Aspiring youth brands need a refined strategy

To say that understanding young people’s relationships with brands is never easy is one of the great understatements in marketing.

Past youth analysis has examined the division between brand types and recognised the divide between the two distinct youth brands: brands you wear and brands you consume. Both types have distinct and individual relationships with young consumers.

Until recently, brands that where worn, or identity statement brands, were unlikely to benefit from a humorous commercial approach. Humour undermined the relationship between brand and user. On the other hand, the uses of humour in the advertising of “consumable” packaged goods brands generally had a positive effect.

Today’s youth are able to recognise brand strategies and have clear opinions on which messages work and which don’t. They are adept at decoding ciphers, and can find hidden meanings and cultural references in commercial messages. For many, this media literacy is second nature.

The latest Right Of Admission Reserved (ROAR) research identifies four new sectors which represent the varying intensity of young people’s brand relationships. The categories are: invisible brands, displayed brands, discovered brands and the ultimate “champion” brands.

The achieved levels of brand awareness and credibility determine each of these sectors. Invisible and champion brands are the opposite ends of the model’s spectrum. The middle ground is occupied by discovered or displayed brands.

Invisible brands are those that are largely undiscovered or brands that fall dormant through lack of promotion and support. However, invisible brands provide the opportunity to build new and distinct values with few perception hurdles.

Discovered brands are those which have established credibility within the youth market, but disproportionately low awareness. Budweiser Budvar lager has established itself as a quirky, hip, Czech alternative to its US cousin Budweiser, with virtually no TV advertising.

Displayed brands have achieved high levels of awareness but have low credibility. This is often due to through-the-line activity which young consumers see as having missed the mark.

Champion brands lie on the high altar of youth marketing, combining high levels of awareness and credibility. The classic example is still Nike.

Lilt is an example of a brand that has recently moved towards Champion brand status. ROAR panel attitudes towards Lilt improved considerably over the past year. Its high-profile presence at the Notting Hill Carnival was seen as over the top. However, the current “Lilt Ladies” campaign has had a huge impact on panel opinions, improving its credibility and core values.

Aspiring champion brands would do well to look at those brands which have achieved this exalted status and examine their strategies carefully before planning the next step.

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