s no longer just youth culture.

Would you agree that this generation’s future has been more impacted by the pandemic than any other?

Definitely. The turbulent events of 2020 have well and truly transformed how the younger generation interact with the physical and digital worlds. They’ve faced this mass disruption of adulthood, at a time in their life when real-life opportunities (from dating to entering the workplace to even partying) are supposed to not only be abundant, but help formulate who they are as a person. As a result, they spent the pandemic viewing digital media as a lifeline. And now, having already proved themselves digital citizens, Gen Z are becoming architects of the offline world too, applying their virtual know-how to solve real-world problems.

As this generation is approaching the workforce en masse, how do you think they will impact the workplace, and what is it that you think content creators can offer to best prepare them?

This generation are totally rethinking the workplace. You might remember the gig-economy and the slash-slash generation from a few years ago, back when Millennials carved out new workplace norms with careers that featured more part-time DJing, freelance blogging and Deliveroo biking, and less workplace loyalty. Gen Z, meanwhile, aren’t side-hustlers. They’re creators, driving the burgeoning Passion Economy with their TikTok beauty hacks, Depop drops and exclusive OnlyFans content.

This is going to majorly impact graduate schemes and entry-level roles. After all, having spent their adolescence making money on their own terms, why would they want to work for a hierarchical, capitalist business? It’s going to be up to businesses to prove what they can offer them in exchange for their wealth of content knowledge and entrepreneurial mindset. In particular, anti-burn-out is going to be a huge opportunity area. Gen X yuppies burnt out in office blocks. Millennial girlbosses burnt out in WeWorks. What ways can we stop Gen Z from burning the candle at both ends, and prioritising their mental, physical and social wellbeing.

Published by:

7 July 2021

Author: Holly Friend

Image: Cosmopolitan

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Left: Youth in Power by Ryan McGinley. Right: New Dawn, Tools To Touch in Times Ahead by Tobias Faisst.

If you had to define the one thing that differentiates Gen Z from others, what would it be?

They’re action-minded, and take solutions seriously (and creatively). Past generations described themselves as activists and change-makers but were less likely to deliver on their promises. Gen Z have no choice – they have the tools at their disposal to reshape the institutions that make up the world. Brands are actively helping them too, creating programs that nurture their ideas, careers and identities, like Gay TimesDeutsche Telekom and Regenerative Futures. This is historical first.

Are there other characteristics that feel uniquely tied to this generation?

The key pillars of the Reformation Generation are: decentralised, decolonised, equal, intersectional, collaborative, non-hierarchical, creative, anti-establishment, post-binary, entrepreneurial, community-driven and eco-minded.

The expectations of Gen Z as consumers seems to be challenging the status quo. What role does brand purpose play in how they are marketed to? 

It’s more important than ever for brands to double-down on what brand purpose means to them – really means – before marketing to Gen Z. This generation are hyper-perceptive to inauthentic marketing and want to know exactly what a brand is doing, and how, before engaging with content that preaches purpose. Tokenistic campaigns will be called out immediately – change must start in brands’ workplaces and internal operations before the marketing department even get involved. And if brands aren’t sure where to start – the answer is always: bring Gen Z in. Ask them. They’ll tell you.

What surprised you most about this particular trend report?

I was most surprised by the openness to collaboration being showcased by Gen Z. There are so many reports that believe their socialism and eco-mindedness will trump their relationships with big brands, but this just isn’t true. The Gen Zs we spoke to believed the most important action their generation can take is to work with these industries, not against them. ‘It's a combination of reformation and working with industries, until we can figure out how to change them,’ says Tarek Ziad, a recent Yale graduate who acts as our US Gen Z correspondent.

'Gen Z have no choice – they have the tools at their disposal to reshape the institutions that make up the world.'

Click here to watch the full research presentation and editorial panel.

Screenshot 2021-07-07 at 11.02.46

 

 

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