Insight fascinates me. If data empowers information, which in turn drives knowledge, and ultimately wisdom, then insight - in this context, having a deep rooted understanding of the mentality and motivations of a collection of people - underpins it all. Well considered, genuine insight separates a piece of marketing from being an inconvenience and annoyance that someone is forced to watch, to something that inspires an emotion or reaction.
Nowhere more so, perhaps, is it crucial to get this right than when communicating with young people. There are so many clichés driven by mass media about the thoughts and behaviour of young people - students in particular - with each displaying a glaringly rudimentary, lazy and incorrect representation of who they are, and what they stand for.
I’m not a fan of the term ‘students’. I believe it embellishes derisory opinion, as at any point of mention it seems to inspire a flashback and an individual recollection of how life was when the person in question was young, in turn enforcing an assertion that today’s crop must share similar experiences 20+ years later “right?” - dominated by Heinz Beans and Newcastle Brown Ale, although perhaps with the acceptance that The Rolling Stones poster has been replaced by a One Direction update.
I prefer the expression ‘newdents’, which while admittedly lacks creativity, at least pays tribute to the fact that today’s next generation are unlike those which came before them. That the diverse, rich tapestry of the university environment demands an appreciation of those that serve it. That simplistic, catch-all marketing concepts aimed at ‘millenials’, rolled out year on year, simply won’t cut it any more.
Alongside the sluggish stereotypes that cloud them as a collective, the one I find most erring is that these young people are ‘impossible to market to’; that their media consumption is infrequent and random, and that they’re way way too savvy to engage with any advertising thrown their way.
The reality couldn’t be further from the truth, but if you feed the machine with bad information then how can you expect to get out the right results? Put simply, if the insight and understanding on the audience is wrong then it will never deliver against ambitions.
This is the reason why I joined The Tab, which in its preceding years grew, and now holds fort, as the largest and most trusted publication for students in the world. The principles of our success are founded on insight - the insight that eight years ago students were looking for a richer alternative to campus newspapers, that mass media publications provide an uninspiring account of their passions, feelings and desires, and that powerful, meaningful content will reach, engage and inspire. These days, The Tab leads the conversation, it doesn’t join in.
With a foot in both the editorial and commercial camps, it’s the role of my team to connect our audience interests authentically to advertiser objectives through digital branded content, and its the insight - gleaned from both a young, thriving creative team built out of former Tab writers, alongside current writers on campus - that we always put the most time and sweat into. It’s our understanding of student life that threads through everything - from large scale national partnerships with Apple Music, NatWest, ASOS and VOXI, through to local, uni-specific campaigns with accommodation providers and event promoters. It’s why we deliver a CTR rate of anywhere between 3-20% for our clients.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter one bit if the story is branded or advertiser-centric, as long as it’s relatable, useful, interesting, humourous or educational. In a world where young people are overwhelmed by both content and advertising, it’s absolutely critical to have an eye for insight.
Head of Creative Brand Strategy at The Tab
The Tab will be hosting the Student Marketing Stream at YMS LDN 2018 - come and say hello! Haven't got your tickets for YMS yet? Head on over to our event page for more information on the biggest youth marketing conference in Europe.