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Marketing to the Youth of Today

The saying goes that people are "getting older younger" and this is why the dynamics of marketing to young consumers is forever evolving in order to keep up with the pace of change.
What makes marketing to this audience particularly difficult, is that marketers do not operate in this market like they might when targeting adult consumers. In short, marketers struggle to understand or connect to the young consumer, often approaching and communicating with them in the wrong way with the wrong language, all because they fail to understand them.

Marketing to youth is not necessarily rocket science but does require a different approach to the traditional methods employed by most marketers targeting adult consumers. Certain principles still apply, such as getting to know your market and staying in touch with them. In fact these two rules are perhaps more vital to companies selling products to the youth market today because the youth of today are no fools. As a group they are less forgiving, more demanding, more educated and sophisticated than their forefathers. They expect service, demand speed and value, crave innovation and behave more like adults than we would give them credit for.

Research plays an important part of any marketer's arsenal to better understand their young customers, as does having your own children. Books and lectures also help in understanding the mindset of these mini adults, provided that the material is recently published. In truth, the landscape of the youth market changes so rapidly that few publications, theories or learning's stay contemporary for long, making daily learning essential. One such way to do this is through case studies and the learning's of fellow marketers of youth services and products. When one considers that international brands like McDonald's, Barbie, Coca Cola and local brands like YOTV, 5FM and Spur Steak Ranches, have for decades managed to retain the ongoing custom of the youth, it pays to listen to their learning's, insights and anecdotes. Likewise, we can learn a great deal from brands like Sony who have managed with Sony Playstation and PS2 to remain at the top of their game for so long.

Confucius (551BC - 479BC) is accredited with saying that "A youth is to be regarded with respect. How do you know that his future will not be equal to our present?" The sad reality is that in many cases, the youth of today are already equal to our present and so we would be best advised to take whatever steps we can to learn from others about this dynamic market lest we fall behind in their wake.

  • Don't miss the Marcus Evans Conference: Marketing to Children & Young Adults, 7 - 10 October 2003, Sandton Sun Intercontinental, Sandton. To book, Tel: (011) 516-1073 or email: . To view the full conference programme, click on www.datapro.co.za/marcusevans/pdfs/sa391.pdf.
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    About the author

    Richard Duncan is senior partner of The Partnership, a consultancy in marketing and branding solutions and will be chairing the forthcoming Marcus Evans Conference on 'Marketing to Children and Young Adults' that takes place at the Sandton Sun Intercontinental between 7 - 10 October. The conference boasts an impressive line-up of local and international speakers, with representatives from the likes of Sony, Coca Cola, 5FM and Urban Brew (YOTV). The Partnership, Tel: (021) 426-1907, Cell: 083-458-9870.