Each week, Padilla’s Insights + Strategy team stands at the intersection of people, culture and brands to bring you five stories that you can read in five minutes.

1. Cutting class for climate change

Last Friday, students all over the world skipped class and protested at government offices calling for immediate action on climate change. Why should you care? This is part of a rising trend we expect to see continue throughout this year where individuals take it upon themselves to hold governments and businesses accountable for their actions. While activism is rising across generations, this particular protest is a great example of both of Gen Z’s activist style and an indication of how important climate change is to that generation. Though they were calling for government action, we also know people believe businesses both have the responsibility to act on climate change and the capacity. Any brands targeting Gen Z who don’t already have a strong stance of sustainability should get to work. [Buzzfeed]

2. Passing notes in class 2.0

Speaking of kids these days, it was reported this week that Google Docs is the most popular “chat app” for teens. Why should you care? What a great reminder of two things: 1) your age if you remember passing paper notes in class and 2) design products for real life. So why Google Docs? It’s kind of brilliant. With laptops and iPads in more classrooms, teachers are using Google Docs to assign (everyone’s favorite)…group projects. However, Google Docs has this nifty little chat feature that could be used to discuss the assignment or be used to flirt, while giving the impression of work getting done to onlooking teachers and/or parents. While there are many other apps with fun features, the reality is the days of teenagers involve a lot of homework and class supervision. Therefore, the most important problem for a chat app to solve is fooling their parents and teachers into believing they are working. Whether by design or through the unique ingenuity of teenagers, Google Docs nailed it. [The Atlantic]

3. Cleanfluencers, because that’s a thing now

At this point, you’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo, but apparently there an increasing number of Instagram influencers focusing exclusively on cleaning and cleaning products. Why should you care?At first glance, this seems a little odd. (If you want to watch people clean toilets on Instagram, that’s cool, you do you.) However, as Stylist addresses through interviews with different types of experts, there are a several fascinating deep cultural and social explanations that make this phenomenon notable. For example, according to the historian, the current uncertainty about the world is similar to the post-war era in the 50s when there was a similar revival around a “glossed over” call to domesticity. The futurist interviewed claims it is a combination of an educational system that omits life skills and a way to make a small corner of the world cleaner if they can’t take on bigger projects like removing plastics from the oceans. The psychiatrist claims it is a physical task that reduces mental anxiety while the feminist activist claims that it stems from a need to exert control while the political landscape for women is out of control. In the end, there’s probably truth in all of their observations. While brands of cleaning products may recognize and highlight important features or ingredients of their products, it may be worth exploring how to connect on a more existential level with their customers. [Stylist]

4. Subscription services snowball

Deloitte released a study this week which found 47% of people are “frustrated by the growing number of subscriptions and services required to watch what they want.” Why should you care?  It seems like every week we hear of a new service that will be the “Netflix of this” or the “Netflix of that”. It is no secret that streaming services have transformed content, delivery and consumer habits. However, as Deloitte found, there seems to be an optimal amount of choice for consumers: they want enough for variety and competition, but not so much that it is a chore to access the content they want. As a pioneer in transforming people from buyers to subscribers, streaming services have been inventing the rules as they go. However, it sounds like an ideal time to review and ensure the whatever the brand, the service hasn’t veered too far off track from meeting the primary need that made these services so novel: making it simple and straightforward to access quality television on the subscriber’s schedule. [Variety]

5. American optimism wanes

Pew released findings this week indicating while a slight majority are “somewhat” optimistic overall, Americans are pessimistic when asked about individual issues the United States will face over the next 30 years. Why should you care? It’s kind of bleak and a little sad to read. Still, brands need to know what they up against in connecting with their audience. Studies like this help brands identify what may or may not be tone deaf to their consumers. People want brands to be honest, transparent and connect to their lives: the good and the bad. If brands are overly optimistic and sugarcoat larger social issues Americans are worried about, then they will lose credibility and relatability. Additionally, trust in traditional institutions (like government) has fallen and people believe businesses can and should step in to fix larger social issues. Because they trust government less, they want to buy products from brands who are facilitating the broader changes typically addressed by government agencies. Want to know what people care about? What keeps them up at night? Brands should consider this a great place to start. [Pew Research Center]

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