Keep young and beautiful: why young audiences are a moving target
Last week Time Out London claimed that, due to the size of its media and advertising industry population, ‘North London is a micro-nation of 40-year-old man-children in New Balance trainers who think they’re edgy because they once took half a pill while listening to the Happy Mondays.’
No matter how much you believe north London suffers from this particular affliction, we can all recognise the stereotype of the ageing media professional who clings onto some sense of youthful relevance and energy well into his or her middle age. Many of us can probably identify, and have moments when we wonder if it’s time to reluctantly replace our Air Max with some grown up work shoes. I’m positive that most of us sometimes wonder when we’ll properly grow up.
Working with real live young people on a daily basis, at Livity we understand that the youth audience is a moving target. 80% of what it means to be young is timeless and unchanging, and by harking back to our own youth we can evoke lots of universal insights into this lifestage: a time of experimentation, play and rebellion; of expanding horizons and shifting identities. But 20% of what makes young people unique is new and constantly changing: music, fashion, media, language. It is this critical 20% that informs the personality and distinctive quality of a generation. By adopting a youthful attitude and personality we can play very nicely with the 80%, but in order to be truly relevant and authentic to today’s young people we need to understand, absorb and appeal to the 20% of youthfulness that makes each generation really unique.
There are three core aspects to Livity that help us to keep up with this moving youth target, and develop creative ideas and content that are truly relevant to them. For the past 13 years we have practiced a process of R&D that we call Youth-Centred Design: our take on the User-Centred Design standard that has gained so much traction in recent years. Through deep insight work, co-creation, iterative prototyping and user-testing, we involve young people in our projects from the start of each brief (often even earlier, through regular creative sessions designed to generate new ideas to inspire our clients). Alongside Youth-Centred Design, as an agency we are literally surrounded by and immersed in the lives of young people on a daily basis. Through Live Mag, our in-house digital magazine written by and for young people, we have a constant stream of writers, film-makers and young creatives working and hanging out in our offices every day, giving us a fountain of live insight and pure undiluted youth culture to tap into whenever we need inspiration or a sense-check. Alongside these two unique and wonderful things, and no doubt partly because of them, Livity is staffed by a crew of professionals who all still understand what it means to be young; who don’t strive to remain on the knife edge of cool, but live their lives with a healthy dose of youthful spirit and a twinkle in their eyes.
To give you a quick snapshot of some of the insights that are guiding our business and creativity at present, we wanted to share with you a couple of thoughts that have emerged through Youth-Centred Design already this year. Each of these quotes and associated insights came from a discussion with young people somewhere in the UK during February and March 2015, apart from one that came from Anonymous that we really liked. Like all good insights, I hope they provide you with inspiration for action; please give us a call if you’d like to talk more about these ideas or our work.
1. ‘We own the internet’ (Anonymous, Feb 2015)
Young people (as opposed to teens and young adults) are a more discrete cohort than ever before. At a time when older generations doggedly retain control of jobs, wealth and traditional bastions of power and influence, young people are forging ahead with new ways to express themselves, organise themselves and make money. Digital natives who have grown up with Anonymous and the Occupy movement, today’s young people view power and influence differently. They are keenly aware of the advantage they hold in understanding, creating and dominating newer media structures. Young people know that they are the future, whether we like it or not.
2. ‘Anybody can pay for a tweet’ (Female, 18, Brighton)
For young people, the Twittersphere has been compromised. It is awash with manicured branded content, promoted tweets and automated accounts. In fact, the median Twitter account has only one follower. As a result the platform has lost a lot of its authenticity and vitality for young people. Besides conversations with real world friends, for many young people we work with, these days, ‘Twitter is for politicians’. If you’re just starting out with Twitter for your brand, you would be wise to move on to newer social pastures. Livity can show you where to head.
3. ‘You’re only as big as your profile’ (Male, 17, Birmingham)
Young people are keenly aware of the competition they face in the struggle to be employed, to stand out, and to be heard. Digital creative tools and platforms are free and abundant, and the barriers to entry are non-existent. Every young person has the potential and means to create his or her own content and build an audience. The rise of the YouTubers and their multi million dollar self-published channels makes this potential seem even more tangible. Growing up on the new frontiers of digital and social media, many young people have developed a natural ability for personal brand strategy. Welcome to Generation Hustle.
4. ‘But what is your point?’ (Female, 18, Middlesborough)
Today’s young people are more altruistic and externally focused than any generation in recent history. They live lives that are full of passion and purpose. As a result they seek relationships with brands that demonstrate an authentic sense of purpose and strong conviction. Appealing to this sense of purpose entails having and sharing a point of view, using a consistent and authentic tone of voice, and really standing for something. Livity was conceived 14 years ago to equally generate profit and purpose, and we have worked to help our clients achieve something similar ever since.
5. ‘Bruv that Stormzy tune was wavy. The beat was kriss and his flow was epic.’ (Male, 18, London)
80% of what makes young people unique is timeless and unchanging: experimenting with identity and lifestyle, cat and mouse games with parents, a thirst for new experiences. But 20% of what makes them unique is constantly shifting, and new to many of us: new language, new media, new genres, new drugs, new values. Staying relevant to young people means understanding the things that make them tick. They can sniff out inauthenticity from miles off, and anything that isn’t on point is dismissed as noise. Livity’s offices are full of young people every day, there to create their own media content and voice their opinions. By literally surrounding ourselves with our audience, and collaborating with them daily, we think we understand them better and engage them more effectively.
11.03.2015, Saul Parker, Insight and Strategy Director at Livity