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Borrowing street cred for youth relevance in 2018

My article published in the June/July edition of Your Business Magazine

With South Africans paying tribute to the youth of the country during the month of June, I recently took time to reflect on the level of influence that the youth has had on our work as marketers. Tribes continue to mushroom into bold movements that are unapologetic in demanding product and services that are authentic, worth their money, reflective of who they are and what they stand for, and are sold to them in the most convenient way possible. Young people demand a seat at the table and don’t mind taking brands on because they understand their buying power and the access that they have to alternatives that technology continues to present to them as world citizens.

Gone are the days when segmenting markets using LSMs worked, the gear went up a notch when marketers began realising that young South Africans had developed their own culture, ultimately blurring the lines between the segments that we had gotten used to. The youth now rallies like-minded people who debate on issues that are pertinent to their counterparts across the continent. Afroturism (remember how we all relocated to Wakanda this past February?) and the celebration of the LGBT community is on the rise, 40 has become the new 20, cellulite is the new sexy, the #PassportGang is in the same Whatsapp group as those that choose to #SebenzaGilrl (loosely translated as ‘work it, girl’ – females with a work ethic worth celebrating). The game has long grown deeper than just hashatgs. The youth has moved on to finding value in brands with substance and relevance, celebrate their roots and individuality, and are generally “woke”. They have fallen in love with opinionated brands that have context around the political and social landscape and wish to engage on topical issues. This is evident in trending topics on social media, fashion statements and movements (literally – on and off the ramp) and how quickly Twitter has become the governing body that holds government and business accountable for their actions and promises to consumers and puts them on the straight and narrow if need be – think H&M and Woolworths’ race issues.

Gaining street credibility through marketing in 2018 is about creating a movement through honesty and integrity, borrowing your customer’s “cool” by co-creating with them then allowing them to evaluate you and make the final judgement. It’s more about brands that are not afraid to walk their talk, allow their customers to experience their energy and service, then give them the opportunitiy to tell the masses all about it – in their own words.

If the youth market forms part of your target market as a small business owner, it’s best you get geared up for being stripped by your prospects, building strong relationships with influencers in your industry, staying well informed, remaining prepared to have uncomfrotable and in-depth discussions on public platforms. Naturally, you will also need to have a fat wallet – getting the youth’s attention doesn’t always come cheap. They are unpredictable and fluid in their decisions. Attracting young people will require of you to go the unconventional route towards your marketing campaign’s success.

Brand campaigns that have hit the nail on the head include Foschini’s The Future is FemaleGugu Intimates launch campaign and Discovery Insure’s #RidingPopGun series. Foschini brought on board successful and inspiring female entrepreneurs, Gugu Intimates borrowed some “cool” from influential, bold, body confident South African women and Discovery made the choice to feature local celebrities in their video series.While all these campaigns were executed through various platforms that include digital media, basic marketing principles such as the formula of frequency to gain top of mind awareness were applied – Gugu Intimates showcased women from different walks of life over a set period of time, Foschini chose to carry the message through multiple platforms such as clothing items, events and the launch of the Maladives dolls while Discovery shot and shared multiple videos which made up the series/season.

As you craft your youth marketing strategy, keep in mind the importance of being clear and consistent in what you are able to offer to consumers emotionally – that’s how humans connect. Source the help that you need to articulate it clearly. Instead of making decisions in the boardroom, make a conscious decision to step out, be on the ground and start engaging with the youth to gain insight and context around their issues. Stand for something, be vocal about it, your tribe will find you. Spend time creating platforms for your prospects to engage with you and to experience your offering. Remember to reward the early adopters by acknowledging them (think exclusive previews and involvement in campaigns) and personalising their brand experience. If your brand’s promise remains true, your business remains engaged with the youth and open for co-creation, your market can’t help but get a feeling of belonging, as well as the need for advocacy and loyalty.

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