How crucial is the ‘Youth’ voice in contemporary marketing?

If you are between 15 and 24, I am going to talk about you in this post. If you are 25 or more, sorry but according to the United Nations you’re not part of the youth club anymore. Do you even know what an emoji is? OK I’m just kidding, I promise, no more jokes about old, erm, after-24-years-old-people.

Let’s start by explaining what is meant by the ‘Youth’. Marketingly speaking (I like creating words), the ‘Youth’ represents the Generation Z, in other words, people born mid 1990s onwards. They are marketing and tech savvy, meaning that they don’t trust traditional marketing and tend to prefer influencer marketing. Against all expectations, they prefer shopping offline, but don’t get mistaken, they like it accompanied by technology such as in-store tech or smart devices. What’s more, contrary to other generations, their decision-making process revolves around social media. On the latter, the reputation of a brand can change in the space of minutes due to the speed at which information travels on social media (take for example ex Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries who openly tweeted that the clothing brand was exclusionary). This, among other factors, created a shift in customer loyalty. These young consumers ‘see themselves now as co-creators of the brand, not just active listeners’ (Reed), which means that they want to be part of the product development process. They also want authentic and sustainable brands along with personalised and entertaining shopping experiences. The final and most important point, Gen Zers are due to become the largest generation of consumers by 2020, with a spending power ranging between $29 and $143 BILLION in the US only. On top of that, 93% of parents admit that their children influence their household purchases, which represents an additional $600 billion in spending. Can you picture it yet? We are dealing with a generation of fickle and demanding consumers with strong values and a pinch of power.

Here is the absurdity, the advertising industry is ‘obsessed with youth’ (Wallman), arguing that digital natives are better placed to use the vast array of digital tools and that they are more creative. So why are brands sometimes struggling to listen to young people and thus failing to meet their expectations?

To understand this, we will take a look at the food giant, Campbell Soup. The brand saw its competitive landscape changing throughout the years, with the introduction of new competitors selling cheaper products with a healthier ingredient list; and this from both ‘own labels’ and ‘store brands’. The famous red and white can was struggling to attract a younger audience due, in part, to the ingredients and a shift that saw the audience beginning to ask for lower prices. When CEO Morrison took over in 2011, she executed a turn in the company’s strategy. Although she was aware of the necessity of adapting Campbell Soup’s strategy to the new competition, the brand still failed to deliver what young customers wanted. The brand experimented with multiple new products, launching microwaveable bags of soup (as a healthy afternoon snack) in 2013 and K-cup soups (to-go soup cups) the year after, in the hope that they would appeal to younger generations.

 

In 2016 they introduced a better-for-you soup called Well Yes! under the Campbell umbrella, emphasising that the product was free from artificial flavours and free from GMO aspects. However, despite these efforts, Campbell Soup failed to forge a bond with young consumers, leading to a $475 million net loss during the second quarter of 2016 and a 12% drop in the company share price. They missed out on advertising the low-calorie content and the weight loss aspect, which is, in hindsight, what young people were asking for, and the digital strategy to support the products was nonexistent. The company is now looking to sell some of its portfolio brands such as Kettle Chips. Campbell Soup is not the only firm struggling with its connection to a youth market. The multinational cereal company Kellogg’s is currently facing a similar challenge and considering divesting brands, after trying to appeal to young consumers in vain.

 

On the bright side, some brands such as Tiffany & Co get on very well with Gen Z consumers. Although it has a long history, it’s popularity among older generations meant that winning Gen Z was by no means a foregone conclusion. However, the jewelry retailer has successfully targeted its messaging to appeal to younger consumers’ desires. The brand which is over 180 years old, is actively chasing them through engaging, experiential and digital marketing campaigns. To cite a few tactics employed, they created an engagement ring finder mobile app using augmented reality and also used social media to share their interest for sustainability with the customers. Tiffany & Co’s strong digital marketing strategy paid off as the brand managed to become one of the most visible brands online and saw its sales soaring with a 15% increase in the first quarter of 2018 after the launch of its Believe In Dreams campaign.


To sum this all up, listening to the youth market and understanding what they want is key to developing a successful marketing strategy, and eventually creating a successful brand. Brands that haven’t addressed this area have recently seen their bottom line plunge. Of course, this doesn’t apply if the kind of business you are thinking of is selling deluxe aluminium tri wheel walkers.

 

Generation A B C D X Y or Z, let us know your thoughts on this, we would love to hear from you 🙂