Happy Pride Month from all of us here at YMC!

As society shifts towards more accepting attitudes, those who identify as LGBTQ+ are empowered to come out and live authentically. Gen-Z youth in the United States have grown up surrounded by an increasingly accepting culture, and their widespread access to the internet has allowed information about LGBTQ+ identities to be more readily accessible and relatable. 

A recent Gallup poll has shown that Gen-Z is increasingly identifying as LGBTQ+. Overall identification of LGBTQ+ individuals among all ages grows, sitting at 7.1% compared to 3.5% in 2012. 20.8% of Gen-Z identifies as LGBTQ+, a truly remarkable figure compared to previous generations. Much of this explosion in Gen-Z’s identification can be attributed to Gen-Z entering adulthood and becoming increasingly more comfortable with openly identifying their sexuality and gender.

Is This a Trend?

Some have deemed past societal shifts as passing trends and fads. There are individuals today who are attributing the rise in queer identities as such. Bill Maher, the bombastic political satirist, has recently landed himself in hot water by claiming that gay and trans youth are trying to be trendy, sparking criticism from many, including LGBTQ+ advocacy groups like GLAAD.

So what’s the cause of this significant increase? If we look back at the history of LGBTQ+ people, many were unable to be open and public with their identities due to societal norms, discrimination, lack of accessible knowledge, and fears of violence. The 1969 Stonewall Riots sparked the modern LGBTQ+ movement, and while there have been enormous strides in LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance, these newly gained grounds are shaky and uncertain. That being said, society as a whole is more accepting of LGBTQ+ identities now than ever before, leading to many becoming more comfortable with being out and proud. 

The internet has given rise to safe spaces for marginalized communities and provided people with the ability to share previously suppressed information. Many older LGBTQ+ individuals have talked about the lack of knowledge and language to express themselves in the past and how drastically different that is for young people today.

Becoming Mainstream

With the passage of marriage equality and strengthened rights for LGBTQ+ Americans, many more have been empowered to come out and publicly identify as LGBTQ+. With conversations about sexual orientation becoming increasingly mainstream, increased and explicit representation in media, and acceptance from some political and religious institutions and society, LGBTQ+ individuals are more easily able to live their lives without fear of discrimination. Gen-Z has benefited from the struggles of their queer predecessors and faces fewer challenges in identifying as LGBTQ+.

While pollsters like Gallup have conducted similar surveys about the sexual orientations of Americans in the past, there were issues with inaccurate counts of marginalized communities. Due to the fear of violence and non-acceptance, many self-censored their answers, resulting in undercounting queer populations.

Let’s be clear: there have always been LGBTQ+ individuals, many more than we could ever possibly know. But it was not safe for these people to come out, and thus their stories and identities were erased. 

Rainbow Capitalism

As LGBTQ+ identities have become more widely accepted, corporate America has increasingly started to market and message around these groups. Pride month inevitably is accompanied by brands changing their social media profile images to some rainbow iteration. Companies like Target, Walmart, and Amazon have released Pride-themed collections with mixed results. While some items from these collections have resonated with queer communities, others have read as tone-deaf and borderline offensive

Suppose your company is planning on releasing a pride-themed collection. It’s imperative to have LGBTQ+ decision-makers at the table and in all steps of the process to ensure that the message and products you are delivering are authentic and meaningful. It’s also essential to step back and figure out why your brand is messaging around Pride and LGBTQ+ identities. Is this an issue that your brand is passionate about beyond Pride month? Is there a benefit to the queer community to releasing these collections? Is your brand doing more than trying to get the queer dollar? Your company should be using this as an opportunity to empower the LGBTQ+ community, whether it is through giving queer creators a platform, donations to LGBTQ+-related causes, or taking stances on issues that impact queer people.

Celebrating Pride is vital for LGBTQ+ acceptance. Despite the many strides in LGBTQ+ rights and equality, there continue to be many threats, such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Texas’ litany of anti-trans legislation, and many more across the country. While queer acceptance is at an all-time high, it’s essential to still take a stance on these issues and realize that the fight for equality and protection is far from over. Gen-Z is entering adulthood amidst many changes, challenges, wins, and losses. 

How You Can Support Queer Communities

The YMCrew continues to grow, and we wanted to give everyone the opportunity to meet our fantastic team members. Thanks to our permanent remote work structure, our wonderful team of talented individuals is based all across the country. Today, let’s meet Delaney Mills!

Introduce yourself! Who are you, and what do you do at YMC?

Hi, I’m Delaney. I’m a Program Strategist at YMC.

How long have you been at YMC?

I have been at YMC for almost two months now. I started in March 2022.

What programs have you worked on during your time at YMC?

I’m currently working on the Samsung College Program for the Fall semester.

What school did you attend?

I graduated from Temple University in May 2021. I loved it so much and hope to move back to Philadelphia one day!

How do you like spending your free time?

I love spending my free time just unwinding from the week. Usually, on the weekends, I’m just driving around, listening to Taylor Swift, going shopping, and eating good food!

What experiences in your life have set you up for success in your career?

The experience that I will always be the most appreciative of is my time as President at Her Campus at Temple. Through that experience, I learned how to build genuine connections with my peers, which has helped a lot in recruiting at YMC!

Any tips for aspiring #YMCrew members?

The best advice I would give to anyone is to be a good person and love what you do. If you go into experiences with a good attitude, good things will come back to you!

What about you might surprise people?

I’m pretty introverted. You might not get that just from speaking to me because I’m outgoing when I’m around people, but I love my alone time!

Big News: Youth Marketing Connection is shutting down and reinventing itself as an NFT marketplace!

April Fools!

Today’s the day: April 1st, where everyone from our coworkers to major corporations attempts to have a sense of humor and play pranks on unsuspecting peers and consumers. What was once the best holiday for elementary schoolers has turned into a corporate opportunity to generate some headlines and, occasionally, controversy.

April Fools’ is an easy holiday to be a part of, and companies have participated for decades. Brands love capitalizing on trends, whether it’s dance challenges, the meme of the moment, popular hashtags, or celebrating holidays(real and fake). However, more than a few brand attempts at humor or trickery have recently fallen flat or caused outright issues for consumers.

Brands from Google to Lego have used April Fools’ Day to generate buzz—from product announcements to major brand shifts. While some have found success with their pranks, others have found themselves in hot water. 

When It’s Bad, It’s Bad

Brands from Google to Lego have used April Fools day to generate a lot of buzz, from product announcements to brand shifts. While some brands have found success with their pranks, others have found themselves in hot water. 

Google – Mic Drop

Minion Mic Drop

On April 1st, 2016, Google debuted its newest feature in Gmail, the “mic drop.” The feature allowed users to send a “mic drop” to their emails, accompanied by a gif of a Minion tossing a microphone. While intended to be humorous, the “mic drop” button replaced Gmail’s “Send and Archive” button, leading to misclicks and inappropriately placed Minions. Some users claimed that they lost their job due to the prank, while others faced awkward conversations after sending serious emails accompanied by the gif. Google pulled the feature soon after launch, apologizing for the stunt.

Volkswagen – Voltswagen

Volkswagen hoped to bring some levity to 2021 after a rough previous year. For its April Fools’ prank, Volkswagen announced that they’d be rebranding as “Voltswagen of America” to put a spotlight on their electric and eco-conscious lineup.

There were a few issues with their prank: they announced it before April Fools Day, leading to many thinking that this was a serious move by the brand. They went as far as changing social media handles, leading to major news outlets reporting the prank as a legitimate rebrand.

Volkswagen was still recovering from a mid-2010s emissions scandal when it was discovered that Volkswagen had intentionally programmed its engines to activate their emissions control only when testing, not when in use. This led to their vehicles emitting up to 40 times more air pollution than allowed by US standards.

The ill-thought-through Voltswagen prank hit Volkswagen’s reputation, led to widespread confusion, and rehashed a significant scandal that the public was just beginning to forget about.

The Franklin Institute – Apocalypse

The Franklin Institute, a Philadelphia-based science museum, used April Fools’ to promote their newest planetarium show on cosmic apocalypses with a press release that declared the world was ending, closing out the statement with the sentence, “This is no April Fools’ joke.” This took place in 1940 when the general public didn’t have access to the internet, where this prank could have been quickly debunked.

As expected, this led to widespread hysteria, with emergency lines overwhelmed by calls from panicked readers of the press release. Given the Franklin Institute’s trusted reputation and the explicit statement that it wasn’t a prank, the public took it seriously. The spokesperson behind the press release was fired as a result.

And Sometimes, It Works

While there have been countless failures by corporate America’s April Fools’ jokes, some have been successes. ThinkGeek, a popular website that caters to geek culture, has ended up creating and selling some of the prank products from its April Fools’ promotions, such as a wearable tentacle blanket and a Tauntaun sleeping bag. The once wildly popular mobile game, Pokemon Go, was inspired by an April Fools’ prank from Google, where they allowed users to find Pokemon on Google Maps. The developers behind Pokemon Go, Niantic, were inspired by the stunt and began development on Pokemon Go.

Is it Worth it?

Most of the time, these types of April Fools’ pranks tend to exhaust consumers and spark ire. There are exceptions where brands get it right and create a fun experience that’s remembered for years. But odds are, April Fools’ pranks from brands aren’t going to get the laughs they did in the brainstorming session and can lead to issues with credibility and public opinion. It can also come off as disingenuous advertising for some companies, which can annoy consumers rather than delight them.

With many brands continuously failing to meet expectations or even elicit a chuckle, take some time to consider whether it’s worth it to join in on the so-called fun. CollegeHumor perhaps said it best when they parodied the recent sentiment behind corporate April Fools’ pranks: