The secret to successful youth marketing? Put mindset before milestone

Between the youngest millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha, marketing to a youth audience remains a big challenge for brands. When attempting to engage and communicate with these groups, our global business director Oliver Yonchev claims the starting point is understanding their mindset. So what’s so different about young people? According to Ollie, it all comes down to psychology – nature vs. nurture.

As we know, the human brain is split into three main sections: the primitive part, which aims to keep you alive; the emotional part or limbic system, which makes you feel; and the most evolved part which is the neocortex, or rational part of the brain. This neocortex spends a lot of time and resource managing the emotional limbic system. But in young people, this area has a profound difference to an adult brain.


Oliver Yonchev social chain


“The rational part of the brain is in development up until the age of 25. The neurological response to this means you take riskier decisions. It’s very similar to how adults react when they’re drunk.”

This means that inhibitions are down, making them more emotional, a little irrational and more likely to take risks. On top of this, the attention spans of young people have been systematically shredded by their constant use of social media platforms and consequent overexposure to mass amounts of information, which they cram into short periods of downtime.

“Even my attention span and thirst for information has exacerbated as a result of constantly wanting something. If I have 10 mins of downtime I’m on my phone looking for ways to fill the time with something to do. And having witnessed how children in my family behave I realise it’s had a profound impact on how young people behave.“


Social minds podcast


As well as increased screen time, we can’t understate the importance of our surroundings. Young people today are a product of their environment. We’re at a unique point in history and marketers are having to compensate for the changes in behaviour that have come with a society increasingly divided by politics, opinions and economic doubt. Today’s young people have been forced to lose their innocence – which has had a strange and profound effect on them.

“Instead of putting them down, on one hand, they’re very sceptical towards a lot of things. They’re mistrusting of brands and they don’t like advertising, but they’re also very pragmatic, ambitious, globally aware, self-conscious and they don’t chase status.”

The result is that we have a generation of people who want a lot out of life – never mind the businesses they buy from or the brands they consume. It is this mindset which Ollie insists is far more important than a simple 18-24 demographic. As he says, a 24-year-old can be vastly different to an 18-year-old. And when we dig deep into the root of what makes them who they are and what makes them tick, we’re able to communicate with young people much more effectively than if we were simply trying to tick age boxes.


Oliver Yonchev social chain


“Marketers are obsessed with making people feel, although I try to be a realist and think: why should anyone feel anything about a brand? They have commercial motives and agendas. But we’ve found that brands who win today are the ones who remain relatable to young people and connect with them on a deeper level.”

Tapping into a range of emotions is one way in which brands have found success in youth marketing. But although fear and anger rank high on the hierarchy of provocative emotional responses, today’s youth don’t want shock tactics or fearmongering. One thing they have in common is a desire to be happy. Out of 2000 people across Europe, 58% said that happiness was the one metric they use to measure their success – and the one thing they strive for in life. So, if they want to engage and communicate with young people, Ollie advises that brands and marketers focus on making them happy. To find out exactly how, tune into Episosde 011 of the Social Minds podcast below.



This was taken from Social Minds, the UK’s first dedicated social media marketing podcast, brought to you by Social Chain. With each new episode, we cut through the BS to deliver you hard-hitting truths and unforgiving industry insights – exposing the shocking realities of how social media is affecting us in the here and now. To earn your thought-leader status, subscribe now.

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