Photo Credit: Pexels/Oladimeji Ajegbile
Photo Credit: Pexels/Oladimeji Ajegbile

The youth of SA had a tough year in 2020 given an economy that was hard hit by the pandemic. Having come through that challenging period they now face an uncertain future.

In their favour is the fact that South African youth are resilient, creative and determined to succeed.  As the youth search for meaning, guidance and support in an increasingly volatile world, brands have an opportunity to help them achieve their dreams.

Despite being a highly influential market, the youth continue to be largely misunderstood, pointed out Yellowwood MD Refilwe Maluleke at a recent Sunday Times GenNext digitised conversation, in partnership with Yellowwood and Gautrain. The conversation focused primarily on how brands can connect in a meaningful and effective with the youth of SA.

 “Although 55% of the country’s spending power resides with them, only 20% of advertising is directed at them,” said Maluleke. “They are more financially empowered than ever and highly connected: 67% own a smartphone and they typically spend more online than the global average. They are independent thinkers and make their own choices. According to research conducted by Yellowwood, only 45% of young people are loyal to the brands their parents buy. This means that if brands want to tap into the enormous potential of the country’s youth, they will need to speak directly to young people – and on their own terms.”

In 2020 Telkom was voted the coolest telecoms provider by the youth of SA. Zukisa Modisakeng, head of Brand, Communication and Consumer Segment Marketing at Telkom, said that key to the brand’s turnaround was developing value propositions for different segments of the market by listening to what customers wanted.

Nando’s, which is renowned for its irreverence and witty campaigns, was voted the coolest place to eat out by the youth in 2020. Doug Place, Nando’s chief marketing officer of Africa, Middle East and South Asia, said the brand’s advertising tries to reflect back to South Africans what is important to them. The youth are burned out by overly capitalistic and inauthentic brands and frustrated by persistent broken promises.

“The challenge is to be consistently empathetic with the youth market,” he said, adding that when marketing is done well it is a response to a need. The idea of shared value needs to be intrinsically embedded in a business.

In 2020 DStv was voted the coolest content delivery platform by young South Africans, outperforming global giants like YouTube, Netflix and Amazon. Thabisa Mkhwanazi, executive head of marketing at DStv, said that the platform’s storytelling and content resonates with the youth as they try to make sense of the world they live in.

Yatish Narsi, chief experience officer at Grid Worldwide said in his opinion the youth are not a subsector. Brands, he said, need to be looking at how they can add value across the value chain.  

Bonolo Masukume, a member of the Junior Board of Directors, said the brands that resonate with her are Addidas, Dove and Coca-Cola.

  • To watch the full recording from last week’s webinar, click here
  • To register for the next online discussion on the 13th of May, click here

 Sunday Times GenNext, now in its 17th year, is the leading annual brand preference and consumer behaviour research on the youth. The GenNext youth survey provides meaningful insights into the minds of South African youth. From this year, all youth capabilities, including the highly anticipated 2021 Sunday Times GenNext youth survey, will be enhanced by the strategic might of Yellowwood.


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