Picture: Pexcels/AnnaShvets
Picture: Pexcels/AnnaShvets

Technology is exposing young people to so much more than ever before. As the youth market becomes more exposed to conspiracy theories, fake news and online propaganda, and increasingly measure their self-worth by the reception they receive on social media, it becomes the responsibility of marketers to truly understand what makes this generation tick and how best to serve them.

A recent online Sunday Times GenNext digital conversation, in partnership with Yellowwood and Gautrain, discussed how brands can ensure they’re relatable, authentic and trusted by young South Africans, by building marketing campaigns that are engaging, sincere and approachable.

To achieve this, marketers need to look deeper – beyond the emojis and acronyms – to understand the youth market so that they can better cater to their needs, if for no other reason than their impressive spending power. According to GenNext research, people between the ages of eight and 24 have a combined spending power of R131bn.

Ntombizamasala Hlophe, strategy director at Yellowwood, pointed out the chasm that exists between brands and young people.

Collaboration plays a big role in terms of brands understanding their consumers, said trend spotter Khumo Theko. The pandemic has highlighted the significant role that brands play in people’s lives. Brands that stepped up during the pandemic – such as Vodacom, which provided data to learners so that they could continue to receive an education – resonated with the youth market. Brands that appeal to the youth, she said, are those with a purpose and that speak to diversity.

There are numerous opportunities for brands to interact with the youth, said singer-songwriter Naye Ayla. While influencers are a popular choice, she said brands should not only consider influencers with large numbers of followers but also micro- and nano-influencers – particularly those who are tackling topics important to the youth and who engage closely with their followers.

Brands are frequently accused of not being authentic by the youth. Sandile Ntuli, a representative from the Junior Board of Directors, said brands need to hire the right people to represent them from a marketing perspective; individuals who represent their target audience.

Is it too much to ask to ask of young people to give back to society? While the youth typically don’t have disposable income to give, they are able to donate their time, effort and skills set to giving back to society, said Ntuli.

While young people recognise the importance of issues such as the environment, this is currently not their priority as they are grappling with more pressing and immediate problems. However, while it may be one of their priorities, they do expect brands to give credence to environmental issues.

Local purpose-driven brands that stand out among youth include Mobicel, Standard Bank and Gautrain, agreed the speakers.

To view the full recording from the day, click here.

To register for the next online webinar on April 15, click here

Sunday Times GenNext, now in its 17th year, is the leading annual brand preference and consumer behaviour research on the youth. Fieldwork for the GenNext study is due to be completed by July and the results are due to be made available in September. The study ranks the coolest brands as voted by the youth across 69 categories and includes a youth segmentation study with a focus on various category engagements and associated behaviour drivers.

For partnership opportunities, contact Cortney Hoyland (hoylandc@arena.africa) on 011-280-3060. To advertise in the 2021 GenNext supplement, contact Debbie Montanari (montanarid@arena.africa) on 011-280-3538. For more on the youth behaviour study, contact Kananelo Tlanya (kananelo.tlanya@ywood.co.za) on 011-268-5211.

The big take-out:

Marketers need to look deeper to understand the youth market so that they can better cater to their needs, if for no other reason than their impressive spending power


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