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Speaking on a panel at the Youth Marketing Strategy (YMS) conference, held in London today (9 March) and organised by youth insight company Voxburner, the brand manager told delegates that “a simple strategy is important and easier to execute against”.

Addressing the topic of ‘how to win the battle for brand loyalty’, Sterry said: “There is so much noise from people vying for their attention and trying to connect with a younger audience. Try to be really honest and speak to consumers on a human level.”

He explained: “Our simple strategy is to help people live well, in the things we make and the things we do. That is a simple idea but the way we execute that is through personal human ways.”

Sterry cited the Innocent Unplugged festival, a party in the woods that allows people to switch off from technology for the weekend and The Big Knit as examples of this strategy.

He was joined on the panel, chaired by Marketing Week editor Russell Parsons, by Anna-Lise Johnsen, youth product manager at Arsenal Football Club and Edwina Bagge, head of communications at popcorn brand Metcalfe’s Skinny.

Johnsen said there is a problem if brands don’t “care specifically” about segments. She said: “There’s a lack of brands that understand their segments and they are often grouped into a wider demographic.”

At Arsenal Johnsen speaks to fans from zero-to-18 years-old, and therefore has to have a strategy that looks at life stage. She told delegates: “There are different membership levels by age [but] it’s about keeping them engaged in the club and taking them on a journey from desire to be a fan to keeping them coming back every year.”

Melcalfe’s Skinny is tapping into a health trend and young people’s desire to know what food they are putting in their bodies, according to Bagge, who also urged delegates to take a human approach to marketing.

The popcorn brand has 42 competitors in the market but Bagge said the brand “stays true to what [it does] differently” to stand out. She said: “It’s about having a real personality. We try to be authentic and speak to [young people] in a way they want to be spoken to.”

On the point of authenticity Sterry also said the “days of traditional loyalty programmes where you buy into a brand and you personally get rewards back to you” are gone, particularly with young people. He said: “There is more of a sentiment around wanting to be loyal to brands that do a wider good and have a wider benefit.”

He explained that “if young people don’t know what you represent and the context of where your brand operates then you’ve lost the battle already”.

Are young people fickle?

The panel’s response was a resounding no. The assumption is that youth marketing strategies and brand loyalty among young people is difficult because these consumers are fickle but Sterry believes this isn’t the case.

He said: “If the question is, ‘are young people more fickle than old people?’ I think you would probably struggle to prove that. What is true is that the way people consume content [is different] and attention spans are shorter.”

However Johnsen believes the demographic can be seen as fickle but only “because they don’t have the right offering from certain brands”. She said that this group “responds well to brands that move with them and are part of their lives” and warned that “the second they don’t feel special they will move on”.