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Lovemarks guru says this industry must topple tough times

But how is youth responding to the ‘recession blues'? Hundreds of industry players descended on Kyalami's Theatre on The Track for the seventh, celebratory AdReview Awards held on 23 April. World renowned industry guru, Kevin Roberts, Worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi - who coined the term ‘Lovemarks' - took to the stage amidst the circus-themed drapes and décor to hammer home his experience of the current recession, and the toll it is taking on the Western psyche. He described its effect as “a catastrophe in the minds of the American people”. In his no-holds-barred description of the current consumer market, Roberts unpacked the depth of the plummeting confidence levels now characterising huge chunks of the industry overseas.
HDI Youth Marketeers receives a Hot Shop Award at the AdReview Awards 2009.
HDI Youth Marketeers receives a Hot Shop Award at the AdReview Awards 2009.
South Africans are somewhat removed from the eye of the storm that is sweeping across the US and Europe, but its side effects have (will?) hit us hard regardless. Roberts urged South African marketers and creatives not to fall victim to the global mood of doom and gloom but rather to step up to the plate - to recognise the invaluable role that creative minds have in catalysing renewed optimism in consumers, and, just as importantly, to harness this creative talent to develop new and innovative ways to revive the economy.

It's the kind of message that resonates with youth market specialists, HDI Youth Marketeers. Their assessment of how tough times are affecting kids, teens and young adults in South Africa, suggests two things:
  1. For the most part, South African youth remain irrepressibly optimistic and buoyant about their, and their country's, prospects;
  2. That, except in homes that house a retrenched parent, they are being fairly well sheltered from the storm.
And so, HDI Youth Marketeers has taken inspiration from young South Africa, now fortified by Roberts' address, to tackle the current economic climate with zest and enthusiasm. In March, they launched ‘Change 09' as an internal campaign to drive an optimistic view of 2009. “Because we are on the playground, in the research room and on the streets with youth, we are reminded every day just how important it is to manage our business with high levels of optimism. It is so evident in them that it's contagious. Turmoil is no stranger to many urban and township kids, but regardless of their fears, they remain upbeat and determined,” says Jason Levin, MD HDI Youth Marketeers.

HDI Youth Marketeers was cheered on by industry players when it was awarded as one of the Six Hot Shops at the AdReview Awards; and after having won the runner-up spot in the Branding & Design Agency Category at Financial Mail's AdFocus Awards in November 2008, they are obviously feeling the benefits of their youth-inspired optimism.

“We have a different way of seeing things - we're very future focused. We're not hassled about what's going on right now - we're all about change and how we can make it happen. We can't afford to be negative,” says, Junior Board of Directors member Noluthando Ndukwana, 20

HDI Youth Marketeers works with a wide range of brands - from banks to hotels to retail stores - to develop relevant and “irresistible” (to quote Roberts) youth propositions. HDI Youth Marketeers' Junior Board of Directors (JBoD) have a key role in that process of unearthing what makes a brand, offer or product compelling beyond its competitor set.

“We want to go out there and be who we want to be - We're determined to make our dreams come true. No one can take my passion away from me,” says, JBoD member Busisiwe Nkwanyana, 17.

This year's theme for the freshly inducted 2009 JBoD members reflects their sanguine approach in the face of adversity. Borrowing from the 2008-9 Obama electoral campaign: ‘Yes, We Can' has been launched as the rallying cry that will buoy these 42 hand-picked, exceptional young opinion-leaders' upbeat spirit throughout the year. Roberts would, no doubt, be proud.

4 May 2009 11:40