Trends and insights from the youth market were in the spotlight at the 2017 Sunday Times Generation Next youth marketing conference, which took place on May 11 at the Sandton Convention Centre. The annual conference has become an important event for marketers and advertisers who want to get to grips with the challenging and often difficult-to-read youth market.

The day kicked off with a welcome from Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko. After that, Catherine Bothma, MD of HDI Youth Marketeers – the agency that conducts the annual study – provided an overview of the key findings in terms of lifestyle, behaviour and culture in the youth market. The study, which divides respondents into children, teens and young adults, revealed a strong affiliation for family and religion across all three groups.

Bothma outlined what she terms the “10 commandments of marketing to the youth”, highlighting the most important as honesty and authenticity, availability and accessibility, and providing gifts and “freebies”. She added that the youth have immense buying power, amounting to R137.3bn of their own money, with a 66 % influence on household spend. 

A number of panel discussions followed, including debates around what works when it comes to creative advertising, innovation and disruption in the digital and social media space, and top trends in the youth market that brands should look out for. The final panel comprised HDI’s junior board of directors, who commented on whether audience observations about the youth market amounted to fact or fiction.

Influencer activist Arye Kellman provided a case study of the 2016 #Kellman20, a list of 20 young people he identified early last year as influential millennials. Kellman took the audience through the reasons his list yielded such astounding results, garnering 20m social media impressions within 12 hours of launching. The case study led to a panel discussion with three millennials on the 2017 list, which launches next month, about how brands can best use influencer marketing.

The message that came through for influencer marketing – and for marketing to the youth in general – is that brands need to be believable and authentic. They also need to research and understand the realities of the people they are communicating with. 

Siya Beyile, CEO of the Threaded Man and Siya Beyile Holdings, gave an inspirational account of his own entrepreneurial journey, while providing marketers with a glimpse of who the African millennial really is. He questioned why brands do not use the cultural pride inherent in this market to create and support home-grown African stories and successes.

Creative parenting expert, speaker and author Nikki Bush challenged marketers to question whether their youth marketing activations are ethical, pointing out how vulnerable children, teens and young adults are.

The big take out: The 2017 Sunday Times Generation Next youth marketing conference highlighted the trends and insights driving the youth, specifically the value they place on family and religion. It also considered the importance of honesty and authenticity in branding, and the need to research and understand the realities and context of the youth market.

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