The Tylt

A generation without representation—Gen Z and Millennials have no relatable public figures.

Lena Dunham once famously proclaimed via her character on “Girls,” “I’m the voice of my generation.” While many recognize this as satire, they may be less likely to realize how often many public figures believe this mindset to be true. Especially when it comes to younger generations.    

Gen Z and Millennials aren’t shy about voicing their own opinions. In fact, they can speak for themselves, thank you very much, and would prefer to keep it that way. Yet corporations continue to feel the need for leveraging spokespeople they think best represent a generation.

Colin Kaepernick is one such celebrity. First gaining attention for kneeling during the National Anthem, Kaepernick quickly became the selling point of various branded content campaigns. His outspoken ways were thought to align with the very socially focused and morally conscious younger generation. Turns out, he’s not as popular as brands would assume.

True, when initially asked if Colin Kaepernick was a hero, the majority of Tylt audiences voted in favor. However, upon each of this article’s re-publication, that percentage has steadily decreased. In fact, the latest iteration shows how 49.7 percent of voters believe #KaepIsAVillain, up from the original 16 percent. That’s a triple increase in original sentiment.

There’s even the case of Megan Rapinoe. When the U.S. Women’s Soccer team returned victorious, one would've thought that a certain outspoken team member in particular—Megan Rapinoe—would remain a popular figure for youthful fans. Yet 66.9 percent believe her to be more fraud than hero. Additionally, 52.7 percent of Tylt voters—37.51 percent of which were ages 25 to 34—find that she and others should swallow their political pride points and visit the White House in order to show some respect.

And this sentiment expands beyond athletes. Gen Z and Millennials find themselves to be rarely influenced by celebrity endorsements, as well. According to Marketing Dive, over 78 percent of Millennials either feel indifferent or flat out dislike celebrity product endorsements. Even influencers, who many brands find to be a surefire way to promote items, are met with skepticism. An eMarketer study reflects that 34 percent of Millennials were indifferent to influencers’ influence, something which The Tylt’s own data confirms.

While Gen Z and Millennials may agree with certain viewpoints these public figures express, they don't necessarily like the blatant ways in which corporations leverage these politics in order to sell products or services. To them, social causes are not to be tied in with ulterior motives; otherwise, it cheapens what certain movements are all about in the first place. They’re wise to what brands are trying to do, and how little of a voice they have in the grander scheme of things (something reflected by the fact that 50.6 percent believe Kaepernick sold out). It’s almost insulting when adults who’ve closed their ears off to them assume one person exactly represents their ideologies.

In a world filled with talkers, it would do well to listen every once in a while. What people have to really say may often surprise you. Leave the celebrities to their day jobs.