The Revolting Youth - Part 1
This is part 1 of a 2 part blog series written by our founder Mark Evans
Most of us watched and experienced the recent UK General Election rollercoaster ride. Whatever your view and however it panned out for you (I'm not going to be drawn into a political debate) there are some very obvious things to learn, especially if you’re a marketer.
In my opinion, we have just witnessed something that shouldn’t be ignored by the marketing traditionalists. What we have experienced is not only a seismic change in how political parties should invigorate the young and youth electorate but from my perspective, it clearly mirrors how this group of young consumers behave and in turn marketers should think.
Labour’s perceived success in this election has had many political commentators and experts baffled and it begs the question just how did they manage to encapsulate and inspire the younger generation to march to the polling station and vote?
Initial observations from this election demonstrate a massive swing from the traditional slogan style advertising; where over-refined messages are fed through focus groups and appeal to what has historically been regarded as an “older electorate”. By comparison, we have the youth who historically protest but rarely made it to the polling station. What we have witnessed on this occasion is a mass mobilisation of young adults, who appeared to resonate with Mr Corbyns core values and his convincing tone. In addition, his pitch was consumed and validated on a more human level across social media, live events and word of mouth.
Historically, the most tried and tested methods of political campaigning can be identified by the use of traditional marketing channels that in some cases reach the target audience but more often than not fail to connect or engage in a way that excites the younger voter. The vast assortment of marketing channels available to choose from today is wide-ranging and diverse, selecting the most appropriate strategy to reach the younger audience is vital if you want to influence and shape their behaviour.
The days of hammering messages through mass broadcast media and hoping it reaches everyone over 18 years old is simply out of step with modern society, culture and behaviour. I’m sure we will continue to see the leading political party machines continue to indulge in the traditional broadcast approach to target the older electorate and this may well work for the aging demographic. However, it is the manner in which we communicate with this young, tech savvy audience and the integration of the channels that is crucial.
Let’s reflect on this for a moment. I have no doubt that a significant number of Senior Management within lead marketing agencies across the country will have a tendency to believe they understand the ‘YOOF’ based on their own personal experiences of being young (20-30 years ago) but I’m sure we can all agree it was a different world then, to the one youngsters are immersed in today. With technological advances coupled with the explosion of social media, the head down approach to life and having messages direct to the hand, I could go on and on here but the change is hugely significant from my younger days.
As marketers we would be reckless to forget the young of yesterday who are the key decision makers of tomorrow, growing quickly into the key influencers of the future and simply can't be ignored, guessed or taken for granted, as they have been.
I'm very fortunate to be regularly invited to address students at some of the leading Universities in Scotland and I always leave inspired by each students optimistic view of the world. I also get frustrated by marketers who continually misunderstand their needs and how to reach them effectively. Too often we see marketers thinking narrowly and attempting to reach the younger audience through social media as if the use of this channel itself is the holy grail of “youth marketing”. Yes, to some extent social media or digital has its place when building a relationship, it really can be incredibly powerful as a loyalty builder and forum. However it’s imperative to create a narrative that feels compelling and believable for it too truly resonate and feel authentic.
Let’s take a closer look at this young voter as a consumer and veer away from the political landscape for now. If we look closely at the ever growing variety of marketing channels at hand, there’s one in particular which incubates authenticity between brands and people and quickly replicates the aforementioned ‘mass mobilising effect’. Experiential Marketing has the power to deliver intimate and immersive brand experiences that engage the 5 senses of your target audience, driving emotional responses that prime positive behaviour and action. These events provide an honest pull factor with any target audience where they can look your brand or product in the eye and judge it against its promise. Only through a physical experience can you create honest content that seeds conversations, which builds advocacy on social media amongst friends and tribe groups.
I've lost track of the conversations I’ve had with students on how they consume media and follow brands. I have to say that they demonstrate hard-wired behaviours that differ from the likes of older generations. They multi-task across screens, such as consuming catch up and streamed entertainment, muting adverts when they appear and flicking on social media to engage in conversations. They have a propensity towards innovative media that stands out from the clutter and automatically filter media displayed across the landscape in split seconds, easily stripping back facts from fiction, noise from relevance.
What I’ve discovered is a collective opinion; they find advertising annoying. The irony is that no matter how much advertising itself becomes more targeted, it equally becomes more intrusive and where advertising messages are created and distributed from middle aged adults in agencies or boardrooms, young people will find ways to block it and stay one step ahead. In my view, the younger audience recognise the tricks and techniques of advertising more so than before, they simply are wary of slogans and claims that lack authenticity.
So what is that resonates across this group and drives loyalty and action en-masse? My friends it's a deep rooted emotional signal that we all engage with at a primal level. In a fast paced more cluttered world with a higher threshold of risks and threats flying past us every day, we actively operate our senses to sniff it out. It’s that gut feeling, a way to frame your core beliefs with that of others, 'authenticity' is the new guiding star for marketers looking to bring young people and brands closer together.