Last week I attended the annual two-day Youth Marketing Strategy (YMS) event located in the iconic Roundhouse venue in Camden, London. As Europe’s largest youth marketing festival, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by some of the biggest names, the brightest minds and those at the absolute cutting edge of youth marketing. But before I share with you a couple of key takeaways from the event, let me briefly touch upon the value of trends and why we should be so bothered about them.
Trends trends trends, yes, we all know we need to be made fully aware of them, but let’s clarify what we mean – we’re talking about consumer trends.
Definition: a consumer trend is a new manifestation among people – in behaviour, attitude or expectation – of a fundamental human need, want or desire
So, how do we figure out where customers are headed? Well, in what may appear to be counter-intuitive, Trendwatching’s Head of Trends & Insight David Mattin revealed that the secret to actionable foresight is in fact to not watch consumers, but to watch businesses. This is because by simply looking at the innovations that customers are latching their attention onto, we’re able to identify what customers want next. As a result, trends emerge as innovators address basic human needs in new ways, and in turn set new customer expectations. And as Mattin explained, then the really important part happens; expectation transfer.
Trends used to be monolithic, but now expectation transfer has enabled new expectations to spread across markets, industries, products and service categories, and demographics. And of course, thanks to accelerating globalisation, they spread faster than ever. Look at how the “one-touch service” concept has evolved across various sectors. From Amazon’s one click payment to Uber’s one click taxi service to Darty’s home help button. The “one touch service” has now even expanded to the lifestyle sector, just look at Netflix & Chill’s button that can be configured to create the perfect Netflix experience with just one press.
Therefore tracking trends and watching innovations helps marketers, businesses and brands meet and surpass consumer’s rapidly changing expectations.
So what did I come away with from the highly energised live youth panels and the 120 expert speakers discussing the latest trends and research on this mysterious ‘millennial’ that we are all buzzing about but trying to figure out at the same time? Well firstly let’s clarify who we’re talking about when we talk about millennials.
Millennials, also referred to as Generation Y or the “always on” generation and the “me” generation, are formally defined as individuals born between 1980 and 2000. They currently make up a quarter of the UK population and are predicted to hit the 17 million mark by 2019. A broad range of behaviours and beliefs has been attributed to the 16-34 year old cohort. Evidently this is a large generation, and there are many sub cultures, but that’s another story for another blog.
This generation are digital natives, and they expect instant gratification. They are commonly described as being shallow, spoilt, self-entitled and impatient. The unfortunate truth is that research does in fact confirm this “gimme gimme gimme” generation stereotype. And as their attention span shortens and they become savvier and more cynical, the greater the challenge for brands to win their hearts and minds.
Here are three themes, although well known established principles amongst marketers and brands, they were the three recurring themes throughout the panel discussions and the presentations across the two days.
Authenticity was easily the most prominent theme of the event as various brands and marketers took to the stage to discuss the key to reaching the minds and hearts of the complex youth market is by being as authentic as possible. Metcalfe’s Head of Comms Edwina Bagge explained how it’s not all about “sell sell sell”, but instead brands need to show they have a real personality and speaking to millennials in a way they’d want to be spoken to. She and many others also emphasised the need for brands to funny.
And last Thursday, Campaign Live released an article titled Brands aren’t making people laugh, which further highlights Bagge’s point on how brands are missing a simple yet effective technique to win the hearts of their consumers. Unruly Pulse’s research identified how hilarity is one of the least common emotions worldwide displayed by people watching ads, which raises questions as to why brands aren’t focusing their efforts on creating content that is funny, as happiness and laughter are emotions that are most likely to ricochet the world.
Take Android’s “friends furever” 2015 ad, which according to Truly is the most shared ad of all time, and made people feel 4x happier than the average ad.
Innocent’s Brand Activation Manager Jamie Sterry was amongst the many speakers who discussed and emphasised the need for brands to just keep it simple. Addressing the topic of ‘how to win the battle for brand loyalty’, Sterry explained how there is so much noise from people vying for their attention and trying to connect with a younger audience, that it’s important to try to be really honest and speak to consumers on a human level. However remaining simple most definitely does not mean boring, but in turn it challenges brands to do something different, something interesting, and something that millennials won’t shut up about.
Sterry went on to explain Innocent’s simple strategy of helping people live well, in the things they make and the things they do. Sterry gave the example of Innocent Unplugged, a festival for grown-ups in a forest in Kent where you leave your phone at home and enjoy “great music, real conversations and lungfuls of fresh air.”
“It’s a simple idea but the way we execute that is through personal human ways.”
USE RESEARCH AND INSIGHT
The word Data was amongst the most common words used throughout the two days, and not surprising. As a researcher myself, I couldn’t agree more that using data gathered from research and insight to better understand a brand’s customers is imperative. Youth product manager at Arsenal Football Club Anna-Lise Johnsen discussed how Arsenal has a strategy that looks at life stages, and speaks to fans as young as 1 because
“It’s about keeping them engaged in the club and taking them on a journey from desire to be a fan to keeping them coming back every year.”
Subsequently YouthInsight and Sport England discussed how they collaborated and conducted research together in a challenge to make sport relevant to multitasking millennials, as they discovered that only 1 in 10 millennials in the UK is a sport enthusiast. The research and insight explored the current understanding of women, their relevant motivations, barriers and triggers to becoming getting more active, and what this means for sports and exercise activities and initiatives. They shockingly discovered how fear of judgement is still a barrier for women, which drove the initiative behind the successful This Girl Can campaign. The initiative aims and continues to inspire women of all ages to change behaviours by taking up physical activity and exercise.