The youngsters of today are like sponges; everything they experience goes to a special little box in their brain — and this box never disappears!

With more than 90% of children between the ages of 13 and 17 having access to social media, don’t you think it’s time to take a look at how your game plan affects our youth?

Well, did you know that children’s brains develop in spurts? This means that there are certain critical stages in an adolescent's life where external factors play a big role. These factors refer to everything that they see, hear or feel — like your marketing campaigns!

No, I am not saying that you need to become as strict as their school teacher, but let’s stop for a minute and see what marketing can do to a young adult's development and growth. After all, our youth is our future and we don't want to mess that up, do we?

Luckily, we have some good news — there are loopholes that you can watch out for to make sure you stay conscious and avoid becoming the Boogie Man that scares children away, and rather use your power for the greater good!

So, dear marketer, get your crayons and colouring book ready because media update's Jana van der Westhuizen is taking you back to school for some lessons on how to be youth-conscious.

Marketers, here's how you can be more conscious in your marketing game plan: 

Don’t compare

Yes, there are millions of brands on the market and you want yours to stand out. And what better way to achieve this than to compare your brand to another brand (guilty?). 

It is important for a brand to create a long-lasting sentiment that children will experience when dealing with their brand. Don't just sell for the sake of it, because easy one-time advertisements can create a false sense of materialism in children, where they feel they need to keep up with what is new so that they can fit in.

What happens to children when there are so many options of new products being advertised to them in the wrong manner? They will ultimately develop a sense of materialism.

Now the joy of having a product as a treat or for a special experience is no longer relevant but trumped by the desire for a better version. This appears in certain stages of a child's development when they feel the need to be socially accepted

When you market to the youth, you must not encourage materialism by comparing brands. You never know what a child's environmental, physical and financial circumstances are. So, if you create a need for more, that will lead to them feeling insignificant.

Don't make self-worth a competition

Using how children associate with your brand for capital benefit is not cool. One of the trends that brands are experimenting with now is using peer influence in their campaigns. This means that they would use more tweens or children in their marketing efforts so that children will relate more to the advertisement, but also feel a dire need to be like the person pictured.

Children can easily feel that if they don’t own what this person in the ad is selling, they won't fit in. It is then crucially important to help children recognise that their self-worth is not dependent on what they own, but on who they are as a person
Although, peer-to-peer influencer marketing can be a valuable source of word-of-mouth marketing as children like to chat about what they see or have. By children advertising to children, it helps your brand to be more humane and authentic. But this must be done in the right way!

Remember that children are not pawns in your chess game. So, if you make use of influencer marketing, make sure you do it in a transparent manner.

Don't leave room for interpretation

The first rule of marketing to the youth is that they are not easily fooled. We live in an era where they have easy access to the news, social media, influencers and peers. They hear and see many things, but as an adolescent who is developing their own values and perception of life, any open-ended advertisements can be harmful to their development.

So, let's break it down. Children need to be guided in the right direction as they don't always know how to differentiate between the overload of information they receive. Their ability to establish right from wrong is still developing and it is your responsibility to protect them at this stage.

When your advertisements leave room for interpretation, you can confuse youngsters as their belief system is still maturing. Anything you advertise needs to contribute to their development in the best way, and must not make them wonder or lead them into a thought pattern where they can interpret anything in a violent or destructive manner.

Lego is a good example of a brand that, with creativity, took a stand against certain social issues to show children that violence is never the answer. You go, Lego!

Check your brand messaging and make it PG-13!

Do you feel like your brand is youth-conscious in its marketing campaigns? Share your thoughts about it in the comments section.

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Are you ready to adapt to a more consumer-centric approach for your marketing campaign? Then read more about the Three benefits of customer-centric marketing
*Image courtesy of Canva