9 youth trends brands need to know about in 2016

This week we attended Voxburner’s Youth Marketing Strategy event at The Roundhouse in Camden. Brands, agencies and organisations from around the world presented some of the great work being produced specifically with youth audiences in mind.

So, what did we learn? What are the big trends amongst 16-24 year olds in the UK? And what are the opportunities for brands who want to engage with youth audiences in 2016? The following extracts are from the Youth100 report, courtesy of Voxburner.

Photo credit: Jesse Holborn


Online activism enables this group to rally for their strong ideals in a quieter way that suits them just fine

  • 74% agree that online activism is as important as traditional activism and that it makes the same amount of impact if not more.
  • 52% have shared articles/their opinions on social media to show their backing to a social issue/cause

“I believe that the youth has always been and always will be outspoken, but that social media has definitely provided a platform to broadcast those thoughts in a way the world has never experienced”

Student, University of Warwick



Although they’re more connected and digitally focused than ever, 16-24s are increasingly appreciating and embracing traditional values.

  • Getting married (57%), having children (58%) and home ownership (54%), while taking the traditional route of going to school, college and uni (71%) are the most important milestones of today.
  • Only 24% of 16-24s feel that Tinder-like dating has a place in today’s society.

“Imagine the ‘family values’ of the 1950s combined with the social liberalism of the 1970s; that’s today’s young people. It is partly a search for meaning in a post-shopaholic world, partly a reaction against the values of their ‘damaged’ parents, and partly a post-Recession realisation of the need to ‘knuckle down’ and provide for themselves, their family and friends”

William Hingham, Consumer Futurist, CEO The Next Big Thing



Young people today are constructing their own identities more than ever before and conventional boundaries no longer apply.

  • Almost all (94%) of respondents feel it’s important to have a unique identity.
  • 75% say they don’t care about age, sexuality, gender, race, religion, income etc. when it comes to the friends they have.
  • In a recent YouGov survey, 49% of 18-24 year olds defined themselves as something other than totally heterosexual.

“Why do we even have labels, who cares?”

Student, Cambridge University, 19




Similarly to last year, click and collect services (61%) and image/facial recognition (33%) are most popular.

  • The iPhone 6S was classed as the most over-hyped digital innovation from 2015 by 50% of 16-24s.
  • VR was the favourite digital innovation of 21% of 16-24s. The VR industry is expected to grow to $5.2bn by 2018.

“VR will start to mainstream in 2016, as hardware and software begin to work more closely to provide a true integrated experience. Products such as Samsung Gear VR are already bringing consumer VR into a much more affordable price bracket and history has shown that the backing of the porn industry is a huge driver for innovation – see the HD DVD/Blu-ray format war”

Alex Willmot, Senior Digital Planner, WCRS



16-24s have a natural expectation that everything is available right now.

  • 70% of 16-24s describe themselves as impatient
  • In the last month, 68% have used an online TV streaming service, 67% have used a take-away delivery service and 66% have used Click and Collect services.
  • Emojis have even made communication more instant; 72% of 18-25s say they find it easier to express emotion through emojis than written word.

“Instant gratification is a by-word of the digital age. Similar to the notion of ‘why buy?’ when you can stream for free, people ask ‘why wait?’ when one-hour delivery and on-demand viewing is available.”

Liz Cheesbrough, Youth Culture Analyst



Social media allows young people to connect with strangers from all over the world and is sparking genuine global relationships amongst youth audiences.

  • 52% of 16-24s would describe themselves as a global citizen
  • 89% agree social media enables a more globally connected world.
  • The majority of young people are happy for brands to create content and campaigns to enable international change. 16-24s feels fashion brands (66%), tech brands (56%), mega brands (Google, Apple etc.) (79%) and media brands (63%) should involve themselves in actively backing a cause.

“Social media platforms encourage young people to create and share content that their peers can view on the other side of the world.”

Marketing Graduate, 21


It’s deemed cool to be knowledgeable and young people are engaging in learning for entertainment purposes.

  • Being knowledgeable is important to a huge 80% of 16-24s
  • Facebook page “I Fucking Love Science” now has over 20 million fans, while NASA boasts 7.3m followers on Instagram. National Geographic has 38.8m followers on Instagram.
  • Music (57%) is the top subject the youth segment enjoy reading about, but science (48%), current affairs (50%) and technology (43%) also feature highly.

“Without a doubt, smart=cool in 2016. This can be interpreted as linking behavioural trends including life-hacking, attending “thinking” events like TedX, watching a Do Lecture or any other element of learning for entertainment.”

Sean Pillot De Chenecey, Marketing Communications Consultant and Trends Analyst



Brands are actively seeking out YouTubers, vloggers and creative individuals with an online cult fan base to represent their brand.

  • For young pople, marketing content that involves famous faces no longer resonates. 81% of 16-24s relate to brand campaigns more if they use ‘real’ people as opposed to celebrities or models.
  • “Millennials trust people over brands” (BazaarVoice)
  • 57% of 16-24s say they don’t care and choose to ignore it if a vlogger, Instagrammer or blogger has been paid for a post to reference a certain brand of product.

“Influencer marketing is a £156m industry as measured by Technorati, and with 92% of people trusting recommendations from people they know, it’s no wonder that it is one of the fastest growing marketing mediums in the past 5 years.”

The Guardian



It’s fair to say the youth sector are increasingly living in temporary extremes, abstaining from content one minute and indulging the next.

  • 20% own up to being serial binge watchers; 66% binge watch when they feel like it.
  • 44% dedicate between 1 and 5 hours to digital downtime per week. 72% deliberately spend at least some time without technology.
  • 65% agree “I wish I spent less time looking at screens”
  • 45% agree “my phone is too much of a distraction to what is happening in real life”

“We all know that the pace of life is fast, and getting faster. And for the most part we embrace it. However, there is also a shift for something slower, with more and more people choosing to ‘switch off’, ‘get away’, seeking solitude, and moments of quietitude.”

Shanu Walpita, Youth Editor, WGSN


For more information on the Youth100 report, contact Voxburner here

Stay tuned for more youth research over the coming months from Factory Media, as we release brand new insights into the worlds of BMXers and Skateboarders.


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