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

After their launch at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Clubhouse quickly became the hottest social media app for Millennials. The app consists of open-ended audio chat rooms focused on a range of topics—think of dropping in on someone’s unscripted phone call conversation and having the chance to ask questions at the end. Downloads of the app have plateaued since July 2021, but with new features on the horizon, Clubhouse is an app fighting to stay on our home screens.

Clubhouse’s Explosive Take Off 

The launch of the Clubhouse app was fortuitously timed. Its initial March 2020 launch was just a few weeks before nationwide lockdowns due to COVID-19 and people were searching for new forms of entertainment. It started with an invite-only mode and immediately caught listeners’ interest with chat rooms starring celebrities like Elon Musk and Jared Leto. Clubhouse became so popular so quickly that people scrambled for invite codes on eBay, fetching prices of up to $400. 

By December 2020, Clubhouse had accumulated 600,000 active users. The app was recently opened to the public in July 2021, followed by a steep dropoff in app downloads. But with a slew of new features and changes to existing functionality on the way, there’s hope for a comeback. 

What Makes Clubhouse Different?

Clubhouse is credited with taking social media to a new medium: audio. We know that consumers are overwhelmed by visuals, making tuning into a Clubhouse room a welcome respite. Radio shows have fallen out of favor for many listeners as the topics can be too general or too hard to engage with and listeners have turned to podcasts to fill the need. At the same time, podcasts can be highly scripted and produced to the point where listeners don’t experience a genuine connection to the speaker. 

Clubhouse created a few unique features that really set it apart. First, it allows listeners to drop in and listen to multiple conversations on topics of their choice while hearing the speaker’s raw and unfiltered opinions. Another perk is that the app allows listeners to raise their hands to ask questions and add their own commentary. These features have provided a level of engagement that terrestrial and/or satellite radio shows and podcasts can’t.

Other social media platforms have taken notice of Clubhouse’s rise, adding similar functionality including audio capabilities. For example, Twitter accelerated the launch of its audio-only app called Spaces and are planning to give their millions of users access to the feature shortly. There’s also been talk of similar audio-only feature launches coming from Facebook, Linkedin, Spotify, and Slack

How Can Companies Utilize Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is an excellent way for companies to drive awareness and hear their customers’ unfiltered and real-time opinions. The rooms are fast-paced and allow for easy communication and quick connection building.

So what should a company focus on when starting its Clubhouse journey? Find your niche and explore your target audiences’ interests. Aim to add value to your listeners’ experience and make them feel like your Clubhouse room is worth their time. We’ve already seen companies such as Milk Bar and Restaurant Brands International utilize the platform to speak on topics relevant to their brands including conversations on earnings calls, latest releases, and general trends, and business news. 

Clubhouse is also a great way to humanize your brand by having employees hop into rooms and start conversations about their industry. A good example of this is Kat Cole, the former COO and president of Focus Brands (parent company of Cinnabon). Cole is a prominent presence on the app, known for giving business professionals advice on navigating their careers. Kat Cole made a massive impression on the app after asking her listeners to share their mailing addresses to send them Cinnabon free of charge. As a result, almost every room in the app was buzzing about Cinnabon products for the following month.

The Future of Clubhouse

Clubhouse recently launched its Creators First Initiative to keep creators engaged and motivated to stay on the app, with the goal to help them land sponsorships and make money from their content. Clubhouse wants to ensure that creators are financially supported and have the proper equipment, like iPhones and Airpods, to curate their content. Clubhouse will also be supporting creators by providing them with the development of creative assets, matching guest speakers for their rooms, and promotion. The Creators First Initiative is launching as other social media platforms, like TikTok, are also looking at ways to sponsor and support their creators to ensure they produce the best high-quality content and keep accelerating the app’s growth. 

Clubhouse is adding new features to the app to enhance its listener’s experience. Recent updates have focused on retaining users and helping them find their interests through universal search. The universal search feature will allow users to look up both live and recorded content from Clubhouse to improve their content’s discoverability. 

In addition, the new “clip” feature will enable listeners to crop audio of a speaker to share at any time. Clips can be shared through text messages or on social media. These features have been introduced in the hopes of creating steady and gradual growth after the drop-off of the app’s initial launch. 

How Can YMC Help?

Are you looking to expand your social media presence? Want to explore new content creation options? At YMC, we specialize in connecting brands with Gen-Z and Millennial consumers, and we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!

2021 has come and gone, and the holidays are upon us. Without rehashing the highs and lows, we think we can sum it up best with: what a year! 

We’re predicting that this holiday season will look a bit different than in years past, even compared to the 2020 holiday season.

With global supply chain issues plaguing industries, including lumber, plastics, and electronics, your gift ideas might need to change. But don’t fret—YMC has your back, and we’re here to help you shop for the Gen-Z and Millennials in your life. 

About Our Millennial + Generation-Z Community

The YMC community, including our @youthmarketing followers, consists of more than two hundred thousand highly-engaged students and young adults from across North America. Over 90% of our network is between the ages of 18-34. In other words, our community represents Millennials and Generation-Z. 

What We Learned

We reached out to our community via Instagram Stories and a Google Survey to find out what gifts they plan on giving and would like to receive this year. Here’s what we learned:

Make An Impact

Young consumers are hyper-aware of the impact of their actions, including gift-giving consumerism’s effect on the environment and climate, workers’ welfare, and social equity. People want to give and receive gifts that make a positive impactwhether they’re from a POC-owned business, help them reduce their carbon footprint, or are from a company that’s doing right by their workers. There are plenty of gift guides out there that highlight products from Black-owned, Asian-owned, LGBTQ+-owned, and Indigenous-owned businesses. For those looking to be kinder to the planet, look at productsthat will replace one-use products in your giftee’s life.

Dolla Dolla Bill Y’all

Cash is king, and young people want it. Over two-thirds of our audience indicated that they would rather receive cash and gift cards over items. Trends are moving quickly, and individual style is constantly evolving, meaning that Gen-Z will likely want to choose specific “of-the-moment” items. Gen-Z is also entering adulthood amid a global pandemic and growing wealth inequality, meaning that cash can enable them to build their safety net and pay bills.

No Makeup Makeup, But Make It Luxury

After almost two years spent inside, beauty trends have shifted drastically. There’s a greater emphasis on skincare and minimal-makeup looks, and matte foundations and liquid lipsticks have given way to dewy and luminous BB creamswith a shiny gloss. Our audience has indicated that they’re looking to invest in their beauty routines, with a few select high-end products, such as YSL’s Black Opium, Dyson’s Hair Dryer, and high-end skincare products from brands like La Mer, Dr. Barbara Sturm, Tata Harper, and more.

WFH Figured Out

Living room couches and dining room tables have replaced offices, with digital nomad lifestyles becoming more common. After spending nearly two years working at home, Gen-Z has their home office set-ups figured out, or they’ve already returned to their old offices. Avoid getting the young person in your life work-from-home accessories and focus instead on more fun and less practical gifts.

Looking Good!

While the shift to working at home is looking more and more permanent for many workers, the desire to live in sweatpants is waning. Over 61% of our audience wants to focus more on wearing clothing that looks good and makes them feel confident. While sweats seem like a cozy gift, our audience prefers a gift card to their favorite store or some cute accessories. Scrunchies, fun and exciting prints, bucket hats, and tie-dye are all the rage with Gen-Z.

Gen-Z Just Wants to Have Fun

Holiday gifting is an excellent opportunity to get people things that they won’t buy themselves. While there’s an increased emphasis on getting practical gifts, don’t forget to have some fun. The vast majority of our audience indicated that they would prefer to give and receive gifts that don’t serve a practical purpose.

Squishmallows, the squishy plushies that have taken over the internet continue to be a hot item this year and provide a bit of comfort to those that might need it. As friend groups begin to reunite, games are topping wishlists, including card games, board games, and video games (especially for Gen-Z’s favorite consoles like the Nintendo Switch).

Gift Ideas

Looking for More Than Shopping Tips?

If you’re a brand manager interested in reaching more Millennial and Generation-Z consumers, we can help! We have built a strong community of young people to tap for unique, custom research and insights. At YMC, we’ve been connecting brands with 15- to 34-year-old consumers for two decades—we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!