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Design Indaba '17: A youth marketer's take-outs

HDI Youth Marketeers sent three members of their creative team to the 2017 Design Indaba (dubbed "the Cirque du Soleil for the intellect") to soak up the creative greatness of the world's most inspired thinkers, creators and inventors. Here are the four key nuggets of creative enlightenment that we took away with us, and how they apply to youth marketing.
Rhode Kasselman, Lara Petersen, Nika Smit
Rhode Kasselman, Lara Petersen, Nika Smit

Think like citizens, not creatives

These were the wise words of the empathetic designer and coder, Ekene Ijeoma, who uses data to help people – like his Look Up app that prompts people to look up from their phones to avoid walking into things. Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb, spoke about how design can be the “duct tape” that provides solutions to humanitarian problems. Their social change platforms assist refugees without homes and bring different cultures together. He posed the poignant question: “What can we bring to the world?"

When it comes to youth, there is a huge value in immersing yourself in their world to understand what it is that they really need, and a huge opportunity to create social change or add value to their lives. As Little Sun solar-powered lamp creator, Olafur Eliasson’s says, "What people actually want is more important than telling them what they should want". Sharing this sentiment, HDI uses a junior board of directors, made up of sharp-witted kids, teens and young adults, who give it to us straight on how brands can play a role in their lives. This enables us to come up with branded-solutions that are relevant and meaningful to youth.

Create as a collective

As in other years, the power of collaboration was a common golden thread strung into the advice of many of the speakers. Whether it was collaborating with other like-minded creatives, clients or society, joint forces take creations to the next level. In fact, the conference itself was anything but a ‘PowerPoint party’, with performance artists collaborating with speakers to create multi-dimensional presentations. A mind-blowing collaboration, between information designer, Giorgia Lupi and Brooklyn-based musician, Kaki King, saw data, design and music collide in a boggling performance. Local ceramicist, Andile Dyalvane, collaborated with the Chile-based design firm, Great Things to People, to create a ‘never never-before-seen installation’. He says, “The power of collaboration is that between the two parties, we each learn something.”

When marketing to youth, who better to collaborate with than youth themselves. This generation of youth is brimming with hyper-talented, aspiring creators with so much untapped potential. They know what works for getting the attention of and adding value to their peers. And they have freshly inventive minds to give a unique spin on marketer’s usual tactics. HDI collaborates closely with a crew of influential culture scouts who help us with trend-spotting, brainstorming and the curating of meaningful and effective youth campaigns. This has a mutual benefit for both parties, giving the young creative industry experience and getting invaluable youth culture insight for the agency.

Don’t just do your day job

Year after year, a common learning from Design Indaba’s speakers is the importance of having a passion project outside of your day job. As the award-winning, multi-tasking illustrator, art director and designer, Kate Moross says, “Do some work for love, some for money, some for charity.” She believed that anyone can be the jack of all trades.

One of HDI’s youth trend predictions for 2017 is the boom of the side-hustle. Urban young adults are quickly becoming moonlighting entrepreneurs – doing freelance-style jobs for extra cash and cred – many with a hope of making it a permanent business eventually. It’s a way to make money out of their (often artistic or tech) passion projects while being able to count on the pay cheque of a day job. There’s a huge opportunity for brands to step in and help the youth self-achieve and fulfil their dreams through entrepreneurship or passion-project platforms.

Create don’t copy

There’s a fine line between taking inspiration and copying. Kate Moross went so far as to say that even taking inspiration from other artists “is for amateurs”. The copycat culture of the creative industry was hilariously dramatised by the Dutch ‘creators of cool’, Lernert & Sander. They not only named-and-shamed their copycats (who did cringingly tepid and irrelevant versions of their work), but then had a choir sing the lyrics to a song of forgiveness, which was then emailed to the concept burglars, live! A definite highlight of the conference.

With youth, it’s sometimes tempting to recycle ideas that have worked well with the market before. But youth know an idea when they’ve seen it before. They are a rapidly, ever-changing market - what was ‘cool’ yesterday, most probably won’t be ‘cool’ today. If you want to treat them as a unique market, the least you can do is come up with a unique idea. South African youth marketing is forced to be ever more creative, because there is no easy approach of broad generalising or assumption-making when it comes to targeting our youth. They are a dynamic market who begs to be treated as individuals. They are status seekers who want brands to give them unique stories and experiences to share with their friends. Deep youth insight and research is imperative – which is why HDI has a whole department dedicated to this.

In speaking to youth, be conscious of the wise words of our Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “You are not second hand, nor a feeble copy, but a glorious original.”

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10 Mar 2017 11:07