Is your brand caught in a sea of sameness? This year’s VICE Guide to Culture told us that youth are breaking out and on the hunt for unconventionality. They’re fervently pursuing the unexpected – and asking us to find a little courage and do the same.

So, where do marketers go from here? Check out 3 codes from this year’s guide to help brands break out:

[Culture Code: Weird Horizons]

In a world suffocated by algorithms and echo chambers, where conformity reigns supreme, Gen Z is on a mission to shatter the monotony. They don’t just crave the unexpected and unconventional; they live it, with 86% of our Gen Z audience telling us, “It’s normal to be weird”. They are rejecting the same coffee shops, recycled Super Bowl ads, the predictable social media landscape, and the same cultural tensions and #cores.

Brand rule 1: So, how can brands deliver on the novel? 

Build enclaves of weirdness where people are free to live their authentic oddball selves or create a culture clash. From Kim Kardashian gracing the cover of GQ’s Men of the Year To Men’s Skincare Taking Over the Beauty Aisle, French fashion label Isabel Marant staging an audacious “attack of the giant toothpaste, and Virtue’s campaign with Deutsche Bahn to make public transport top by turning rapper, viral sensation and transformation champion Tommy Cash into a human train. The time for conformity in Adland is over. 

[Culture Code: Curiosity as Practice]

Fuelled by an inherent distrust in businesses, media and government, Gen Z’s insatiable curiosity has exploded into action. From TikTok users coming together to find the green dress girl after a viral dance video, to a college student’s jet-tracking social media accounts, youth are intent on asking ‘Why?’ ‘What’, ‘Where’, and ‘Who dunnit?’.

But this voracious desire for knowledge extends further. Gen Z’s curiosity has led them to look for new ways to game the system and find alternative routes into finances, education, work and products.

Brand rule 2:  how can brands ignite this uber-curious mindset?

Design for a discovery mindset and allow youth to adapt your processes and products and, if necessary, hack them. Gamify processes and give Gen Z the role of citizen sleuth. From ‘Gamified’ virtual stores to Spotify sending Swifities on a clue hunt to solve ‘Taylor Swift Puzzle’, brands can gamify experiences and integrate treasure hunts, augmented reality, and quiz-style questions, to allow youth to come together on shared missions and purpose. 

[Culture Code: Present Tense]

Gen Z is reconstructing the meaning of occasions and making the most of every moment to make more of the everyday. They pay as much attention to the seemingly mundane filler of their lives, the points in between just as much as auspicious occasions. 71% of our youth say life is shaped by the little things we experience spontaneously or require little planning (e.g. laughter with a friend, dinner with family, etc.) vs 21% for the big things that typically require planning (e.g. weddings, buying a home, etc.). These seemingly mundane moments are being romanticised, remixed, and shared through visual content — photos, videos, and reels. Influencers like New Yorker @chloecleroux, who, despite living in a bustling metropolis, romanticise life through art and food.

Brand rule 3: how can brands change the meaning of moments?

Consider shifting media and activations to in-between moments and unexpected occasions related to your brand, like Virtue, who took Captain Morgan away from blitzed-out moments of heady boozing, to ‘Enjoy Slooow’ – a not-so-subtle reminder to sip at your own pace and embrace the vibes. The candid everyday moments are the pulse of youth lives. 

For insights on how to implement these strategies, contact