Millennials and Generation Z are known to embrace, re-invent and pioneer a multitude of attitudes and behaviors. We see it firsthand at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Our four theaters feature a slew of up-and-coming young performers who develop their voices and professional skills at our training centers. We also utilize this talent to produce content for agencies, brands and media companies, and our touring company performs at colleges nationwide, often getting to know students after the show. Like agencies, we are constantly thinking about our audiences: who they are, what they are thinking and how best to connect with them. Here are five trends our business development and branded content teams have noticed within our own community, and younger communities at large.
Living by Committee
It’s no secret that a personal recommendation is the best recommendation. Young people have taken this to an extreme: advice and recommendations are being crowdsourced among entire groups of friends. Where should I eat? What should I watch? Who knows a good therapist? Pose a question to your friends and followers, and they’ll all chime in. The most popular or well-reasoned decision is then yours to act upon.
It’s less about what an individual authority recommends (e.g., a columnist) and more about what the crowd, or someone you trust within it, says to do. After all, why struggle through a decision when someone else has already done it for you? Best-case scenario: you get the desired outcome quickly and easily. Worst-case scenario: you get to blame someone else for your mistake.
First Among Friends
Whenever a new movie or album drops, we’re seeing even the most casual of fans rush to watch or listen to that content first. There are few reasons for this. First, people want to get their hot take out there—and being first extends a certain authority and even credit for originality of opinion, no matter how many other people share that opinion down the road. Conversations swirl endlessly around the next big thing, and falling behind in content consumption on the internet can cause anxiety.
But it’s not just FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). The latest movies, books and music videos are a shorthand through which people discuss and interpret current events -- hence the generation of countless memes. If you’re out of the loop, internet conversations can be lonely and confusing.
And, when it comes to TV and movies, no one wants to be the person who says, “Can we not talk about this? I haven’t seen it yet.”
The Second Coming of YOLO
Though the phrase has been popular for at least seven years, the common perception that “the world could end at any moment, so we have to do something fun right away” has given it a new resonance. We’re seeing friends and colleagues more focused on the here and now, as well as doing things that make them happy, in spite of what the future may hold. Less planning, more spontaneity.
One of our team members shared, “None of my friends have retirement accounts—and they are not all comedians.” He continued: “People are more interested in traveling, doing drugs, things they like, because there is a general feeling of, ‘this could all end; our president could get our whole country bombed."
IRL is Back
After years of swiping left and right, the dating app craze finally looks like it’s winding down. After meeting dozens of people who can best be described as “fine, I guess,” most of the people we’re observing have decided to go back to meeting people in real life. If you ask a twenty-something what dating apps they have on their phone, they’ll name two or three before adding, “But I don’t really use them anymore.”
Most people are less and less eager to slog through dozens of okay-but-kinda-boring dates just for the slim chance of meeting Mr. or Mrs. Right. The consensus seems to be that it’s better to wait until you just happen to find them through whatever series of unlikely coincidences.
Where Nobody Knows My Name: Anonymous Communities on the Rise
Reddit remains the 4th most visited website in the United States. Discord, a chat client intended for online gamers, has drawn 90 million users as of 2017 with ~1.5 million users per week -- with a growing percentage of the company’s servers being used for non-gaming activities like fandom communities, shared interest groups, “Discord Hangouts” with online personalities, and even stock trading and fantasy football.
The appeal is twofold. First, anonymity frees users from the anxiety over your words or interests falling under the scrutiny of an employer or other IRL connections. Second, the performative nature of Facebook, Instagram and most other popular social media networks is eschewed in favor of genuine interaction with the communities users join into. In other words, you can shoot the shit or have focused conversations rather than fishing for likes and/or retweets.
Deidre Sullivan is the head of brand strategy at Upright Citizens Brigade. She can be reached at Deidre@UCBComedy.com