Businesses targeting their products and/or services towards youth are facing an ever-changing market. At the tail end of a recession, and in the middle of a generation-shift, how does a company stay relevant to the younger audience?
Because Generation Y (Gen Y) is getting older (now making up consumers roughly aged 18-30), marketers will begin focusing on the emerging Generation Z (Gen Z), as their buying power within the youth market will increase rapidly over the next several years.
Even so, a few things remain the same. As with Gen Y, the two biggest factors driving purchasing decisions are still:
• Can this product or service help me belong?
• And, can it help me be significant?
Social currency is what is most important, and successful marketing will be based in recognizing that it is not a product or service being sold, but what that product or service is doing for the consumer. Word of mouth is still the most powerful influence on youth. They are far more likely to trust products and brands if a friend uses or recommends them.
Graham Brown, founder of What Youth Think, has published a presentation to SlideShare.com that outlines research into the youth market and his projections for what to prepare for in the 2010 economy.
Brown suggests that companies commit 100 percent of their budget to consumers already sold on their product and provide them with tools and social currency to spread the word. “Grassroots” and “beachhead” marketing schemes that are focused in this way seem to win out, according to Brown, and he points to youth market kings Red Bull and Apple to prove it.
Today’s youth grew up bombarded with advertisements and other propaganda, so they are even more skeptical of traditional marketing campaigns than Gen Y. As a result, authenticity is now more important than ever. Rather then controlling the conversation, companies have to earn their right to participate in the conversation, and should be actively listening to what consumers are saying.
Marketing is no longer something you do to your audience, but with your audience. It seems the message moving forward is that successful marketing will engage in a two-way conversation with Gen Y and Gen Z – a prospect that scares some organizations.
My perspective is that two-way dialog is an opportunity to learn more about your potential consumers than marketers ever could before – and therefore offers the potential to be more laser-focused in your efforts to forward your brand. What do you think?