Marketers Begin To Tackle Very Complex Message -- Youth And Gender Identity

Kids believe their generation has a much clearer understanding of gender compared with older generations -- with 80% of kids and teens trusting people their age to understand who they are and their gender, including how to articulate and express it.

This has begun to surface in search results.

The outcome will create challenges if it is not faced now. 

MarketCast, which focuses on fandom, market research and data analytics, will release a report on gender identity in an effort to teach brands how to market and produce more effective content and messages.

The MarketCast Youth & Identity team took a close look at what influences the gender conversation among today’s youth and young adults, while uncovering ways brands and media companies can engage in conversations. 

The research focused on three markets — the United States, South Korea, and Germany — with a goal to learn to what extent young people discuss gender, how they talk about it, what gender impacts, and next steps. The researchers spoke with youth gender-identity experts, as well as 1,800 people ages six through 25 and their parents.

One thing is certain, which MarketCast Youth & Identity researchers want to make clear — there is a difference in the way people think about sex and gender, according to Jessica Ritzo, senior vice president of Custom Research at MarketCast.

“It’s a topic that’s grown in importance,” Ritzo said. “It’s a topic that clients have been thinking about.”

Parents participating in the survey agree that their kids' generation has shifted the conversation of gender, with 82% of parents believing this generation is more open and accepting about gender identity and expression.

Some 42% of kids ages 6 to 9 years old participating in the survey think gender is a spectrum, meaning that the word could be something other than “boy” or “girl.”

“This group already accepts that there is something outside of the binary,” Ritzo said. “That number grows with age.”

“The Gender Spectrum” refers to the idea that there are many gender identities -- such as female, male, transgender, two-spirit, and more.

As kids age, their views about gender expand. Binary thinking occurs when even complex concepts, ideas, and problems are overly simplified as being one side or another.

People under the age of 25 are the most vocal about gender identity online, and mention it 29% more than millennials, 137% more than Gen X, and 114% more than baby boomers.

Understanding of gender is tied to familiarity with the words. When asked to cite the words they have heard, 73% cited feminine, while 72% cited masculine, 50% said trans or transgender, 33% cited non-binary, 25% said genderless, 25% said androgynous, among others.

The report states that identifiers are not limited to words. Emojis serve as a code that allows young people to signal their identity to others, and find safe spaces with others who identify similarly.

Korea defaults to "they" and "them" pronouns, and only recently have more people been using "he" and "him" or "she" and "her," to help define and think about gender.

Germany has gendered nouns and no clear way to neutralize them, but activists have been petitioning for official gender-neutral pronouns in the country for years. For now, Germans largely borrow gender-neutral English pronouns.

“Conversations already happen in young peoples’ lives today,” said Griffin Quasebarth, senior director of Custom Research at MarketCast. “The language is more common than some might think. We see an opportunity for brands to reflect that language in conversations.”

Despite the concept of gender evolving as kids age and an increase in conversations, young people are not immune to the pressures of traditional gender norms.

Some 40% feel like they are not allowed to do certain things because of their gender, and 47% believe they should look or act a certain way because of their gender.

Parents say that entertainment has a powerful voice, with 78% saying they feel media and celebrities have a strong influence on their kids’ gender.

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