Friday 16 November 2018

Young people of Ireland, marketers still love you

The last census in 2016 showed that there were 576,452 people between the ages of 15 and 25 with some 273,636 of these over the age of 20. A further 659,410 were aged between 25 and 34. In other words, 1.23 million people fall into what one can loosely call the youth market. (Stock picture)
The last census in 2016 showed that there were 576,452 people between the ages of 15 and 25 with some 273,636 of these over the age of 20. A further 659,410 were aged between 25 and 34. In other words, 1.23 million people fall into what one can loosely call the youth market. (Stock picture)

John McGee

The landslide victory for the Yes campaign in the recent referendum has been dubbed a 'youth-quake', with up to 90pc of those aged under 25 voting to repeal the Eighth amendment, according to some estimates. If ever Benjamin Disraeli's oft-quoted saying that "the youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity" needed affirmation, historians will point to Friday May 25, 2018.

For marketers, the youth market is huge but not without its challenges.

The last census in 2016 showed that there were 576,452 people between the ages of 15 and 25 with some 273,636 of these over the age of 20. A further 659,410 were aged between 25 and 34. In other words, 1.23 million people fall into what one can loosely call the youth market.

Even though young people don't like to be stereotyped or pigeon-holed, the marketing world is obsessed with dissecting various demographic cohorts and slapping a convenient label on them. So, thanks to marketing, we have groups like Generation X, Y and, thankfully the last letter in the alphabet, Generation Z.

One can only hope that some well-meaning idiot in a market research department doesn't have a light-bulb moment by suggesting that the much-unloved letter A needs to find a new demographic home. And don't get me started on millennials.

Sociologists, however, will agree that there are many common traits that all generations of young people possess at some stage of their early adulthood. This could be the desire to change the world, make it a better place or an unease when it comes to conforming to certain parental or employer expectations. Popular culture down through the years has always had its youthful heroes and anti-heroes.

But the prevailing cultural, social and economic climate in which they find themselves also has an influence how they see themselves, their peers, their immediate environment and indeed the wider world. And anyone trying to market to them needs to be mindful of this.

So, what does the youth market look like today and what are the burning issues that keep them awake - or indeed asleep - at night?

Research published last week by The Youth Lab, part of the youth marketing agency Thinkhouse, shows that plenty of issues are impacting on our youth population.

The Youth Lab identified four 'major malfunctions' in society which are shaping their views and how they cope. First of all, the ongoing casualisation of work and the rise of the so-called gig economy has shifted the risk away from employers and companies and on to the shoulders of individuals.

This has led to an increase in often insecure and sometimes precarious work for many, with zero-hour contracts now a feature of the employment landscape.

A second malfunction is the sheer pressure that many young adults find themselves under. "Over-education is fostering a hugely competitive environment where excellence is no longer a differentiator," according to the Youth Lab.

On top of this, it notes the wider social and cultural changes that are taking place. Individual and societal norms are being stretched and institutional trust is at an all-time low, preying on their minds. Keeping up appearances among their peer group is also a challenge according to the research with as many as 60pc of those aged between 16-20 struggling to keep up with societal expectations of success.

Finally, young people are finding it harder than ever to generate long-term wealth, according to the research which pointed out that in the Republic of Ireland, 54pc of 16 to 35-year-olds have less than €200 disposable income per month. For many, the traditional markers of success, like property ownership and other life milestones, are either out of reach or postponed.

It says that all of these malfunctions combined means that young people are experiencing a life crisis far earlier than their predecessors with as many as 56pc of them feeling anxious on a daily basis.

But they are coping as best as they can with things like exercise, sleep, eating well and doing something creative among the list of coping mechanisms cited by the research.

So if they are feeling constantly stressed out and have little money to spend, why are they such an important target market for brands and advertisers?

"Youth are still spending, despite shrinking incomes. But they're more discerning in their spending," says Claire Hyland of the Youth Lab.

"Savvy and brand literate, they see through the bullshit. If you can resonate with youth, you're likely to resonate with other audiences.".

So what advice would she dispense to brands looking to target this often fickle and discerning market?

"Be clear on what your truth is and deliver it in a way that adds value. This means genuinely understanding their real needs and where your brand and business can play a role in their lives. Then widen the value exchange to be more relevant to young people who see themselves as citizens first, consumers second," she says.

Sunday Indo Business

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business