Winners at the 2019 Sunday Times Generation Next Awards. Picture: SUPPLIED
Winners at the 2019 Sunday Times Generation Next Awards. Picture: SUPPLIED

This year the Sunday Times Gen Next conference – now in its 16th year – focuses on three themes pivotal to the youth of SA: tensions, tribes and trends. No longer can SA’s youth be neatly boxed into LSM income groups. It’s not uncommon, for example, to find a young man in Alexandra spending a few thousand rand on a pair of speakers, despite the fact that he would have historically been classified as belonging in a low LSM band. It’s time for marketers to find new ways to talk to this crucial group.

This year new category will be launched: Young Professionals, targeting youth between 25 and 30. “The Sunday Times Gen Next Survey is looking to gain insight into what this group spends its money on as well as who they are, what motivates them and how much they contribute to brands,” says Bongani Chinkanda, CEO of HDI Youth Marketeers, the company responsible for conducting the research that informs the Gen Next Survey. 

From next year, young professionals will be incorporated into the Coolest Brands survey.

“SA’s youth market is made up of the influencers of the future,” says Chinkanda. “It’s a future that needs to be meaningful for them, despite the current tensions the country is facing. Tensions are the broader themes in society over which brands and consumers meet; they relate to issues such as unemployment, the climate crisis, inequality and the digital evolution. Young people believe brands should have a bigger purpose and brand leaders need to know what society is expecting of them.”

In a panel discussion members of HDI’s junior board of directors were asked questions about youth marketing. When asked what the biggest tensions facing SA were, Kamogelo Mashaine (23) said unemployment is dominating youth development and that it is essential for brands to have a purpose. Brands need to resonate on an individual level with consumers.

The second theme of this year’s Gen Next 2020, namely tribes, refers to groups of people who are united by common interests, regardless of age, race or gender. Examples include gamers, health and wellness enthusiasts, cultural or economic activists and sneakerheads. Tribes are a far more accurate way to target an audience than LSM groupings, said Chinkanda.

Trends, the third theme, relates to short, medium- or long-term cultural triggers which influence consumer mindsets and the way decisions are made. Current trends include student activism, global tourism, the convenience economy and shrinkflation.

The concept of an “edge” was introduced. This is a cultural shift or value that brands can tap into and use to identify insights in their markets. Edges drive direction on emerging cultural, category and consumer behaviour, explained Chikanda.

“Fermpowerment is one such example. While the majority of young women do not identify themselves as feminists, there is a growing awareness about gender inequality and this is not only a fight that women should be engaged in – men should be in involved too,” he said.

The big take-out:

Gen Next 2020 will be driven by three themes this year: tensions, tribes and trends, and will also look at the ‘edges’ that  shape consumer behaviour.

As gender roles are renegotiated, traditional roles are being replaced by more fluid definitions. “It is no longer uncommon for the female to be the breadwinner in the home, while men are more comfortable with showing vulnerability than in the past,” pointed out Chinkanda.

At the same time Generation Z and millennials have a new sense of responsibility. No longer do they conform to the stereotypes of “going wild”. “Rates of drug use, teenage pregnancy and drinking have declined – you are more likely to see this generation drinking mocktails and knitting scarves – playing it safe,” said Chinkanda.

These themes, edges and other vital issues about youth marketing will be further explored at Gen Next 2020, which takes place on June 4 at the Sandton Convention Centre.

For more information, click here.

For information on sponsorship and activation opportunities at the 2020 Sunday Times Gen Next Awards please contact Cortney at Hoyland hoylandc@arena.africa