Last week we attended the Engaging Youth marketing conference  arranged by Global Insight Conferences. It was a great event, with speakers from major brands like ITV, the BBC, L'Oreal, PepsiCo, Warner Bros and many others. A major focus of the event was how to reach and market authentically to a youth audience. As a middle-aged sales and marketing professional, I'd say that there were definitely some eye-opening insights at this event!

Lauren Smith, Social Media Manager for Cosmopolitan, gave something of a masterclass in using social media to reach a defined target audience. She took the assembled delegates through each of Cosmopolitan's key social channels - Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. She detailed how Cosmopolitan tailors the content they disseminate across each channel to the medium, stressing the need for "genuine native content". She cited examples of how they used an event like Love Island, which strongly appealed to their readers, to run different content across different channels - whether it was Facebook Live interviews with former cast members, or Instagram Stories from key events in the series, or a Snapchat 'Bingo card' for sayings from the show. 

One of the unique features of this event was that there were two panels of student speakers arranged by The National Student (a site which is visited by 24% of UK students each month). Their insights into the media consumption habits and who they trusted for purchasing recommendations was very enlightening. Whilst Snapchat was a channel which was used by all attendees, a clear theme was the ascendancy of Instagram. Now that it has Stories, and long-form text that you're able to use on it it, in addition to the core photo and filter functionality, it's become the predominant channel with this age group, based on this panel. Corporate brand pages were not trusted sources of information in this age group - bloggers, vloggers and influencers as well as peer recommendation were the key sources of trusted product information cited. 

A fascinating case study of this all at work was given by L'Oreal's Mastak Pal Kaur. She ran through promotional campaign around the cosmetic giant's new non-traditional hair colour range "Colorista". Influencers were a key part of the promotional campaign, even appearing in their above the line videos to support the campaign. A total of 80% of their spend was on digital, 15% out of home and 5% on TV, so digital was key in driving awareness of the range. They created a hair lens on Snapchat (which you can see in the shared article below) which reached over 7m users. The campaign drove a 7% increase in new customers, 55% of which were new to hair colour, and 14% of which bought the product again. 

Overall, the key theme of the day was around authenticity. Today's youth actively WANT relationships with brands, but are media savvy enough to be able to tell when content is obviously sponsored or heavily brand influenced. In the words of Stuart Rowson, Editor of BBC Sport, brands can do well by trying to position themselves as a "clever friend" to the youth and student market. And, to be honest, its not just students that could do with a clever friend, but middle-aged sales and marketing professionals, too!