Marketing: Act your age.

Marketers are always trying to reach a demographic they don’t understand, in a way they think that demographic will. Here are a list of things marketers should consider when trying to approach a young target market.
Published on Jun 1 2016 by Marco Rosano

Let me start this blog post with a personal anecdote here, an anecdote that actually drove me to write this piece. It was last week on a Thursday night; I was at a friends place for our usual green tea and catch up (laugh all you like, you should try it) when I got stuck talking to his sister, who will remain anonymous for this piece, about her week at work. She, working for a large-scale aquatic sports company, was in the middle of devising a promotional piece for girls in a sample of high schools in the western suburbs, to encourage more girls to pick up rowing. The key point of this story was the small pamphlet they were going to be handing out, the one I found on the kitchen table and had a look over. No more than 60 words long, there were phrases and words like “totes”, “OMG!” and “on fleek xo”. Naturally, I had a good chuckle, and asked her why? Why throw all this in there? Her response was quite simple, “because that’s how high school girls talk, we want to connect with them”. Now, this is where it truly dawned on me, well, a lot of things dawned on me, which I will go into more detail below, about marketing, and how a common mistake I see all the time is marketers trying to reach a demographic they don’t understand, in a way they think that demographic will. Here are a list of things marketers should consider when trying to approach their target market.

1. You’ll experience more change between 13 and 21 than you will for the rest of your life. 

As marketers, we try to assimilate to our target market, put ourselves in their shoes and try figuring out what interests them, what encourages them to make decisions. There are a host of problems with this, especially if there is a large age gap between the two. Lets look at a high school demographic for starters; during your six years at school, you, like every other student, will grow and develop several times in terms of your interests, experiences, and goals. To generalize a market so young as just “high school kids” is a foolish mistake, as a year 7 for example will be more likely to make different purchases than a year 10. Three years of age difference in hindsight is extremely small, but is it?

At that age, no, it is a giant leap, once a timid newcomer into a strange land where you are now on the bottom of the schooling food chain, entering adolescence, you’re now in its very heart, being a hormone fuelled nuisance to all those around you. Drinking and smoking when you shouldn’t be, rebelling for the sake of rebelling (F#@k you mum for knowing what’s good for me), what speaks volumes to you couldn’t be further apart from yourself three years earlier. Marketers need to recognise that each year, at such a young age, represents a whole new set of persona’s you need to try cater for in getting your message across. Isolation here is key, don’t be broad, be specific, target one small market and analyse it the best you can.

2. Young doesn’t mean naïve, they know if you’re lying. Be organic.

This point relates heavily to my anecdote, something that I feel we are all guilty of when addressing those younger than us. We inherently think we’re smarter, and therefore capable of manipulation, because we have life experience, why wouldn’t we be listened to? False. When those high school girls opened that pamphlet, see all the terminology they supposedly use, handed to them by people who are twice their age, it isn’t perceived as “you’re trying to get onto my level”, its perceived in either two ways.

-        1- you’re undermining me, treating me like a child.

-        2- this isn’t you, you’ve gone for gimmicks, and it looks cheap and unnatural. I’m actually less enticed now than I was before. 

Web developers frequently use this word “organic” to describe websites that are relatable to a particular search, ones that offer the searcher what they want in a natural way. It doesn’t use loopholes (like link building) to get to you, its honest, and given to you in the way it wants to be viewed. This approach in marketing is, even to a younger audience, greatly appreciated. The goal was to encourage more girls to row, as it is a largely male dominated sport within Australia. Forget their age, approach them as women, talk about all the health benefits of rowing, its great social aspect (more women are catching on), the freedom of rowing, no longer will they be queuing up after work for a machine at the gym. Be real and try build up a level of camaraderie with the target audience, make them feel like they can be part of something. What young people want more than anything is to grow up fast (yes, they don’t realise life gets harder), but don’t burst their bubble, treat them like adults and they will respond.

3. Do your research

If you actually want to try figure out what young people like, ask around. I’m sure you have younger siblings, cousins, friends, friends of friends, maybe even your own kids; ask them, pick their brain about what they’re interested in, what they do with their time. You’ll probably be quite surprised, but you’ll be thankful you did so.