Marketers have often made use of generations as a demographic and psychographic delineator for specifying and describing their target markets. But what exactly is a generation? And why is this understanding useful to marketers?
Reaching the youth audience is more challenging than reaching the adult
The youth today are streetwise and 'in-touch' and their trends change rapidly so marketers have brief opportunities to capture these passing trends. Their economic power and influence in the marketplace will increase in the future. Following the constantly changing trends and knowing how to reach the youth market will ensure success with your products and services. In addition, it will allow you to pinpoint new business and product opportunities in each market by understanding their needs and the complexity of their motivations.
Derek White, Executive VP of Alloy Inc. says: "Staying current on the pulse of this dynamic generation is a never-ending job. Just when you think you have fashion, lingo, music and trends down pat, everything changes. So, how can you keep up?" From their most recent study, Derek has put together the Top 10 Marketing Tips for reaching the 'college' market in the US.
Here is a condensed version of his tips:
- Recognise their potential. When it comes to spending, they like the "good things in life:" entertainment and travel, the latest electronic and digital equipment, snacks and beverages, apparel and personal care products.
- Make them laugh. Although students report that they do not pay a lot of attention to any particular type of advertising, most pay at least some attention to the following: television, magazine, outdoor/billboards, movie, radio and newspaper. Their top choices in ads are humour (36%) and affordable product cost (44%). Bear in mind, there are gender-based preferences.
- Don't forget the parents. Parental influence remains strong. More than half of students use the same brand of bar soap (55%), toothpaste (54%) and laundry detergent (60%) that they were introduced to by their parents. In fact, 8 in 10 college students want advertisers to appeal to both them and their parents.
- Have a heart. Students today are dealing with global uncertainties and a tough economy; the majority (61%) believe that it is harder to be a young person today than it was in their parents' day. They care about community and global problems and their most pressing concerns are environmental causes (56%), the potential for war (53%), unemployment and lack of job opportunities (51%) and rising poverty levels (51%).
- Give them credit. Few students today are getting a "free ride." Most are contributing financially toward their own education and more than 41% own a major credit card. That increases to 79% by senior year.
- Think active. A full quarter of students own or lease a car. In the past year, students spent almost $5 billion on travel. Other popular entertainment pursuits are movies ($790 million), music concerts ($390 million), amusement parks ($318) and professional sporting events ($272 million).
- Be connected. Today's youth are "wired." The vast majority (93%) go online in a given month and nearly 9 out of 10 have made an e-commerce purchase. More than half of online students have broadband connections. And within this vast universe of users is a smaller subset of early technology adopters. It shows that 1 in 8 students consider themselves technology leaders and are among the first to buy cutting-edge electronic devices and gadgets.
- Give them what they want. Similar to adult consumers, they are price conscious. More than half will owe more than $25,000 upon graduation and this makes them hungry for bargains. An overwhelming 93% cited low prices as important when shopping. Students are more than twice as likely to buy brands that are on sale than to consistently use certain brands. In fact, 57% of the male and 74% of the female respondents "usually try to buy brands on sale."
- Plug in. Nearly 9 in 10 students own a computer, calculator and television. Two-thirds own cell phones - and 36% use them to access the Internet. Other big items are DVD players (58%), video game systems (45%) and digital cameras (24%).
- Figure them out. Students do not fit a single demographic mould. The survey shows that age impacts brand loyalty, access to credit and wallet size. There are stated differences between the purchasing trends and product preferences of women versus men. For instance, females spend twice as much on personal care items than their male counterparts do. Men are more likely to shop in a computer or electronics store, and they're more interested (30% versus 13%) in having salespeople be versed in what's cutting-edge.
Putting it all together
Marketing requires unbiased observation and attention to detail. And when it comes to targeting the youth market, being in tune with their unique interests and issues can make or break you. Today's youth cannot simply be reached by mass marketing efforts, nor can marketers generalise them into groups. Youths are inconsistent in their buying habits. The better you understand this market, the easier it will be to position yourself in the same direction.
And remember, to survive these days, you have to be one step ahead of this diverse, elusive and 'fickle' multi-billion Rand market.
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