The 3 things young people want most from brands

Natalie Waterworth is a digital content marketer, blogger and millennial engagement expert. She co-founded Talented Heads, a digital marketing agency specialising in digital content marketing and the millennial generation. At Talented Heads Natalie advises corporates on how they can better use their digital strategy to communicate with millennial employees and millennial customers..

What are your top 5 things that brands shouldn't do when marketing to young people?

  1. Don’t apply traditional marketing techniques to online marketing, especially social media. Online is a totally different medium and it needs a specialised marketing strategy. You wouldn’t apply the same principles from TV advertising to radio advertising, so don’t do it online either.

  2. Don’t try to be too cool when you’re not! Don’t compromise your brand by trying to relate to young people by mimicking their tone-of-voice or by using slang if this doesn’t match your brand. Unless your usual tone is casual, young people don’t expect slang from corporates; you can still communicate with your traditional tone of voice without looking like a try-hard.

  3. Don’t ignore tweets, ever! If young people want to contact you on social media then you can use this to your advantage. Don’t ignore tweets when a customer has reached out to you (either positively or negatively), this really annoys young people and you’re missing an easy marketing opportunity. Which leads onto the next point.

  4. Don’t separate your customer service team from the marketing team – these two teams need to be in constant contact with one another. Social media has turned customer service into a marketing opportunity. Complaints can be turned into positive marketing opportunities, so these two teams should work hand-in-hand.

  5. There’s no excuse for 1990s style web design. Good design is so cheap these days, and it should be applied across all of your marketing – it’s not just social media that needs to look good. Your website still gets hits from young people; don’t litter it with 1990s stock photos.

Why do you need to treat young people differently when marketing to them? What sets them apart in their thinking?

Young people use digital differently to other generations. The word ‘digital native’ is bandied around a lot. Technology is fully integrated into their lifestyles, so you need to account for this when communicating to them. They are online most of the time, so it makes sense to target them online before other mediums (such as print or TV advertising).

Young people know when they’re being sold to, and they don’t like being harassed by brands whilst they’re interacting online. The key is to understand why young people go online; they’re online to communicate with friends, to work, to play, to relax, and to enjoy, amongst many other things. They’re not online to be sold to. Brands need to take a facilitative approach to young people, whereby they make it possible for young people to interact with them, but they don’t use the hard sell. Brands can do this by providing useful or interactive content, or by fostering a community that young people want to be a part of.

As a millennial agency, what do you think are the biggest challenges for brands who want to market to 16-24s?

This demographic is grouped together based on age, but within this demographic are a broad and diverse group of individuals. The internet has made it possible for individuals to celebrate their diversity and to seek out very niche interests (niche hobbies, crafts, sports, languages, cultures, etc), and these interests form a much greater part of these individuals’ lives than was previously possible before the internet. It is much easier to market to a niche market than a broad one, so brands trying to target the entire 16-24 market have their work cut out for them, because these young’uns are hanging out in all sorts of places online, they’re not all in the one spot.

What’s been the most successful campaign you’ve worked on and what made it so special?

Our most successful campaign was with one of our start-up clients, and the success came down to the fact that they were willing to give anything a shot. This allowed us to be really creative and push the boundaries. It was pulled off on a shoe-string budget (but with maximum enthusiasm!). The start-up was run by young people, for young people, so the founders really saw eye-to-eye with their customers and they didn’t need much convincing to give different strategies a shot. The campaign involved a variety of growth hacking strategies, some of which worked and some of which didn’t. It was really exciting to have the flexibility to test a load of different ideas to see what stuck. Then we were able to capitalise on the ideas that worked best.

As a millennial engagement expert, can you sum up in three words what young people really want from brands?

Honesty, Progress, Value.

What do you think is going to be hot in the next year in youth marketing?

I hope to see more brands using young people as their brand advocates. The best ones to understand what young people want are young people themselves. Brands who listen to their young employees, particularly in their digital marketing teams, and actually act on their advice will be winners.