Generation Y does not know what the ‘m’ stands for in MTV

Tatenda Musesengwa and Josephine Hansom of YouthSight talked at the Youth Marketing Strategy, sharing how brands can use research and insight to develop a long term youth strategy and presenting the story of Kinder Bueno alongside Alex Parker, Insight Manager at Ferrero UK. We caught up with them to find out their most surprising student stats and how research can help organisations better understand young people today.

What’s been the most surprising thing you have learnt about young people recently?

It’s human nature to find young people surprising. Our default, especially as marketers, is to believe that we still understand what it’s like to be young but all too often, our perception of youth is wrong. YouthSight owns the largest youth research panel in the UK (with around 130,000 profiled members) and we regularly conduct research for clients seeking to know what young people are really like in 2015 rather than rely on hunches and/or assumptions.

Here are a few things that YouthSight discovered in the last year that might surprise you:

  1. When starting university this year, two out of every five freshers were still virgins

  2. Generation Y does not know what the ‘m’ stands for in MTV

  3. Students are not sure about reducing the legal voting age to 16

  4. Museums and galleries are experiencing a revival amongst young people

  5. Nearly 10% of students claim to have already started a business or entrepreneurial venture

We’ve seen your research on student voting intentions. How do young people feel about politics at the moment? What were the key take-aways?

Glad you’ve noticed us in the press! At YouthSight we have been polling student about their voting intentions for the last 10 years and since the last election, our poll results have really changed out of recognition.

Looking at our polls, student support for the big three parties has decreased while The Green Party has made significant gains. For the first time in history, the Greens are now the second party of choice for students (behind Labour). The Greens appear to be connecting with those who feel disillusioned with the current political landscape and who are looking for something new or an alternative.

In December 2014, we spoke to 1,000 students about how they felt about politics. We found that a majority of Green supporters in our poll (46%) believe that the Green Party is ‘different’ to the other political parties. We also found that over half of the students we spoke to would use words such as ‘dishonest’, ‘privileged’, ‘detached’ and ‘greedy’ to describe UK politicians. It would be fair to say that students are not just disillusioned; they feel disenchanted with political landscape today and are eager for a change.

How can research help organisations better understand young people today?

At YouthSight we help clients demystify the decision-making decade (16-25). These crucial ten years shape future opportunities, aspirations and preferences of young people.

The first step for any organisation looking to benefit from research with young people is to identify who their target youth audience is and then spend time unpicking how they make personal decisions and independent choices.

Not all young people are the same. It sounds obvious but there are a number of big brands out there who see young people as one homogenous segment of their target market. As a result, they develop marketing for mass youth appeal but the problem is that mass youth appeal is not effective. Young people are aspirational, they like to stand out while fitting in. At YouthSight, we encourage clients to take a step back from the whole youth market and refocus on their marketing on groups of young people who will inspire others. Segmentation research provides the map to help brand identify target groups and relevant marketing messages.

Understanding the decision making process of young people is the second crucial step for organisations operating in the youth space, because a strong youth brand does not automatically translate to increased sales. We will be addressing this topic with our client at the YMS conference; sharing the story of Kinder Bueno and how young females justify their sweet indulgences.

What do you see being a key trend in 2015 that organisations should be aware of?

We see 2015 as the year of gender definitions. Feminism will continue to demand a place in popular culture, building on the #banbossy campaign championed by Beyonce, and made relevant by Sport England and the #thisgirlcan campaign. In December 2014, YouthSight found that nearly two fifths of 16-24 year olds in the UK agreed that they were a feminist (males and females) while 20% of female respondents thought it was ‘cool’ to be a feminist. We are sure to see these numbers rise this year.

We also anticipate 2015 being the year where masculinity is redefined. Last year saw the rise of lad culture in UK universities and its spread into social media parlance. We witnessed the shunning of aggressively sexualised masculinity as controversial celebrity Julien Blanc was banned from the UK and the comedy character Dapper Laughs was publically killed off on Newsnight by his creator Daniel O’Reilly. This year, we anticipate the rise of alternative manifestations of masculinity, whether it be the rugged and heteronormative version of the manly Lumbersexual, or a more eclectic throwback of 90s rock nostalgia.

What are the challenges that marketers face when understanding the youth market?

Young people are opinionated; however it can be difficult for marketers to ask questions of these authentically expressed opinions. In a group environment young people can be shy, they may not be able to explain their point of view or they may not turn up to the focus group at all (we’ve all been there!).

It’s therefore essential that the right engagement methods are used to allow young people to express themselves. Moving the research relationship to reflect real life dialogue is essential to understand the youth market.

For example, last year YouthSight became an award-winning agency; in recognition of our mobile first approach to market research. As an agency, we have spent the last ten years developing engagement methods that help youth marketers get answers to the questions that matter to them.

What can people expect from your session at YMS? What secrets will you be revealing?

Our session will be fast paced and rooted in insight. We will be sharing the Kinder Bueno story with our client, Alex Parker Head of Insight at Ferrero UK and discussing why it’s important to truly understand your product and your target audience in order to develop a killer campaign. We will also bring delegates closer to the world of insight, busting some myths and showing how simple and quick it can be to commission smart, effective market research.

What are you most looking forward to at YMS?

We really enjoy attending YMS. The variety of speakers combined with a relevant agenda make it a ‘must attend’ event for anyone interested in the youth market. This year we are looking forward to hearing from Spotify and the way they have approached their Student Brand Ambassador programme. At YouthSight we are often called upon to help student brands evaluate their on-campus activities and we have some insider knowledge on this presentation which will make it one to watch this year.

Tatenda and Josephine were at Youth Marketing Strategy which took place on 10th-11th March 2015. 

Image: Martinak15