Magazine article Marketing

Keeping Up with Generation Y

Magazine article Marketing

Keeping Up with Generation Y

Article excerpt

From focus groups and video diaries to an undercover stint in the Ibiza club scene, it takes imagination and determination to keep tabs on the fast-moving youth market.

Whether it's rap or indie, snowboarding or football, combat trousers or jeans, or something none of us have dreamt of yet, by its very nature the youth market is one of the fastest-changing sectors in the industry. Consequently it seems that never a day goes by without some new agency emerging, trumpeting its youth marketing credentials.

After identifying a disillusioned, older group - Generation X - in the early 1990s, researchers are now labelling the latest wave of youth Generation Y - consumers born after 1977.

Saatchi & Saatchi in the US has just carried out a study looking at how digital media has influenced this group. This is just the latest trend identified by a growing band of researchers.

Youth market research can be a tricky business, often requiring a very different approach from that which works for the 40-year-old ABC1 housewife. But whether the research is tackled by youth sections of the leading names in market research, or by one-man operations, many are exploring beyond traditional focus groups in a bid to provide the best research.

As Philip Slade, creative partner at marketing consultancy Hicklin Slade & Partners, says of the youth sector: "If they're put into a focus group people say one thing, but in half an hour they do something completely different on the street."

The debate rages about the usefulness of focus groups in the youth arena. The approach taken by Research International (RI) - particularly because much of its research is global - is to develop a proprietary technique to stimulate adolescents in the focus group environment. Called Brand-Sight, it has taken the usual pictures and collages shown to groups during brand discussions, and made them abstract images focusing on the elements.

"We can show these pictures across all countries to gain responses. It means we're able to get a common set of meanings across all cultures," says Alex Moskvin, a director at RI. "[The pictures] evoke certain moods. We're trying to eliminate cues like brands and famous people - the notion of coolness can be very different in London from somewhere else." This technique has been used for fragrance, deodorant, drink and fashion clients.

Don't be a stranger

Another common approach is a twist on the focus group concept: researchers talk to groups of young consumers, but in groups made up of their friends.

"When we're researching we talk in friendship groups, because people give more honest answers and more honest answers more quickly. If you ask 18-year-olds how much they drink, if the group are strangers they tend to over-claim, while among friends they are self-regulating. If people bullshit and lie they can be dragged back by their friends. Similarly, we get real answers without sniggering," says Scan Pillot de Chenecey, a consultant with youth research specialist Informer Interactive Research.

"We do it with 'seed respondents'," he adds. "They get their friends and we go to the seed respondent's home. That means they feel at home and not in some hideous research lab in an odd environment or a researcher's home with flock wallpaper." Typically such a group will consist of between six and eight friends.

The next step is to get out among the younger population and see what they are actually doing. This can be done by visiting their homes, pubs, festivals and clubs - or by giving the subject a video camera and getting them to film their own daily lives for a day or so.

Barbie Clarke, director of NOP Family, does use conventional focus groups, but also tests different approaches. "We go in with video cameras and send in very young researchers, 21-year-old graduates, who can befriend the group. After a while they forget about the camera," she says. …

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