Marketers need to stop thinking of youth as their ‘target audience’. This description treats them as a destination point for marketing messages and assumes they live in isolation of each other. In reality web 2.0/ social media platforms have made youth remarkably connected and the way in which they discover, process and share information and content has changed dramatically. Forget target audience and trying to talk to individuals. Think about what ‘COLLECTIVE’ you can interact with and inspire – they are all about belonging to a group and now rely absolutely on that collective for which brands to engage with. Todays youth are obsessed with remixing content and need to be treated as your partners in production and distribution of ideas – think of them as ‘message carriers’ – your biggest media asset.
Young people appreciate brand narratives which build and involve them across different touchpoints, not just linear one dimensional ads. This requires us to stop thinking about marketing communication programs as rigid structures – the future will all be about flexible ‘open source ideas’. It’s difficult, but you need to plan for content you don’t create. Like the fact that people may rip off your ads on youtube or create facebook fan pages, or blog negatively about your ideas. You need to be able to embrace this type of community feedback.
Our job as marketers is to spark conversations in culture around topics of interest relevant for youth, then allow for collectives to jam on it and send it on. Savvy brands tell interesting and engaging stories which zig and zag across multiple media platforms but are built around a common theme which creates cultural capital amongst youth collectives.