Marketing To SA’s Youth: 7 Ways To Fly Or Fail

Marketing To SA’s Youth: 7 Ways To Fly Or Fail


Gone are the days of children being seen and not heard. Today’s youth have a voice and they are not scared to use it. The problem, at times, is that we’re not yet listening. We should be.

This is a savvy, influential generation, with sheer numbers, decision-making power and tech know-how behind them. Marketers, like parents and employers, need to take cognisance of the youth and their quirks and preferences.

In A Youth Lost in Translation, our recent White Paper, we delved deep into the views of 5400 urban and peri-urban youth in South Africa – not an easy task given how large and disparate it is.

Keep in mind, however, that with direct youth spend at R121.5 billion per annum, this is a market worth getting to know.

In fact, the global youth market is the largest market the world has ever seen. Furthermore, Africa is home to most of the world’s young people. Almost half of South Africa’s population is under the age of 24. The sheer volume of the youth market makes it clear that what they think really matters.

Our report separates the rather loose term “youth” into three age segments: Kids (3 to 12), teens (13 to 18) and young adults (19 to 23). The youth are true digital natives, growing up in a world where cellphones and Internet access are a part of everyday life.

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But their experience is touched by their uncertainties in the economic and social environment, and driven by unprecedented access to information.

They are vocal, diverse and connected. Confusingly for Baby Boomer-generation marketers, their opinions and tastes are ephemeral. Encouragingly, however, this is also a generation that appreciates being heard.

Having investigated their thinking, here are some of the findings that we think marketers need to sit up and take notice of:

1. South Africa’s youth want to feel respected

Marketers need to avoid assuming a position of authority over them. Respect and trust is earned among this segment regardless of a brand’s perceived credentials. Engage, don’t dictate.

2. The evolution of ‘pester power’

South Africa’s youth are key to accessing the family wallet. It’s critical to listen to them, interact with them and garner their support if you’re targeting their parents’ funds. This goes for the Millennials as well as kids – as many are still living at home and influencing family spending decisions. Appreciate don’t underestimate.

3. Meet them where they’re at


Our youth live in a digital world, and marketers need to reach them in a non-intrusive yet relevant way within this space. Brands need to become savvy with the do’s and don’ts around engaging with them across both physical and digital domains.

Be in their world, not yours.

4. Earn their respect by being a responsible brand

The youth respect brands that give back to the community and do good. Focus on gaining respect from the youth and it will help build a long-standing bond.

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5. Learn to listen better before engaging

Keeping up with the youth will require a consistent and conscious effort. They are an incredibly dynamic generation that embraces change, so marketers will need to keep engaging them in conversation to avoid falling behind. Listen and respond.

6. Don’t nag and don’t preach

The youth want a conversation, not to be talked at. They want to know that their opinions are being heard and considered. Be the confidant, not the teacher.

7. Be authentic

The youth are quick to pick up on insincerity and forced messaging from marketers. Don’t try too hard to be cool or assume you know what they want to see or hear. Instead, do your homework. You’ll gain their respect and potentially some of their spend. Be you, be true.

David Blyth
David Blythe is an experienced marketing and brand strategy practitioner. He joined Yellowwood in 2011 and has subsequently led marketing strategy projects for Liberty Group, Rand Refinery, Sun International and Tsb Sugar. He is currently Yellowwood’s group managing director. Yellowwood is Africa’s leading marketing strategy consultancy, offering insight, strategy, planning and design to clients who are serious about business and brand growth. For more information, contact Yellowwood on +27 (0)11 268 5210 or +27 (0)21 425 0344 or visit

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