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Youth marketing strategy reflections

Communicating about issues and causes that affect and inspire young adults - not only to young people themselves but also to an array of influencers such as parents, educators, businesses and policymakers gives me a particular perspective on this week's Youth Marketing Strategy conference in Hackney. Here are a few reflections.

1. Being young is a state of mind not an age. (But spend time in the company of bright young things who are running successful startups before hitting their twenties, and you feel kind of OLD!)
2. But being old doesn’t mean you can’t make a room of trendies sit forward and listen. Kudos to the wonderful Baroness Sue Campbell CBE from Youth Sports Trust and the London 2012 bid team which famously flew 30 young people from Newham to meet the IoC judging committee. Her self-deprecating, Victoria Wood style delivery was charming and disarming but what she said made plain sense and wasn’t dressed up in agency lingo. To paraphrase “education is a partnership between teacher and student, they’re not just learners.”  “brands need more human empathy, many young people are facing huge challenges” “heros and heroines do not need to be superstars” “kids are often scared to try new things but are also thrillseekers” “hand away controls to young people and let them become brand leaders”.
3. There’s no need to feel hamstrung by organisational hierarchies. Big multinationals are increasingly partnering with smaller outfits to make things happen.
4. Student news seems to be unashamedly commercial but do the readers appreciate the manipulation of content that they are reading? NB my concern comes from two camps – ex journalist and as someone out to get non-paid exposure for clients where possible.
5. A major theme was timesaving technologies that appeal to our time poor youth. This is why Uber was so widely admired by young panellists. Is this healthy? Are young people really busy doing useful things all the time? Can anyone swoop in and help them learn how to make time in their diaries and their minds? An opportunity here, for sure.
6. Voxburner’s research presented by Simon Eder revealed a growing seriousness and purpose amongst young people. Doing good in not uncool. Learning and personal development are in – “totes do” in the actual words of one youth marketer. Gone are the days of hedonism and rebellion. Lots of opportunities for brands that by their nature, or as a brand strategy, support social causes. Although a counter view was given by Radiator PR’s Gaby Jesson who thinks these days are numbered and that next year will see a resurgence of escapism.
7. Mobile is a first screen for young people. Well we knew this but it’s worth reiterating. Google will soon be downgrading your search ranking if your site is not mobile optimised. Yikes, we don’t all have the budget to do this straight away.
8. The Social Chain, dubbed the internet’s illuminati are doing clever but slightly creepy things by buying out big social media influencers on YouTube and Twitter and seeding out content to up to 60 million people that often goes globally viral. Operating so under the radar that they only recently set up a website.
9. Those that know me, know I like data visualisation. Take a look at Twitter’s software that maps trending topics over time and UK geography. Dazzling. Can be used to see which times of day things are most talked about and where.
10. Futurolgist Nick Higham coined a lovely phrase: “out with status symbols, in with status updates”. People generally favour spending on experiences than on objects. Being less interested in ownership poses a host of issues for the property and automotive sector, for a start.

So, Youth Marketing Strategy was a mind-expanding whirlwind. Credit due to Voxburner for assembling a great speaker line up and lots of interesting participants. The chair, Oli Barrett makes a career of connecting people to make interesting things happen and was great at moderating the event and keeping spirits high. In a former life, he was most definitely a regional TV News anchor. Hope to see him at next year's event, if not before.

Please do share your thoughts if things struck you differently.

Julie Kangisser