Youth 100, it is one of those events the name of which apparently says it all: top 100 brands among UK youngsters. But there’s plenty more to the story. The location, an old warehouse hidden in the center of trendy Hackney, set a bold scenario for the event. New things made to look old, artsy feeling, but just the right level of it. Upon my arrival, a ‘rejuvenated’ feeling settled in, blending the gamified feeling of what the ranking of UK brands according to the 18-24’s would look like with the curiosity for the discussion that would come out of that.
Brand managers, hardcore networkers, marketers and youth experts exchanged introductions and sensed out each other’s expectations for the day ahead. The occasion was a big one indeed: the increasingly respected title of Top brand was up for grabs, out of 500+ brands across 20+ categories, voted by 3,000 GenYers.
Hot tweetaway: What are the top UK #youth brands nowadays and why? insit.es/1qRbMgM by @DTeixeira via @CoolBrands #GenY #coolbrands #Youth100
Which will be the top app this year? Instagram or Whatsapp? And in clothing, the ever-fashionable Levi’s or sporty Adidas? Top grocery brand, Heinz or Mr Kipling? YouTube vs Google? BBC vs Channel 4? H&M vs Boots? Warner Bros vs NetFlix? The brand clash possibilities were endless and thought-provoking. And which one went all the way to the top and claimed the throne of the most loved youth brand?
Amazon. No more build-up, there, I said it. The Top 10 was occupied by Amazon, YouTube, Google, Cadbury, Ben & Jerry’s, Wikipedia, BBC, Microsoft, Pringles and Boots.
The competition amongst the top brands in each category was so fierce that the close calls made everything look like an almost random decision. Many brands didn’t look like the typical young ‘hipster’ top choice. So the ‘good stuff’ was contained in the additional explanations and narratives.
After the presentation of the winners in each category and the brands awarding, a sequence of presentations and youth discussion panels took place. Voxburner outlined the key insights of the study, Wieden + Kennedy brought along some of their biggest and most successful youth-targeting campaigns (with great examples, my favorite being this, #dontaskmewhy). Next we were enlightened by a panel with marketing prominent figures from Microsoft, Costa Retail, Oxfam, Domino’s, Channel 4 and Boots UK. In the afternoon, youngsters themselves took the lead in the discussion.
The framework presented by Neil Christie from Wieden + Kennedy resonated especially well with the audience: a successful youth brand builds itself around 7 dimensions that really flirt with youngsters’ need states: energy (e.g. Cadbury), fun (Movember), empowerment (YouTube), convenience (Domino’s), providing an emotional shelter (Ben & Jerry’s), bringing novelty (Converse) and great value for money (H&M). Adding to these insights, the message from the youngsters present throughout the day was as simple as it was loud and clear. There’s an overarching need state for brands to address today’s youth: be relevant to them.
Hot tweetaway: The 7 dimensions of a succesful #youth brand insit.es/1qRbMgM by @DTeixeira via @CoolBrands #geny #millennials #coolbrands #Youth100
Young people in the UK are not looking for nice-to-have products, superficial representations of their personality, role models emulation or gimmicks… It’s clear that they’ll choose what they can relate to (brand identification); even more if it is a brand that can be of (and turns itself into) an additional value in their life. A brand that has something to offer them, something that they need.
This key outtake is deeply connected to the economic and political zeitgeist, globalization, information access and empowerment, to the impact they have altogether on this generation’s perspective of the future and thus their focus in the present. As exposed by Emily Cramp from Thinkhouse, when compared to the previous generation UK youngsters, there is a whole different type of youth nowadays, they uphold a much healthier lifestyle, investing more in studying and less in going out, saving money for traveling and culture instead of going for the next pair of jeans, a round of pints or the latest mobile device.
They enjoy and build the imagery and culture around them like previous generations, but they know exactly what they want, which is their own style of rebellion.
InSites Consulting was also present. Our Gen Y guru Joeri Van den Bergh distilled the luxury brands sector results from the Youth 100 report. He stated that ‘times have changed for the luxury industry’, with many brands losing their glamour in the Millennials’ opinion, especially in the Western markets. As Joeri puts it: ‘Being smart and saving money is the new cool for youngsters’.
This loss of relevance sadly is the case for many brands, way beyond the luxury sector. Brands that only recently were regarded as cool and trendy (think about Facebook, Coca-Cola, Apple) obviously they didn’t lose their cool, uniqueness or appeal. But their relevance is now challenged, when youngsters compare what is offered with their own needs and priorities.
On the other hand, this style of rebellion brought back some dinosaurs, both in size and in lower level of trendiness: Microsoft, Disney, Wikipedia, Dove and Warner-Bros are examples.
Finally, brands that not so long ago were regarded as cheap and phony, such as Domino’s, Lidl, Cadbury, IKEA, Tropicana, several solidarity organizations, etc., bet hard on truly supporting youngsters, revamped their perception into something more fun and are now sought by youngsters as relatable and accessible mainstream-up-to-premium offers – and are valued for being exactly that. This is simply because they repositioned themselves and became important once again to UK youngsters, who moved on from wanting brands to using them. Their heart has swung, driven by their unprecedented efforts and self-awareness in their quest for a brighter future.
Hot tweetaway: #Millennials have moved on from wanting brands to using brands insit.es/1qRbMgM by @DTeixeira via @CoolBrands #GenY #coolbrands #Youth100