The youth market make up the majority of the South African population. Their increasing influence and buying power means that brands – irrespective of whether they think about them as consumers, future policy makers or global citizens – need to keep their wants and needs in mind when putting a marketing strategy or advertising campaign together.

A recent Sunday Times Generation Next digital event, moderated by radio personality Kenzy Mphapi, put the focus on what brands need to do to appeal to today’s youth, what the new youth consumer looks like in 2021, how brands should connect with them, and what brands looking to make an impact and resonate with today’s youth need to be doing.

The youth are currently the most followed and most connected generation, pointed out Ayre Kellman, chief creative officer and co founder of TILT. Those brands that don’t yet have a purpose are unlikely to find one overnight given that it takes a great deal of introspection to establish a brand’s purpose.

Francois Viviiers, executive in charge of marketing and communications at Capitec, pointed out that although there is currently a scramble for brands to find a noble purpose, the reality is that the majority are not geared for a noble purpose. Instead, he said brands need to be true to themselves. The youth will quickly see through a brand that is inauthentic, he insisted, adding that no campaign will ever be able to solve for purpose. Capitec, he said, makes a big effort to listen to what the youth are saying.

Brands who ignore the voice of the youth do so at their peril, said Refilwe Maluleke, MD of Yellowwood. Most parents are waiting until they are older to have children and having less children than previous generations which means the youth are heard more than ever before. They have certainly become very good at articulating their likes and dislikes. The question however, is the extent to which brands listen to the youth. Those that do, reap the rewards. Brands that plan to show up on a digital platform need to be able to deliver a seamless and intuitive experience.

Brands can no longer buy attention but have to earn the attention of the youth market, said radio personality, Siya Sangweni. Pointing out that consumers are more connected than ever before, he said purpose is what connects us. Brands need to take the time to understand the youth if they intend to market to them.

Given how socially aware the youth are, they expect the brands they support to remain relevant and show up where they are, said radio personality Zanele Potelwa. The host of the 2021 GenNext Awards, Potelwa said she is excited to see the results of the new categories being introduced this year, including the best learning platform and alcohol.

To re-watch this discussion, click here

To register for the awards on the 9th of September, click here

Sunday Times GenNext, now in its 17th year, is the leading annual brand preference and consumer behaviour research on the youth. The GenNext survey provides meaningful insights into the minds of South African youth. From this year, all youth capabilities, including the annually anticipated 2021 Sunday Times GenNext youth survey will be enhanced by the strategic might of Yellowwood.

The big take-out: Brands need to be authentic if they hope to connect with youth consumers.