Brands failing to connect with young people – here are three ways to do it

The vast majority of brands are failing to connect with the $62 billion youth market, according to the latest Urban Market Research Report, which identifies key trends start-ups should focus on.


The report, by youth media and communications company Lifelounge Group in conjunction with Sweeney Research, identifies the attitudes, behaviours and purchasing power of those aged 16 to 30.


According to the report, only 15% of people in this age group can recall a brand communication that resonated with them, down from 27% in 2010.


The brands with the best recall are Coca-Cola, Bonds and Nike. Lifelounge chief executive Dion Appel says investment in brand communication continues to provide “diminishing returns”.


“Sixteen to 30s have a massive proportion of their income free to spend on their ‘I wants’ as opposed to their ‘Have to’s,” Appel says.


“It’s a huge opportunity for marketers but also a huge challenge – how to connect with this market.”


The report identifies three ways to capture the youth market:


1. Experiences


In 2011-12, experiences will matter most to those aged 16 to 30, argues Appel, who believes experiences define young people “even more than the influence of friends”.


“This is a telling insight for marketers – that if communication doesn’t cut through by involving, inspiring or engaging… it’s just noise and the youth market will tune out,” Appel says.


“Coca-Cola, Bonds and Nike have built strong brand equity with 16-30s through a platform that is carefully targeted through mass customisation.”


“They have created a solid emotional connection with experiences that matter to this market, cleverly utilising both digital and traditional channels.”


2. Cost and convenience


According to the report, cost is the most influential factor among young consumers, despite the fact they are “cashed-up and know what they want”.


Almost half (44%) of those aged 16-30 made their last purchase at a chain store, compared to 22% at an independent store and 20% online.


Interestingly, purchases from major chain stores have increased by 5% since 2010, while online purchases have increased by 1%.


“The resilience of major chain stores may reflect that their pricing is at a sweet spot for the youth market,” Appel says.


However, the report reveals online is becoming an increasingly importance source of inspiration. For example, 67% of 16-30-year-olds use general web browsing to find clothing.


3. Sidestep celebrity culture


According to the report, outfits worn by movie stars, sport stars and musicians have little influence on the clothing choices made by young people.


This suggests youth-oriented retailers should think twice before aligning their brand with a celebrity.


“Sixteen to 30s aren’t fools. They know what they want, they want it cheap and they want it now,” Appel says.


“Celebrities’ lives may be of interest to the youth market but celebrities’ clothing doesn’t influence what youth wear.”


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