Gen Z are rediscovering what it means to play outside and you should listen

by Laura Copley
Gen Z Insight

Millennials somewhat gave up on the great outdoors and wholesome hobbies thanks to the almighty iPhone and everything that came with it

  • ● The young adults and kids of today are putting down their gadgets and picking up crafty hobbies once again?


  • ● What can brands learn from this insight and how can they utilise it to engage these spritely new generations?



From the womb to the mother(board)

Thanks to the world’s current climate (bad), Gen Z are delving more into self care and ‘me time’ than generations before. While Millenials are known for their excellent ability to moan about their problems, rarely do they take the time (or have the time) to jump into pastimes and activities that are good for their mental health and wellbeing. 

It’s not their fault though, classroom whiteboards left their IRL erasers behind and opted for weird interactive pens back in the early 2000s, then every other replacement from paperback to Mac Suites trickled in soon after. And perhaps that’s the main difference. Although millennials grew up bashing sticks about outside, the technology takeover was swift, and 80s/90s kids had no choice but to let the surge happen.

…But back to the point. Gen Z and everyone after are reclaiming the wholesome activities that Millennials opted out of when they discovered phones could flip and Bluetooth existed – because they want to. Having grown up with every ounce of technology one could possibly wish for, it’s not surprising that the amount of screentime they’re experiencing – as well as every insane piece of information on said screen – is driving them back into the arms of physical activities.

Nostalgia is in

It’s also not surprising that Gen Z were recently named ‘the most anxious generation to date’ (HealthMatch 2022), with the American Psychological Association reporting that 90% of US Gen Z’ers experienced psychological or physical symptoms as a result of stress in the last year. 

And sure, the reason isn’t solely the amount of time spent online. ICYMI, we’re currently experiencing global warming, multiple failing economies worldwide, various wars with more brewing… but, *thanks* to social media, we’re getting that info faster. We have never been more clued in as a society – and neither have our kids. Perhaps ignorance really was bliss…

Alas, do not shoot the messenger! Social media also has a positive part to play in this new fixation with skateboards and knitting needles, with 72% of Brit Gen Z’ers saying they were inspired to take up new hobbies from seeing others take part through social media (Samsung 2022). Getting crafty is offering a massive respite, with hashtags like #knittok (701M views), #arttok (16B views) and #crafttok (2B views) nailing engagement on TikTok, with people showing off their skills and teaching others cool tips ‘n tricks. #booktok also comes in with a whopping 121B views, proving that having hobbies other than just scrolling the infinite scroll, is very much in. 

For the brands: combining offline and online

So how can brands hop aboard the IRL activity wagon while still staying true to who they are? It’s not necessarily a question of doing a sharp U turn on product pushing – Chanel has absolutely no need to release a high fashion skipping rope anytime soon (although like everything, there’s probably an audience for that).

What we’ve learnt from Gen Z and their social uses is that, overall, they’re less fussed about the product. They’re demanding more focus on well-built brand communities, championing ethics and mindfulness more than ever before. Brands can no longer loosely tie themselves to worlds and ideals that don’t fit their branding – Gen Z will see right through it. It’s not about tricking your audience, it’s about building a community your audience wants to be a part of. 

Take Urban Outfitters for example. Last year, the OK COOL x IETS FRANS… Boxing Day campaign positioned their audience and community at the heart of the messaging, combining IRL and Instagram Reels/TikTok videos. Each video saw creators activate an in-filter copy wheel, titled ‘I.F I Could… I Would’, landing on different adventures for the creators to take part in. From this, we saw creators rock climbing, taking part in pottery classes, going on solo dates to places they don’t usually visit, all while wearing IETS FRANS… and showing how versatile the new collection was. 

Another example would be the OK COOL x Squarespace Mashups campaign. Focussing on four pairings of makers, artists and creators, talent collided through these collaborations to show a whole new world of unique innovation on Instagram, TikTok, and ofc, each creators’ Squarespace pages. Whether physically together or 13 hours apart, these creators challenged and pushed each other to create work that both complemented and exceeded creative limits, positioning Squarespace as the place with everything you need to sell anything.

Ok I’ll stop talking now

These examples are more than a cheeky OK COOL plug (hehe). They are to show how there’s an unlimited amount of ways to take concepting offline, have fun with it and show your brand as ready and willing to not only try something new, but to prove to your audience and community that you deserve their attention and that you get them. 

The kids are asking for it, so go give it to them. 

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