Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Marketing brands successfully to the youth requires an understanding of the world they inhabit – a world that is digital, narcissistic and technology oriented, that provides instant gratification, and that is all about culture, image and micro-moments. The youth of today are very aware of who they are and where they come from, and they are increasingly celebrating being African and South African.

These are just some of the insights to come out of a panel discussion on how youth trends can help brands build sustainable relationships. It formed part of the recent Sunday Times Generation Next Youth Marketing Conference held in Sandton, Johannesburg.

Members of HDI Youth Marketeers’ junior board of directors reminded marketers that the youth should not be put into a box; they want to be seen as individuals rather than as a collective. To reach them requires authenticity – companies need to stick to their DNA and be true to their brands.

The big take-out

To market brands successfully to young South Africans, campaigns need to be authentic and make the youth feel important.

The junior board of directors admitted that they are not brand loyal unless a brand appeals to them in aesthetic or functional terms – and, occasionally, as a value-for-money proposition. In essence, they will only support brands they consider edgy or “cool”, and that make them look good. To this end, they suggested that marketers should create campaigns that make the youth feel important, and that can become the voice of their generation.

They also urged marketers to stop relying on LSM measures. As one junior board member pointed out: “Don’t assume that just because I live in Soweto I can’t afford an iPhone 8.”

To connect with the youth, brand messaging needs to be concise, clear and correctly placed on platforms where the youth communicate, said HDI Zimbabwe MD Sapi Bachi, adding that it is acceptable to be both inspiring and aspiring because “even if the youth can’t afford the brand right now, they will eventually get to the point where they can afford it – aspiration is loyalty”.

Research and data-collection methods must both evolve, said Brand SA research manager Leigh-Gail Peterson. She added that data is already collected very differently than it was a decade ago. “Social media has become a pivotal tool that can’t be overlooked when collecting data in today’s research environment,” she said.

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