Maybe you weren’t the cool kid in high school. And now that cashiers call you “ma’am” or “sir,” you may as well forget about tuning into youth culture.
Sorry, you can’t. You can remain your geeky self if you wish, but you need to know what fads the trendsetters are setting because Gen Youth is ready to take over where boomers haven’t even left off yet. The youth population is the fastest-growing sector. It’s the most influential and will spend the most money on products and entertainment in the next 10 years.
Just in case you’re worried that watching Music TV and the Net isn’t enough to keep you abreast of the competition, here are tips for keeping up:
Trickling up and down: Why are youth trends important to you even if you’re marketing to babies or boomers? Because youth culture now influences those older and younger. Eight-year-olds aspire to be like 14-year-olds, and a 40-year-old may watch twenty somethings to see what they’re buying. Youth audiences tend to be the definers of what’s going to happen. The cars they’re into right now are the cars the older market will get into later. The music they listen to now is what younger kids and even older people will listen to later.
Just do it: To understand your target audience and what they’re into, you need to share their experiences. Go out and find the innovators in that group. Talk to them and find out what’s going on. If you buy a CD they’re listening to, or play the video game they’re playing, or watch the TV show that’s their favourite, then you’re a little bit closer to understanding their taste and sensibility.
Get in their brains: If kids are asked about their favourite things and product pops up, you have what is referred to as top-of-mind awareness. If there’s a real concentration within one age group all mentioning the same brand, then that company is really marketing to that audience well. You’ll find they just did a promotion or some real grass-roots marketing.
The finer things: Quality is of increasing importance to the youth market, even if they can’t afford it yet. Ask a group of 8 to 12year-old girls what their favourite cosmetic brand is, and they’ll answer Chanel, Lancôme or something similar. And you’re going, ‘How can these girls afford this?’ Then you check their bags and find Cover Girl, Revlon and Payot. Yet they cite brands they don’t buy because it’s an aspiration. They want higher quality than they can afford, and that’s important to pay attention to. You need to understand aspirations to market effectively.
World domination: Don’t focus your trend-spotting efforts solely on your part of the country, or the world. Globalisation is a reality because of the Internet, access to information and the curiosity of youth audiences about what’s happening in the rest of the world.
If a trend has been around for three to six months already, is there any point in jumping on the bandwagon? Possibly if your product is something that previously wasn’t focused on, or you pick a whole new spin or approach a market a different way. And remember, trends don’t stay trendy forever, which can be both negative and positive. Some may fall by the wayside, but some will also become part of the mainstream culture. It depends on how many cities and age groups accept the trend, how long it teeters on both sides – trendsetters and mainstream. If it’s widespread, then you know it has some longevity.