Sunday Times brand survey reveals youth consumer insights and the power of 'like-a-nomics'

The cream of South Africa's celebrities, brands and marketers attended the seventh annual Sunday Times Generation Next 2011 Brand Survey Awards, which took place at the Theatre on the Track at Kyalami on Tuesday, 24 May 2011.
The survey - a veritable font of knowledge for those looking to maintain their finger on the pulse of the local youth market (between the ages of 8 and 22) - revealed that today's youth - dubbed Generation Y - has literally modified the Facebook 'like' function for use in everyday life.

With more technology at its fingertips, Generation Y - more so than any generation before it - has its young urbanites passionately broadcasting its opinions and views across all manner of issues and topics by means of social media platforms.

Enter the power of like-a-nomics.

"Any brand looking to strategically break through into the youth market first and foremost needs to know what the youth 'likes'," says General Manager of Advertising Revenue and Strategic Communications at the Sunday Times, Enver Groenewald. "As the buying force of tomorrow, youth need to be much more validated as consumers: they have the potential to make or break a product or service,"

Spanning 72 categories, and unpacked into two studies: namely Coolest Brands and Lifestyle Habits, the Sunday Times Generation Next 2011 Brand Survey illustrates young consumers' brand preferences based on what they deem 'cool'; irrespective of their financial constraints. The survey also offers key insight into trends likely to shake the bottom line for some brands.

Amongst various trends, the survey points to a prominent year-on-year increase in tech consumption amongst the youth, and although a given for some it does, however, denote this particular market's preference for products and services that are simultaneously functional, multi-purposeful and affordable.

For this reason, the Blackberry smart phone - with its widespread appeal - has gained enough clout in the eyes of Generation Y to scoop this year's Coolest Brand Overall title.

Citing Blackberry Messaging (BBM) as one of the primary reasons for naming the Blackberry the 'coolest' brand is a first for HDI Youth Marketeers, which annually conducts and consolidates the urban youth market research. "BBM is the archetypal 'killer app' - it's one of the best examples ever of intrinsic functionality driving demand for a cell phone ... or any device for that matter," explains Jason Levin, managing director of HDI Youth Marketeers. "BBM turned the Blackberry, originally a smart phone used for business purposes, into a cool-tool for youth."

The Blackberry also took top honours in the 'Coolest' Cell Phone and 'Coolest' High-Tech Gadget categories.

Repeat winners include ABSA as the 'Coolest' Bank, Pick n Pay as the 'Coolest' Grocery Store and 5FM as the 'Coolest' Radio Station. Newcomers in the top five rankings include Jay Jays, Avon, 8.ta and Top Gear in their respective categories.

Additional insights from the Lifestyle and Consumer Behaviour segment of the study show how young urbanites consume media and how it influences their broader lifestyle habits. Living in what can be described as brand-cluttered environment; young urbanites have acquired the capacity to dismiss branded content that doesn't appeal to them immediately. They tend to consume bite-sized portions of information as opposed to copy-heavy content. Also, these Millennial consumers might not yet be able to drive a car, but they're almost certainly convinced they can take control of their media experience and marketers are ill-advised to connect with them in a way that undermines this.

Relevance is also very much top of the list, with the youth unequivocally demanding that in order for brands to entice them they need to really know them. "Youth demand irresistibility in a brand - and that's possible to do but it does require investigation, exploration, bravery and willingness," continues Levin. "It's worth doing though because only irresistible brands will have the necessary traction and stickiness to succeed with this generation."

Hand-in-hand with this sound marketing advice comes the understanding that a 'spray and pray' approach to marketing will only garner quantity brand awareness but does not guarantee quality brand awareness. "Connect with the people you want to have spread the word about your brand," advises Levin. "Make them the focus of your communication, keep them captivated and enticed and you'll undoubtedly reach their peers, and their peers, and so forth."

Today more than ever in the history of consumerism, consumers - irrespective of age - are more empowered and equipped to instantly make their opinions heard by their peers. Levin concludes: "Brands need to understand how to involve young consumers, which a survey such as this helps achieve, whilst bearing in mind that over fifty percent of South Africa is under the age of 23 and spent - in 2010 alone - R95.3 billion!"

Click here to see The Sunday Times Generation Next 2011 Brand Survey Results.

26 May 2011 11:01

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