Why youth marketing isn’t that complex

Unfortunately marketing to the youth demographic of our society is seen by some in our industry as an otherworldly skill that only a special few have mastered. With 90% of briefs that agencies receive targeted at this market, we need to have a much better understanding of this audience.

We are all guilty of being a bit too focused on the end goal, our KPI’s, meaning we are constantly looking for that magical ingredient – be that a social media platform, an influencer or a media partnership that will make all the young people instantly share your content online making it go viral, and making you look cool in front of your peers and clients because you ‘get’ the ‘yoof’ of today.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there isn’t an ingredient or hack or a preferred social media platform that you need to be on to make them interested in your product. What they want is for you to be is real.

How can you as a brand do this? Well here are my five key takeaways from yesterday’s YMS 2017 talks that will help you become a real brand and have a more meaningful relationship with your audience.

1. Master the art of conversation: Become a storyteller

Put simply, young people want brands to talk to them more. Don’t just attend a fresher’s fare or send them a voucher and then just forget about them, keep them engaged and keep talking to them.

This doesn’t mean you should start churning out content for the sake of it across every single channel. You need to ensure that your message and tone are right, and land at the right time, on the right channel for the right people.

A recent survey from Bam UK found that 24% of students weren’t familiar with at least two of the major high street brands, but over half would go on to engage with them later. The first three months are key, as this is where their loyalty builds and sticks.

2. Don’t be a fraud – authenticity is key

Once you’re talking more to your audience, you need to ensure what you are saying is adding value to the conversation and to their lives.

Just as you would in real life, stop and think before you speak. Does your brand have the authority to speak about this topic? If yes then do it; if not, well don’t – it’s that simple.

3. Provide the experience

Part of becoming an authentic, real brand means connecting with your audience in the real world. This is a great way to get your brand message out, but also provide people with a really unique experience that they can connect with.

This doesn’t mean simply visiting a festival and that’s it. Ensuring there is a socially shareable element to the experience is vital. This generation has a FOMO (fear of missing out) and they want their network to see all the unique experiences they have had. So ensuring this has social currency is key to extending your reach organically.

4. Don’t jump ship

According to the latest data in an industry report x number of 16 to 24-year-olds use x social media platform.” Cue all agencies and brands running onto said platform to engage with their audience.

There are so many channels out there and targeting an audience that is digitally native means you need to carefully consider what you’re doing. Any content (ads included) need to feel native to the platform, with the correct messaging. Don’t create a new social account because all the cool kids are there. Think about whether it’s a relevant platform for your brand and your message, and will this be an always-on strategy or only viable for a one-off campaign.

5. Relax

Brands need to relax the control over their content. Giving it the space to grow and evolve online by co-creation is vital to help ensure it lives longer, is relevant and resonates with the right audience.

Cancer Research understood this with its Stand Up to Cancer campaign and discovered that content created by a third party (creator/ influencer) that they ‘hero-ed’ outperformed their own content. This was because the content created had an added layer of authenticity to it.

Although we keep talking about young people as some kind of an alien market, they aren’t. Yes, they are more digitally savvy than other demographics and more on trend. They are, however, still people who want and actively seek genuine and meaningful connections. Our responsibility is to ensure we do this not just for them but for all our consumers.

Ally Biring was reporting from the recent Youth Marketing Strategy 2017 in London.

This article first appeared in Digital Marketing Magazine.

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