Youth: Understanding this cryptic mark

This is the first in an occasional series about the ins and outs of youth marketing.Gregory Skinner is the director of research and Doug Stewart is publisher of Watch Magazine Inc., a youth market organization dedicated to producing a bi-weekly newspaper...

This is the first in an occasional series about the ins and outs of youth marketing.

Gregory Skinner is the director of research and Doug Stewart is publisher of Watch Magazine Inc., a youth market organization dedicated to producing a bi-weekly newspaper (Watch), quarterly magazine (S.A.) and youth market events.

If we ranked according to hard, harder, hardest, I’m sure that winning the Ironman and getting the Hubble telescope to work properly have both lost places to understanding the youth of today.

Hype, shifts in values and wicked market fragmentation have made the pursuit no easy task.

The mission of this column is to help sort out these complexities.

It will provide insight into youth experiences, perceptions and what influences the market, so that you may better anticipate and understand their responses.

Where are kids getting the money to buy all that stuff? They get their money the same place that everybody else gets it, they either borrow it, work for it or print their own.

Who do they look up to? They look up to Shaq (literally), Gabby (literally, again), Kramer, Kurt and hundreds of others.

There is no one person who is a symbol for the entire generation. But the real question is why these people (you may be in trouble if you’re asking yourself who these people are)?

Why are they always listening to that ‘noise?’ That ‘noise’ can easily be separated into 20 or 30 musical categories, each doing quite well.

These are all good questions, but in need of a much sharper focus.

Our look at this segment will be comprehensive because statements like ’51% of all kids like humor in their ads’ may not be giving you the full story. A quick look at basketball demonstrates the point.

On the surface, it’s just another sport, but its effects on this age group are monstrous:

- it directly influences the clothes they wear – knee-length shorts’ sudden rise in popularity was due in a large degree to college basketball;

- the brands and logos splashed all over clothing – some of the hottest teams are Michigan, the Knicks, Orlando, and, yes, even the Raptors;

- hairstyles – baldness;

- music – hip-hop (the current stage in the evolution of rap music) and basketball are inseparable and generally perceived to be part of black culture, yet both are thoroughly embedded in the white middle-class (not to mention a whole host of others);

- youth attention to and absorption of today’s stars – at-ti-tude, baby.

Often, these seemingly random correlations will exist between your own campaigns and the vast range of subcultures in this market, so providing the means to fully understand these dynamics will be one of our main goals.

On the flipside, we peek at critical market feedback. Contrary to popular belief, today’s generation is quite sagacious – they are astute watchers of media, they know if they’re being manipulated and they have no problem boycotting products for all the right reasons.

They are into absolutely everything. How do we know?

Because we’re immersed in youth culture 24/7.

One quickly begins to recognize all the things that are important to this group in their actions, values, motivations and attitudes; all of which should be important to anybody who participates in this market.

Watch and S.A. are vehicles which speak for this generation; youth can read them and relate to them.

Every day, we see a lot of important elements that can be applied when targeting this group, and these are the things that we’re going to pass on to you – just to make everyone a bit more satisfied.