South African brands and youth met at the buzzing Sandton Convention Centre for the annual Sunday Times Generation Next Conference on 11 May 2017. This is an invaluable platform for brands to check themselves and measure whether their messaging from advertising, PR to advertising actually has a positive effect on youth.

Marketers and advertisers battle with balancing their message in a way that appeals to millennials in a world that is increasingly becoming more digital than traditional; among youth whose attention brands are competing for; with budgets that need to be spread across more mediums than ever before. Sunday Times Generation Next 2017 was testament to the fact brands have a lot on their plate and the ones that get the balance right will win the hearts of youth and parents.
5 findings that resonated with me at the conference:

  1. Millennials influence 66-percent of household spend
    The Managing Director of HDI Youth Marketeers, Catherine Bothma shared results from a study that is part of the Sunday Times Generation Next which includes survey results with participation from 10 000 youths across South Africa.

    One of the key findings, among many valuable ones, was that millennials influence 66% of household spend which includes household brands, technology and products that are used in the home. A question we were left with was how this will transform brand advertising in the next year and whether agencies will take this into account for products that are not targeted at youth. Only time will tell.

  2. Brands need to understand millennial influencers
    The highly energetic, passionate fire-starter and founder of The Threaded Man, Siya Beyile shared his story on building one of Africa’s influential platforms. His story is, in many ways, entwined with the evolution of Africa and how millennials are driving change on a continent that is growing to become a global economic hub.

    Siya echoed the views of many African influencers and emerging brands which suggests that marketers have a fixed outlook on who the consumer is and they want to repeat a known formula. His sentiment is that there is an opportunity for marketing and advertising to find itself in the truth and realness of African millennials – rather than imposing brand values and identities on young people.

  3. Market ethically to the youth
    Creative parenting evangelist and speaker, Nikki Bush talked to responsibilities that marketers have and relayed the story of a headmaster who shared that teens at their school are on anti-depressants. Among the challenges faced by youth, Bush says that brand communication also tends to play a role in the insecurities and perceived inadequacies that young people are faced with.

    It is also the responsibility of the marketing, communications and adverting fraternity to ensure that we protect our youth and remain ethical in brand and product communication.

  4. Advertising should contextualise messaging
    A panel that looked at multiple ads concluded that some brands emulate international standards or just utilise their international advertising for local audiences. In both cases the panel agreed that brands miss the nuances on the African context and who they are talking to. Some local brands like Simba stood out in their understanding of the South African market and what makes people tick.

    Context is becoming more important to the African consumer and more people are talking about brands that resonate with them from a localised perspective.

  5. Buy African – the move build Africa by buying local 

    The youth trends panel talked to how Africa’s youth are more conscious about buying African brands and products. African youth understand the importance of building both local economies and creating opportunities that will enable the continent to also rise above unfavourable perceptions.

The brands who were represented got deeper insight into how millennials view brand messaging and how they can alter their strategies going forward. The Sunday Times Generation Next Youth Marketing Conference is a worthwhile platform for brands and agencies to measure the effectiveness of their messaging and to understand what resonates with millennials on media they utilise.