Overall, what lies beneath the surface is that those who make up Gen D aren't just divided within communities, but also are divided within themselves. They are struggling to be honest with themselves and their actions, feeling a disconnect between what they are told they truly care about and what they honestly do.
And they are not even sure about how they believe brands should act; when asked about the factors that were important, 52% said brands should be bold and brave, and 54% stated they should be conservative. (The percentage is greater than 100% because some respondents chose both, illustrating their own dividedness on the issue.) In a people-power era, Gen D wants brands to story-act versus story-tell, but deciding how they want brands to show up and act is more divided than ever
Charting what appears to be conflict on every level, the research looked to uncover how brands and organizations can make positive steps forward with Gen D consumers. The findings looked across a multitude of topics including politics, health care, media and platforms, sports, food and beverage, and the workplace.
A landscape of blurred lines and ideologies
The current landscape is seeing a blurring of the lines across almost every aspect of society. From fluid gender identities and reproductive rights reversal, to traditional and religious beliefs making a comeback, personal ideologies are being fought both in the present and for the future.
Some of the most traditional markers of human commitment are not only changing but taking on a whole new dimension; the research found that only 50% of people today think that monogamy will still be the norm in 20 years, and one in five say they would get married in the metaverse.
Somewhat outdated traditions and shifting ideologies now live across a huge spectrum of change. And while they have been embraced by many, they are also being challenged from every direction from a generation that can’t quite work out what they believe in or align with.
The culture gaps found across society
This is particularly true when looking at culturally sensitive topics like politics, where we found that just over half (51%) of people feel loyal to a specific political party, while the other half do not (49%), showing a clear divide in their confidence in and loyalty to political affiliations today.
With the metaverse rapidly becoming another world for consumers to reveal their authentic selves, political views look to get more combative online, as 58% of people think politeness is decreasing as online interactions take over. This poses the question of whether online personas are going to increasingly affect how people interact and behave in the real world in years to come.
When it comes sports, for Gen D the intersection between sports and culture has never been more powerful. Sports brings people together, can help overcome differences and encourages dialogue; togetherness via inclusion continues to dominate headlines. From trans inclusion and leveling the opportunities provided to women in sports, to enabling the next gen to thrive in athletics, it’s clear the sports landscape is much more layered and nuanced, where a one-size-fits-all approach will not suffice.
For example, over half (52%) of people surveyed think sports teams and sponsors should move away from gender-based categories. Earlier this year, both the London and Boston marathons announced they are introducing a nonbinary category in 2023, setting the stage for other brands to consider making these types of shifts that close culture gaps.
Where to and what next for Gen D
Gen Z—the generation currently in their teens to late 20s—values “entities with a purpose” (one in four rank this as a top brand priority). In contrast, Gen D is seeking reliability from brands and businesses, to not just align with a purpose but to integrally connect with culture.
Though it is difficult to predict exactly where the world will go next, what is certain is that Gen D, despite being conflicted, can spot inauthentic messages immediately. Gen D expects brands and organizations to deeply understand and address the nuances of cultural and societal issues, and if they do Gen Ders are more likely to become brand advocates. They’re also more likely to defend these brands and businesses if they’re caught in the crosshairs of the cancel culture tendencies of Gen Z.
Ultimately, in a landscape that is being pushed and pulled from all sides, brands that show up and do the right thing, not just say the right thing, will win with Gen D.