The Yutt dem, Youths…. come on then… what do they really want?

A great key question that needs answering is this: what do young people actually want from us as marketers?

The Youth Insight Report this year began to address the question. For instance, we’ve heard a lot about social media marketing of late. Brands have learned the importance of transparency, relevance and shared conversation versus traditional push approaches. We know young people are big users of social media – 97% in our recent survey use Facebook and 45% are on Twitter. However less is known about what they really want and expect from brands through these platforms.

‘Engagement’ is the current marketing mantra, but in our research almost half said explicitly that they do not want to talk to brands using social media. A third said they do not follow a single brand, and the response to all our questions around the value of brands using social media for the consumer – such as the chance for one-to-one dialogue or the convenience of getting a quick answer – were met with a shrug and silence.

Those that do follow brands have clear expectations. They want either material gain – some free products, a good discount or perhaps a winnable competition – or they want to be entertained. That’s pretty much it. Having a conversation does not feature.

This is not to dismiss social media marketing; as a channel for traffic to our own website and for increasing brand awareness, the likes of Facebook and Twitter are very important. It’s more about remembering context. At Youth Marketing Strategy, student-popular travel publisher Lonely Planet explained an epiphany moment they had when, months after sharing content and encouraging discussion, a Facebook user piped up and asked why they didn’t announce they had a new book for sale. TBG Digital’s Jeremy Waite summarised Red Bull’s successful social strategy as: “50% of people go online to waste time. So let’s give them some really cool shit to do when they get there.”

The young people in our research like brands that make life easier for them, not those that want a conversation. Convenience is highly valued and is what the majority like most about buying online. While a worrying 52% admit they will buy things whether they can afford to or not, price remains the top priority when deciding. Young people want things that work with the technology they own. Most now have smartphones (74% and rising quickly), watch TV on their laptops (75%) and many will be using Kindles and tablets for their studies this year (around half will own one of either in 2012/13). These are the insights marketers should look to when planning for success.

Further research we are now doing aims to deconstruct the most successful youth brands and work out why they are popular. We’ve got dozens of students coming into our offices over the coming weeks to help analyse the results of our Youth 100 survey. The full results will be published in October, but early indications are that the majority of top youth brands are not using a secret sauce. Most of them succeed because ultimately they understand what 16-24s want from them.

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