How Brands Can Help Millennials And Gen Zs Combat Burnout

Burnout is now a global pandemic, according to the World Economic Forum, and there’s evidence that younger people are the worst afflicted. Eighty-four percent of Millennial respondents in a Deloitte survey said they had experienced burnout at work, and almost half of Millennials said they left a job due to burnout, compared to 42% of the overall pool.

Unfortunately, burnout isn’t limited to stressful working conditions. In a recent comprehensive study, Cassandra found that 61% of U.S. youth agreed that it’s difficult to have downtime today, and mental burnout is especially pronounced among Gen Zs (born between 1997 and 2017). The rates are troublingly high, especially when you consider that Zs are only now entering the workforce and taking on adult responsibilities in large numbers, which will inevitably increase their stress levels.

Marketers trying to reach Millennials and Gen Zs are facing a conundrum, given that many of their usual tactics are exacerbating feelings of over-stimulation that lead to burnout. (The endless flood of content on social media, is one of the worst culprits.) Per Cassandra’s research, 31% of U.S. youth feel overwhelmed by the number of ads and commercials they see on a daily basis, 30% feel overwhelmed by the proliferation of brands and products to choose from and 59% said they prefer entertainment that’s mindless or just for fun.

In everything from product development to core messaging to campaign ideas, brands should strive to position themselves as an antidote to burnout, especially when their target audiences skew younger.  

Out of the visceral desire to disengage and recharge from overstimulation, a subgenre of “contentless” content has become increasingly popular among youth. It’s notable for being devoid of narrative or plot and built purely for visual consumption. The most common example is ASMR, the YouTube phenomenon where creators aim to deliver a sensory experience using techniques like whispering, making soft sounds like crackling or tapping, and playing ambient music over footage of dripping paint. Their followers are often watching ASMR to unwind—or sometimes because it gives them “tingles” in their brain.

Fifty-five percent of respondents in Cassandra’s research said they like advertising that features ASMR. For example, the direct-to-consumer vitamin company Ritual created an ASMR video for its social platforms to highlight essential nutrients most women are lacking. McDonald’s also recently leaned into the trend of oddly satisfying videos with an impressionistic ad by TBWA\Paris that explores the making of Egg McMuffins.

Given 61% of U.S. youth don’t think they’ve earned a break even when they’re achieved something impressive, youth-focused brands should shift their messages from celebrating achievement to promoting relaxation, which Coors Light did recently in its “Made to Chill” campaign.

Burnout is finally entering the mainstream dialogue and being taken seriously as a mental health problem, which is an important development for people of all generations but especially Millennials and Gen Zs. By providing an outlet for young people who need to recharge their overstimulated minds, brands will ensure they have a place in the ongoing conversation about burnout and any cultural shift that arises from it.





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