Picture: Getty Images
Picture: Getty Images
A view from Sue Unerman

Keeping up with the kids

Change is happening and brands that want to connect with young people need to take note.

Here’s another point about brand-building in the 21st century. The internet means changes are immediate. In analogue times, change was slower and easier to keep pace. Now, it is faster and more important and, in some ways, more cryptic.

It's important for anyone who is advising a brand that seeks resonance with the under-20s to know what’s going on.

MediaCom’s Connected Kids research has delivered a snapshot of daily life for school kids and their digital world – an insight crucial for building brands among this group and, of course, for ensuring future brand resilience.

Data-driven personalisation is something that teens not only expect but welcome. They expect communications to be bespoke and they have high expectations and swift contempt for mistakes. In addition, live TV still has a key role for them too – and is a unique way in which they can connect with friends and family. 

Social media is regarded as a blessing and a curse. The upside is that it allows teens to feel included and validated. The downside is that it makes some teens feel excluded and pressured. A proportion of them have taken control of their social media usage by removing apps or setting their own limits to screen time. According to the report, the highs and the lows are magnified among teenage girls. 

This is something that Edwina Dunn’s The Female Lead has had a look at too and has staged an intervention. The organisation, which is dedicated to showcasing inspirational role models for girls, conducted a trial where they encouraged teen girls to follow a more diverse set of influencers outside the typical celebrity, which is the current norm. This, in turn, challenged the algorithm that meant more diverse content was served to their apps. The experiment succeeded in breaking open the narrow echo chamber that the girls had been boxed into that they themselves characterise as negative.

Brands clearly can have an opportunity to create distinctive memory assets among teens by using social media platforms for inspiration and change. 

Language itself is changing too. Linguist Gretchen McCulloch has highlighted the fluidity of the new language norms in her book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. There are rules to language online, but they are constantly evolving and to be fluent a brand must stay up to date.  She’s a fan (as am I) of emojis, claiming that formal writing "lacks the physicality of speech, where so much communication stems from our facial expressions and our gestures. Emojis fill this void by restoring our bodies to our writing. Think of the thumbs up or the tears of joy; they project part of a virtual body," The Sunday Times' Culture reviewer Rosamund Urwin writes. Or, in other words, you can let people know when you’re telling a joke over email.

The 47,000 Inuits who live in Canada have only just agreed on a single writing system. Until now, they have had nine systems, invented in the 18th century, some with symbols (syllabics) rather than the roman alphabet. It took a task force eight years to agree on the system. Some of the region’s biggest advertisers will, however, continue to use syllabics as well as the official writing.

The pace of change in the Arctic is icily slow. In contrast, it is more essential than ever to stay on point for communicating with teens in the UK. 

Sue Unerman is chief transformation officer at MediaCom
@SueU

Picture: Getty Images

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