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Louise Millar at Seed: Dating is done. Friendship is Gen Z’s modern love

Amy Poehler celebrates ‘Galentine’s Day’

TikTok is constantly asking, “What’s happened to the classic rom com?” Patriarchal storylines no longer resonate, and mobile phones have destroyed the meet-cute by removing the lost-phone-number or disaster-on-route-to-date storyline.

Gen Z has never faced a world of dating without apps. How depressing. Apps make dating a tick box exercise, where the modern dating challenge isn’t just, “do they like me?”, it’s also about ghosting, cat-fishing, last-minute cancellations and blocked accounts. No wonder 90% of Gen Z feels frustrated with the apps.

And there’s another big conversation going on: friendship’s role in health, wealth, progression and life quality. We asked over 2,000 Gen Zs about their relationship priorities, and 85% said that friendships were more important than romantic relationships.

Gen Z want to shape themselves before committing to someone else. They are a generation characterised by post-pandemic loneliness and a desire for intimacy in the information age, for whom traditional life milestones are out-of-reach. Our What Matters to Us research identified two distinctive trends: dating apps are being deserted in favour of real life; and the desire for platonic relationships is greater than the desire for romance.

So what does this mean for brands jumping on Valentine’s Day?

Rethink how “love” is presented: Lean into platonic relationships. Although this was kicked off by Millennials (think: Galentine’s Day from Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation, Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love), it’s taken a hold over Gen Z. Friendships are becoming the great modern love story and brands would be naive to ignore this shift.

Or how about self-love? Not meditation and yoga but boundaries, self-understanding and forgiveness. Single life is losing its stigma and becoming a positive, empowering choice. Last but not least, let’s flip the narrative on dated gender roles. Maybe 2024 is time to shift that? It is a leap year, after all.

Get into real life spaces that build connection: Dating apps are moving from online only to hybrid models with real life events: Eventbrite reports a 21% rise in speed-dating events. For Gen Z, joining communities and events has become one of the primary ways to connect.

For brands, this presents an opportunity to partner-up, investing back in the young people spearheading these cultural shifts with collabs that bring meaningful engagement. Hellaa Melanin is one such community that holds ‘Speed Mating’ sessions over speed-dating for the black community. Their intention is to create a space to celebrate black joy and establish times for friendships to thrive. It’s about creating a safe space where people feel connected, invested in and celebrated.

Create products and experiences for pals not pairs: Brands are limiting themselves by focusing on pairs, because the single tax is out: having to be in a pair to be able to enjoy something is a big turn-off. Rethink how both products and experiences could be altered to attract buy-in from friend groups. Banning couples altogether would be even more a (PR-able) statement.

The world of romance isn’t dead, it’s just evolving to allow for choice, freedom and growth. Despite being a Millennial, Aimee Lou Wood nailed the sentiment in an interview last year: “There’s so much focus on romantic love and I just feel like platonic can be just as expansive. When I’m with them I just feel like anything’s possible.”

Louise Millar is strategy director at youth marketing agency Seed

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