Want to create a brand that young people love? Then value, convenience and fun are three factors you need to think about.
Each summer Voxburner conducts a lengthy research project to find the most-loved brands among the UK’s 18 to 24-year-olds. The Youth 100 involves a survey of more than 2,500 young people, a day of focus groups and an exhaustive round of one-to-one interviews to discover the top names across all categories and the insights that explain their success.
As you might expect from a youth audience that drives the evening economy, eating and drinking-out brands score highly. Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Nando’s, PizzaExpress, JD Wetherspoon and Subway all feature in the top 50.
When we talk to young people to explore what makes a favourite brand, there are recurring themes. From Amazon to Alton Towers, YouTube to Cadbury, there are common themes shared by the popular names.
The price has to be right
It won’t come as a shock to you, but young people are price-sensitive. This doesn’t mean they are cheap – in fact, some new research from Voxburner to be launched at the Youth Marketing Strategy event in London this month reveals they ultimately value quality over price. But the fact remains – most of them need to be frugal due to their personal circumstances. Few 18 to 24-year-olds are earning good money yet, which explains why a brand like retail store H&M consistently does well in the Youth 100: it sells cheap clothes that don’t make you look cheap. It means no compromise is made between price and quality – or at least perceived quality.
Yet this is also a generation that wants cheap simply because it doesn’t know any different. Young people have been brought up to instinctively sniff out the best price. Discount codes, comparison sites and ‘showrooming’ – where shoppers check competitor prices on their mobiles while they browse in high-street stores – are all standard among 16 to 24-year-olds. Finding the cheapest is a habitual part of the youth consumer experience, as addictive as Flappy Bird and as necessary as Facebook (yes, Facebook is still necessary, despite the headlines that young people are fleeing it).
When young people in Voxburner’s focus groups talk about takeaways, restaurants and bars, they usually mention vouchers, freebies and value for money. Domino’s does well in the student market thanks to its freshers’ marketing, serving free samples that create buzz, and securing future custom with vouchers. JD Wetherspoon (JDW) is a famously affordable place to drink alcohol, something 18 to 24-year-olds are keen on, and its food is good value too. Subway promises to fill you up for an acceptable price. Greggs is also in this category: it satisfies hunger without emptying your wallet.
Whatever your business, if you can appear to offer substance at a ‘how do they do that?’ price, this Amazon generation will have you on your way to success.
But there’s something else young people are interested in: convenience. JDW is not only popular because it’s cheap. Open early, serving coffee and the papers, centrally located and – most importantly – with free Wi-Fi, it’s a good hook-up spot before lectures, as well as after. It also has a neutrality and reliability that may not be offered by the students’ union – everyone knows where they are with a JDW outlet.
Domino’s too delivers in this area, though in an entirely different way. It makes ordering food extremely efficient. Here, young people are not looking to dwell on the experience, they merely want a frictionless interaction that results in a speedy delivery. Domino’s has made a huge investment in digital and mobile, and it has paid off with loyal youth custom. This generation does not want to phone through their order, they want to tap it out; for most digital natives, the more they can do online the better. They don’t want to open their mouths until the food arrives, and the fact Domino’s lets them track their pizza online, like a parcel – from prep table to box – underlines the company’s understanding of young consumers, for whom every action is an urgent action.
Put a smile on their faces
Finally, young people like to have fun. It sounds so obvious. It is. But few brands give this fact the attention they should if they are serious about winning people over. From charities like Movember and Comic Relief, which are preferred over Oxfam and Greenpeace – according to our research – to the winning Youth 100 brand YouTube, which delivers entertainment to young people every day, if you are making young people smile in these uncertain, hectic, difficult days, you are earning their interest. In food, this often translates as novelty flavours. For example, Ben & Jerry’s zany ice-cream combos and Cadbury’s chocolate mash-ups – Marvellous Creations – were both cited by youth respondents as ‘fun’.
So imagine a Venn diagram, with its classic format of interlocking circles. Label those three circles ‘value’, ‘convenience’ and ‘fun’. Overlap them all and examine that central position. Because where they all meet is undoubtedly the ‘sweet spot’.
If you can promise and deliver all three of these, you’re on the way to knocking YouTube out of the way and becoming the UK’s top youth brand.
Luke Mitchell is head of insight at the Voxburner market research agency, which delivers insights about young consumers