Acquiring The Youth Mindshare

Last week we looked the next element of Marketing 4.0 at engaging influential subcultures Today we are going to introduce the first subculture that being Youth Mindshare.

For marketers, it makes sense to target youth. According to a report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), in 2016 there were 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, the highest number in human history, and their number will continue to grow. Interestingly, approximately 90 percent of them are living in less-developed countries. They are facing all sorts of life challenges to realize their full potential in education and career while managing social dynamics among their peers. Marketers are identifying and solving these challenges. The goal is to be relevant to young people’s lives and therefore to gain access to their growing wallets.

Even marketers whose products and services do not primarily aim at young consumers pursue this lucrative market. The objective is to influence their minds early in their lives, even if it is still not profitable to do so currently.

Today’s young people, in the near future, will be the primary and probably the most profitable consumers. Moreover, targeting youth for most brands is the most exciting thing that marketers do.

Marketing to them always involves either cool digital content, celebrity endorsements, or innovative brand activations. Unlike older segments, youth are so dynamic that it is rarely unproductive to engage them. And since the demographic size is huge, companies are often willing to spend heavily on this interesting marketing segment.

The only caveat is brands where the target is clearly an older demographic and a youth focus can derail the engagement.

The role of youth in influencing the rest of the market is immense. First, they are early adopters.

Youth are often accused of being rebellious and anti-establishment—that is, they love what adults hate. Although some youth are behaving as accused, most of them are not. The truth is that youth are just not afraid of experimentation. They try new products and experience new services that older segments deem too risky.

Marketers with newly developed and launched products need them. A youth-first strategy often has the highest likelihood of success. When the iPod was first introduced, the youth-oriented tonality of its advertising helped create rapid early adoption and eventually mainstream market success.

Similarly, when Netflix offered its streaming-only service in 2010, its early adopters were tech-savvy youth.

Secondly, youth are trendsetters.

Youth are the Now Generation consumers who demand instant everything. When it comes to trends, they are very agile.

They follow trends so fast that marketers often fail to keep up. But the upside is that this allows marketers to quickly pinpoint trends that will influence the market in the near future.

Their tribal nature means that youth are also very fragmented. Thus, trends that youth follow are equally fragmented. Certain sports, music, and fashion trends might have cult following among some youth tribes but might not be relevant for others. Perhaps the only trend that most youth follow is the movement toward a digital lifestyle.

While many youth-endorsed trends turn out to be short-lived fads due to this fragmentation, some evolving trends do manage to hit the mainstream. The rise of Justin Bieber, who initially gained fame as a trending YouTube artist followed by millions of youth, is an example. The entire universe of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, also started out as a trend among youth. Similarly, music-streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Joox were brought to the mainstream market by young customers. Interestingly often the demise of a brand is when the ‘youth’ retreat.

Finally, youth are game changers.

They are often associated with irresponsible and selfish behaviors. But recent trends show that they are maturing much earlier. This is because young people respond more quickly to changes happening in the world, such as globalization and technological advances. Now, they are concerned about what is happening around them. In fact, they are one of the primary drivers of change in the world.

We can see this from the growing youth empowerment movements. RockCorps, for instance, is a platform that allows youth to volunteer for four hours to transform communities and earn one ticket to an exclusive concert.

Another example is, which invites young people to participate in world-changing events such as a series of inspiring “WE Day” live concerts, as well as to purchase “ME to WE” products that have social impact.

Indonesia Mengajar offers a similar empowerment platform through education. It rigorously selects the country’s top graduates, asking them to forgo potentially high-paying jobs in favor of teaching in remote village schools for one year. These movements make volunteering look cool. More importantly, this program raises the awareness of older generations about the importance of activism and social impact.

These roles—early adopters, trendsetters, and game changers—all lead to the conclusion that youth are the key to mind-share.

If brands want to influence the minds of mainstream consumers, convincing youth is the important first step.


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