YouthNation… building remarkable brands in a youth-driven culture… by Matt Britton, who founded the agency “Mr. Youth” in the early 2000s, and has spent the past couple of decades advising leading brands on how to make their youth marketing more engaging and impactful.
Youthnation is a very recent phenomenon, where younger generations play an increasingly important role as the driving force behind innovation, growth, and the economy as a whole. The book provides insightful context around the evolution of youth’s behavior towards brands and helps us understand what drives youth today. It makes the case for a new approach to brand building as the balance is shifting from ‘having a great product’ to ‘communicating an authentic story’… and brand builders are becoming the true business builders of tomorrow.
An experience-driven culture
In the past, youth lacked a strong voice because its members were generally disconnected from the real world and from each other. They were going to school, learning from adults, and getting influenced by big media. All this changed dramatically as technology empowered youth to create hyper-connected communities and disrupted how they consume news, learning, and entertainment. The result is an intensely experience-driven culture.
It all started in the 2000s when social networks took off and we all started sharing parts of our lives. Text updates, images, and then video… conveying powerful emotions and experiences. Individuals became brands of their own with a direct and powerful medium to engage.
Entranced by this voyeuristic power, on the one side we have cyber celebrities and social influencers that devote their lives to producing content for their audiences, while on the other side millions are glued to a multiplex of screens… sometimes forgetting to live lives of their own!
Riding the Youthnation tidal wave
This experience-driven world is already shaping multi-billion dollar industries that didn’t exist just a few years ago, and has incumbents shaking in fear. To ride the Youthnation tidal wave, we must understand what drives youth today. And just a couple of the many drivers explored by the author are the “Access over Ownership” and “Free Agency” movements.
Access over Ownership is also known as the sharing or renting economy. Young people don’t want to be tied down by owning a house or a car any more. They want to live in exciting hubs of social activity, where they can create unique experiences and share them with their networks. So they stay in small apartments in busy cities longer, and delay having a family.
At the same time, the Free Agency or freelance movement is redefining employment as a whole. Youth doesn’t seek out long-term opportunities with large and safe corporations but rather shares its talents in a free marketplace. Jobs used to define people, but now people define the jobs, and often define unique jobs based on their unique sets of skills.
What does it all mean?
So what does this all mean? Targeting, influencing, and selling to these experience-seekers requires a completely new set of tools in your brand building arsenal. It used to be that marketers targeted as broad an audience as possible. But now, it’s more important to tailor your message to a niche and resonate with powerful influencers.
We’re no longer living in a top-down world, where big corporate executives define the message told through big media to influence people into consumption. This is a bottoms-up world, where grassroots movements take hold, individuals can become celebrities, and we get influenced by whatever the crowd deems share-worthy. The rules have changes, but the good news is that now we have a rule-book! Complete with clear examples of how things changed and suggestions on what to do about them.