The Youth Lab

Marketing To Youth: Don't Miss The Mark

On Tuesday 25th September 2018, Thinkhouse hosted “Don’t Miss The Mark” a breakfast session, in association with the Marketing Institute of Ireland. It was an event especially for senior marketing professionals and business leaders who are responsible for marketing, youth marketing and future-proofing their businesses and organisations by ensuring they remain relevant.


The event opened with an overview of the different ways marketers get it wrong: tokenism, bandwagoning, cluelessness, misinformation and exploitation.

Within this context, Rachel Bossman’s book “Who Do You Trust?”, helps illustrate how our paradigm of trust has changed, reinforcing how brands need to re-examine how they market in order to gain and retain the trust of the young generation.

“People don’t trust institutions, government, banks, the media – they’ll rent their house to strangers on Airbnb, get in a car with stranger on Uber or exchange Cryptocurrency. [Trust] used to flow upwards to authorities, experts, regulators and CEOs but now it flows sideways to peers, strangers, neighbours, colleagues and friends. And this changes how we make decisions and who we’re influenced by.”

The Youth Lab then provided a recap on what it’s like to be young today based on our Youth Culture Uncovered 2018 research. In the face of growing disillusionment and social challenges, young people are turning inward in order to cope, save themselves (because nobody else will), and have a positive impact on society in The Era Of Self Salvation.

In this Era of Self Salvation, young people are challenging the status quo. They are dismantling codes, systems and processes that have stood the test of time in favour of creating a 'better' alternative. This attitude translates into marketing too. They are deconstructing marketing and reappraising the role brands play in their lives - 40% of our respondents in our Youth Culture Uncovered 2018 research indicated that 'high profile brand recognition' was NOT a key trigger to their spending.


The second half of the event was a client panel – featuring Nick Johnson, MD of Unilever Ireland; Chin Ru Foo, Global Brand Director, William Grant & Sons; Brian Higgins, CEO of Pieta House; and Nora Torpey, RTÉ’s new Head of Marketing and Consumer Communications. The quartet of industry experts provided guests with insight and advice for not missing the mark when it comes to engaging youth.

Stressing the importance of being audience-first, Nick Johnson, advocated success via “falling in love with the problem you’re trying to solve.” Noting the significant rise in global food and water needs, he spoke passionately about how Unilever is built around solving societal problems – through its products, services and its outlook. His final words of advice for marketeers? "Light yourself up with experimentation. It’s all about progress not perfection.”

Chin Ru Foo shared her journey growing the Sailor Jerry brand and talked about the importance of cultural relevance. As leader of William Grant & Sons’ trailblazer brands, she spoke passionately about “zigging when everyone else is zagging”, encouraging brands to channel their unique brand story to be more authentic and distinctive. What’s in store for the future of the alcohol category? “Curating people’s highs is going to be the future. To get that perfect buzzy feeling.” She predicted that people will drink better, and have better experiences doing it too. In her parting words, she advised youth marketeers to always stay curious and humble.

Nora Torpey spoke about the enduring relevance of broadcast for providing information, entertainment and an escape. She spoke about the importance of cross-departmental collaboration and how RTÉ’s impact on society now, and in the future, is huge. Its relevance for young people today is at significant cultural moments - it serves as a connection to national events, as a trusted news source and provides distinctive local content and sport. She said marketeers should be a part of the product, explaining how they need to “be in the room when a product is being created, not at the last step in the process.”

Finally, Brian Higgins spoke about recruiting people into a movement and, in talking about brands that collaborate with organisations like Pieta House, made it clear that brand partners need to be fully committed to solving the problems regarding suicide and self-harm – not in it to make a profit, but instead, to make a difference. Brian said that we must engage young people when it comes to breaking stigmas in society, such as the stigma around suicide, and offer them solutions to heal in a fractured world. “Serve (sow) first, then reap” were his final words of advice to marketeers.

See also

Nike Just Did It: Why youth think the new Nike rules
Nike Just Did It: Why youth think the new Nike rules

“Of course Nike did this on purpose. It’s genius. In fact, it’s the best damn thing a brand has done this year. Why? Because Nike...