Your brand could pivot to a young demographic — but should it? | Insights

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Your brand could pivot to a young demographic — but should it?

February 2023

  • James Chutter, Digital Strategist
  • Justin Renvoize, Creative Director

The youth market has long offered brands an elusive, ever-enticing target. Capture this demographic, the thinking goes, and you can create dedicated fans of not only your products and services, but whatever you create for years. It’s the kind of marketing that transforms companies into blockbuster powerhouses.

Consider Disney. They dominate an array of media platforms on the strength of titles with powerful appeal to children. But they also successfully appeal to parents, who grew up on the brand’s stories. As those characters go on, so does the brand for generation after generation.

For a entertainment marketer, pivoting to a young audience isn’t just tempting. It can feel like a business imperative.

But before you start counting the profits from skewing your campaigns to younger users, you have to consider the realities of youth marketing. Successfully capturing a new demographic like Gen Z may be lucrative, but it’s also difficult. It introduces a number of potential pitfalls for your brand that may threaten your relationship with the audience you already serve.

Advantages of pivoting your entertainment marketing toward a youth market

When your entertainment brand creates an app or game that appeals to adults, you eventually face an age-old question. As your sales numbers begin to plateau, you start to think, “By saying yes to this audience, what groups have been hearing no?”

Along with potentially creating new fans for life, a pivot to a young audience may be more lucrative. Kids may not have their own disposable income, but the shirttail-tugging “pester power” of marketing to youth offers rich possibilities for gaming companies or entertainment brands.

Marketing to a young audience introduces complications, and we’ll get into those in a moment. But the advantages for marketers are undeniable.

“Going viral” with a marketing campaign comes more easily among Gen Z

Though 12 often stands as the cutoff point for social media platforms, young audiences don’t always stay within their target age groups. Often, kids will be drawn to what’s cool with their older siblings. Social media tools like TikTok and Snapchat have become vital communication tools among Gen Z. If your product finds an audience on these platforms, word will spread quickly. However, you need to find a way to make these viral crazes sustainable.

Gen Z’s influence over brands grows bigger every year

At one time, your brand could only count on a few hours on Saturday morning TV to reliably target a youth audience. Now, young people have an assortment of YouTube stars and programming that angle for their attention. Factor in always-on mobile devices at their fingertips and young people have enough options to carry greater influence over how brands market their products than ever.

Younger demographics are more open to new technologies

A large segment of today’s youth has grown up with a digital device, which means they’re far more adept with technology. Platforms like TikTok and Roblox may look mysterious to parents, but their tools are second nature for their target audiences. When the next hit platform, app, or game arrives, young people will have the facility — and capacity — to become early adopters. Will it be NFTs, digital toys or VR immersive experiences? No matter what the tech is, Gen Z and Gen Alpha will surely be the early adopters.

Youth audiences have the time to connect with your brand

When you’re creating a flashy campaign for adults, you’re competing for attention spans that are divided between the demands of a job, family, and current events. Apart from school, young audiences simply have more time and energy to engage with your brand’s work and follow where it goes next.

Pivoting your brand to attract a younger audience is harder than it looks

Shifting your approach to target a young demographic like Gen Z requires more than just freshening up your campaign with flashy designs and brighter colors. While kids shouldn’t be seen as an entirely different species, they still require special considerations to create a successful campaign.

Hitting the target with the right message requires nuance, expertise, and experience. Here are just a few potential roadblocks your brand has to manage when pivoting to a young audience:

Targeting a young audience may threaten your brand promise

If your brand is a startup, you likely have already established a connection with an audience before expanding your scope. However, deciding to pivot too quickly to pursue new fans may alienate the fan base you’ve worked so hard to nurture.

Young demographics aren’t monolithic, and there are big audience differences in the years separating 13 and 15 and 15 to 17. Plus, depending on the ages you’re targeting, you may need to navigate regulatory differences as well.

Youth marketing comes with restrictions

Brands marketing to children sometimes cross over to the dark side by relying on practices like deceptive in-app advertising and shallow, consumption-driven campaigns. But beyond posing an ethical quandary, using marketing approaches like these for kids also poses legal issues.

If you’re selling your product in North America, Quebec has laws that prohibit marketing to children under 13. In the U.S., the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) places restrictions on websites harvesting personal information for kids.

But beyond legal restrictions, marketing to kids simply feels gross without ethical consideration. After all, communicating with a young audience should allow your marketing team to focus on fun more than the hard sell. Fortunately, you have options when it comes to finding a message that will resonate with the young audience you’re targeting and their Gen X or Millennial parents.

User testing grows more challenging for young audiences

A successful campaign is built on research that identifies vital details about your audience and their needs. However, attempting to apply user research methods with children introduces more legal questions if you want to gather data without their parents present. Plus, you face practical concerns about generating real, actionable responses from kids in a testing environment that’s inherently artificial.

Your brand should still take an iterative approach before launching any campaign for a young audience. But finding hard data to inform your approach will be challenging.

Young audiences play by their own rules

Though kids are essentially small adults when it comes to planning your marketing, their behaviors are obviously different. Consequently, how you treat your audience in your marketing must also change along with some aspects of your business model.

The digital marketplace is full of gaming companies or toy brands who found success as a result of a young audience capitalizing on the freedom to take a product in a new direction. Your game or toy’s planned purpose for adults may evolve into something totally new once it’s in the hands of kids and the creative communities they develop. Ultimately, your brand needs to be flexible in order to accommodate the unpredictability of a potentially lucrative yet volatile market.

Adaptability is crucial when pivoting to a youth market

Tastes change rapidly in every business, but especially among young people. As lucrative as a young audience can be for your business, you have to ensure the effort required to market your product for a new audience will be worth the price.

Today’s viral hit is often tomorrow’s trivia question. To protect your brand, you need to ask whether it’s prepared to navigate the complexities of a youth market alone, or if a strategic youth marketing partner like We The Collective is needed.