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The youth makes up the majority of the SA population. The increasing influence and buying power of this sector mean that brands – irrespective of whether they think about young people as consumers, future policymakers or global citizens – need to keep the wants and needs of this market in mind when putting a marketing strategy or advertising campaign together.

A recent Sunday Times Generation Next digital event, moderated by radio personality Kenzy  Mohapi, put the focus on what brands need to do to appeal to today’s youth, what the youth consumer looks like in 2021, how brands should connect with them and what brands that look to make an impact and resonate with today’s youth need to be doing.

The youth is the most followed and most connected generation at present, pointed out Arye Kellman, chief creative officer and co-founder of TILT.

Those brands that don’t yet have a purpose are unlikely to find one overnight, given that it takes a great deal of introspection to establish it. Francois Viviers, executive in charge of marketing and communications at Capitec, pointed out that though there is now a scramble for brands to find a noble purpose, the majority are not geared for such a purpose. Instead, he said, brands need to be true to themselves. The youth will quickly see through a brand that is inauthentic, he insisted. Capitec, he said, makes a big effort to listen to what the youth are saying.

Brands who ignore the voice of the youth do so at their peril, said Refilwe Maluleke, MD of Yellowwood. Most people are waiting until they are older to have children and are having fewer children than previous generations. This means that young people are heard more than ever before. They have certainly become very good at articulating their likes and dislikes. The question, however, is the extent to which brands listen to them. Those that do, reap the rewards. Brands that plan to show up on a digital platform need to be able to deliver a seamless and intuitive experience.

Brands can no longer buy attention but have to earn the attention of the youth market, said radio personality Siya Sangweni. Pointing out that consumers are now more connected than ever before, he said purpose is what connects people. Brands need to take the time to understand the youth if they intend to market to them.

Given how socially aware the youth are, they expect the brands they support to remain relevant and show up where they are, said radio personality Zanele Potelwa. The host of the 2021 GenNext Awards, Potelwa said she is excited to see the results of the new categories being introduced this year, including those of best learning platform and alcohol.

To re-watch this discussion, click here

To register for the awards on September 9, click here

Sunday Times GenNext, now in its 17th year, produces the leading annual brand preference and consumer behaviour research on young people. The GenNext survey provides meaningful insights in the minds of SA youth. From this year, all youth offerings, including the annually awaited 2021 Sunday Times GenNext youth survey, will be enhanced by the strategic might of Yellowwood.

The big take-out: Brands need to be authentic if they hope to connect with young consumers.


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