Technology is exposing the youth to so much more than ever before. As the youth market becomes more exposed to conspiracy theories, fake news and online propaganda, and increasingly measure their self-worth on the reception they receive on social media, it becomes the responsibility of marketers to truly understand what makes this generation tick and how best to serve them well.

A recent online Sunday Times GenNext digitised conversation, in partnership with Yellowwood and Gautrain, discussed how brands can ensure they’re relatable, authentic and trusted by SA’s young people by building marketing campaigns that are engaging, sincere and approachable.

However, to achieve this, marketers need to look deeper – beyond the emojis and acronyms – to understand the youth market so they can better cater to their need, if for no other reason than their impressing spending power. According to GenNext research, young people between the ages of 8- 24 have a combined spending power of R131 billion.

Photo Credit: Pexcels/AnnaShvets

Strategy director at Yellowwood, Ntombizamasala Hlope pointed out the chasm that exists between brands and young people.

Collaboration plays a big role in terms of brands understanding their consumers, said trend spotter Khumo Theko. The pandemic has highlighted the significant role that brands play in people’s lives. Brands that stepped up during the Covid pandemic – such as Vodacom who provided data to learners so that they could continue to receive an education – resonated with the youth market. Brands that appeal to the youth, she said, are those with a purpose and that speak to diversity.

There are numerous opportunities for brands to interact with the youth, said song writer and singer Naye Ayla. While influencers are a popular choice, she said brands should not only consider influencers with large numbers of followers but also micro and nano influencers – particularly those who are tackling topics important to the youth and who engage closely with their followers.

Brands are frequently accused of not being authentic by the youth. Sandile Ntuli, a representative from the Junior Board of Directors, said brands need to hire the right people to represent them from a marketing perspective; individuals who represent their target audience.

Is it too much to ask to ask of young people to give back to society? While the youth typically don’t have disposable income to give, they are able to donate their time, effort and skills set to giving back to society, said Ntuli.

While the youth recognise the importance of issues such as an environmental focus, this is currently not their priority as they are grappling with more pressing and immediate issues. However, while it may be one of their priorities, they do expect brands to give credence to environmental issues.

Local purpose driven brands that stand out amongst the youth market include Mobicell, Standard Bank and Gautrain, agreed the speakers.

To view the full recording from the day, click here

To register for the next online webinar on 15 April, click here

Sunday Times GenNext, now in its 17th year, is the leading annual brand preference and consumer behaviour research on the youth. Fieldwork for the GenNext study is due to be completed by July and the results made available in September. The study ranks the coolest brands as voted by the youth across 69 categories and includes a youth segmentation study with a focus on various category engagements and associated behaviour drivers.

For partnership opportunities please contact Cortney Hoyland ( on 011-280-3060. To advertise in the 2021 GenNext supplement please contact Debbie Montanari ( on 011-280-3538. For more on the youth behaviour study contact Kananelo Tlanya ( on 011-268-5211