While individually, young people may not have the buying power that their parents have, however, collectively – it’s a whole other story. Any business looking to grow would be remiss if they neglected this dynamic market.

Firstly, the term “youth marketing” is one every business should know and is divided up into age groups. “Youth” generally includes the age group 13 to 17; high school and college-going of 18 to 24; and young adults between 25 and 35.

South Africa has a youth population of 20.6 million, making up 35.7% of the country’s total population of about 57.7 million people. In 2018, around 19.7 million were considered “children under 18 years”, with 18 being the age at which youngsters get certain privileges such as voting and no longer need a parent or guardian to sign a legal document on their behalf.

Unfortunately, the youth unemployment rate in South Africa averaged 54.89% from 2013 until 2021 and reached an all-time high of 66.50% in the third quarter of 2021.

This does not mean, though, that these youth can be discounted by businesses. Many of these young people are taking on side-gigs while they study or do any type of work on offer. They are spirited and looking for ways to build a future that includes a good lifestyle and disposable income.

Here’s what a business needs to know

Young people today continually come up with new ideas; share them on social media platforms, and collaborate with each other to make things happen. Collectively, they are the ones who have most of the buying power, whether from their own earnings or by the influence they carry in the home, on their parents’ purchasing decisions.

These are a nation’s early adopters, setting and following new trends. It’s important to note here that a business can’t force a hard sell on this demographic – they’re savvy enough to buy only what benefits them.

Essentially, youth marketing should be targeting those between 14 and 35 by capturing their interests and making them your ideal customers. The 14s will soon be 20-somethings, and the 20-somethings will soon reach 30-plus.

If you have targeted the youth effectively, you will likely have created some loyalty that will age with them. For example, a fintech bank that offers a low-cost savings account with a debit card to the 18-year-old has every chance of still being his or her bank when they are 30 if the bank’s marketing and products continue to appeal.

Anyone engaging the youth now needs to look a little further down the line to keep them engaged as they age, get married or buy a home. It’s also important to note that digitalisation has brought the power of choice to the youth market, and old-fashioned loyalty is not guaranteed. Know what they want, bring it to them – make it simple, make it sexy, make it fun – and add value. The youth know when a company is “hitting on them” – and when it genuinely offers something that’ll make a positive impact on their lives.

Bottom line youth marketing in brief

  • Make sure you’re engaging with the youth via TV, movies, games, and the internet – they’re the biggest consumers of this content
  • E-commerce can make or break your company – set yours up before you approach the youth
  • Put the “APP” in hAPPy – our youth understands digital, e-commerce, and all things online. If they can buy from an app in their pocket, you have a deal
  • Give back: Many of our youth take note of which companies give back to the communities in which they operate, and they’ll choose you if you give back
  • Always appeal to a speedy attention span – our youths have got places to go and people to see. Long, complicated messaging is a time and a data waste. Keep it sweet.

Never stop watching the youth market – it changes rapidly and sets the pace for both younger and older generations when it comes to spending. If you create or want to import a product – whether it’s a new brand of crisps or an app – test it on the 18 – 35s. It’s the market that has your future in its hands.