The past year has been particularly challenging for young people given that many of them were denied celebrating critical rituals and milestones in their lives: matric dances, first-year university experiences, graduation ceremonies and job opportunities, among others.

External events out of their control have had a profound impact on them: police brutality, systemic racism which sparked protests around the world, climate change disasters and a pandemic have resulted in disruption and uncertainty.

A recent FM Redzone Digital Event, in partnership with ViacomCBS Africa and moderated by Arye Kellman, the chief creative officer of Tilt, explored the results of a global consumer insights study conducted by ViacomCBS on how the events of 2020 are shaping young people’s plans, beliefs and attitudes for the future, and what this means for brands.

The study, conducted in 15 different countries – including SA – surveyed over 8,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 on their experiences during 2020 and their perspectives for the future. A total of 89% say many of their plans have been disrupted, while 87% say 2020 has made them rethink their plans for the future.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the youth, 73% were affected by something other than Covid-19, including Black Lives Matter (73%).

Despite the challenge of 2020, SA youth remain largely resilient and hopeful, with 53% saying they are optimistic about positive change in the future. However, they acknowledge that the events of the past year will make it harder for them to achieve their goals. SA youth feel more positive about the future than global youth.

Interestingly, climate change is less of a priority for SA youth than it is for young people globally. Young South Africans are most concerned about job opportunities, finances, gender equality, the economy and crime and violence, among other things.

They acknowledge that the world of work will continue to undergo dramatic transformation, with 92% agreeing that remote and flexible working will be the norm, 83% agreeing that artificial intelligence and automation will replace jobs, and 72% maintaining that more people will want to work in a role that helps people.

Though they expect more accountability and diversity from their leaders, 82% agree that corruption will still be a problem in SA in 10 years’ time.

They believe their generation is up to the challenge of addressing the challenges they have inherited – and they expect brands to join them on this mission. A total of 93% of youth expect brands to stand up against social injustice.

The study provided three recommendations to brands. The first recommendation is to adapt to the future by providing young people with greater stability and to help make meaningful change through long-term initiatives. The second is that brands should act as facilitators of positive change by providing resources and guidance on issues like gender-based violence, while at the same time providing young people with a fun escape. The final recommendation is to inspire young people by sharing inspirational stories of overcoming adversity.

ViacomCBS is one of the world’s leading producers of premium entertainment content that connects billions of people in nearly every country. Present in 180 different countries around the world with 4.3-billion accumulative subscribers, the company produces more than 140,000 premium TV episodes annually.

This study was conducted to help ViacomCBS connect authentically with the youth market, said Monde Twala, senior vice-president and GM of ViacomCBS Africa. “We intend to use our platforms to help uplift our audiences, including the youth market,” he said.

Giuliana Dias, senior director of research and insights at ViacomCBS Africa, pointed out that SA youth have incredible tenacity, resilience and positivity. Her advice to brands was to reflect this and to show up with a similar level of humour and optimism.

To watch the full event click here.

The big take-out:

SA youth have incredible tenacity, resilience and positivity. Brands should reflect this and to show up with a similar level of humour and optimism

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