Youth Marketing: The 10 Commandments

This is an urgent appeal. Every day, thousands of businesses post tweets and Facebook updates full of misunderstood memes, random emojis and references to Hotline Bling. In Latin, the disease is known as Millennial Stultus, though it’s more commonly as downwiththekidsitis. It’s time for us to work together. We can stop this epidemic.

Appeal over. Let’s get serious. Marketing to the younger generation is a great business strategy. It’s particularly powerful on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, seeing as that’s where your target market are spending their time.

In a lot of industries, drawing in customers at a young age can result in a loyal, long term relationship. Think of how many incentives banks offer to customers around the age of 18. Once their account is open, it’s unlikely that they’ll look elsewhere.

Youth marketing could be vital to your business, so it’s important to get it right. You don’t have to hop on the latest bandwagon, but it doesn’t mean ignoring trends altogether. Need a few ground rules to follow? Will Digital Media Team’s 10 Commandments of Youth Marketing do?

  1. Thou shalt be genuine

Think back to your teens or your early twenties. What was worse than older people pretending to be young and cool? NOTHING. We’re all able to see through the politician that says they like N.W.A., or the teacher that says “don’t call me Mr Robson, call me Dave.” It’s the same for brands.

You can’t go from selling a slightly dull product to tweeting about your love of Beyoncé and how her halftime Super Bowl show was amazeballs. Let’s get used to the words Tone, Of and Voice, seeing as we’re going to use the phrase a lot over the next few paragraphs.

Marco Rubio likes Caribou, but he prefers Matthew Dear.

What’s worse is, EDM is so 2013.

Tone of Voice is central to all of your written communications. This includes your social media accounts, emails from employees and your advertising. A consistent Tone of Voice gives your brand a particular character. Think of how Virgin are always trying to be your best friend, or how simple every Apple ad is.

Being genuine should be part of every brand’s Tone of Voice. Of all the audiences to target, youngsters are the hardest to fool. They’ll see through your sneaky attempts to seem cool, so keep it real, man.

  1. Thou shalt understand the latest phrases

If you’re planning on using words like bae and swag, make sure you know how your target market uses the phrase. Staying on top of the latest definitions requires some effort, as meanings change with the tick of a clock and phrases drop out of the vocabulary. Remember YOLO?

Knowing the lingo prevents potentially embarrassing moments. At the peak of the phrase’s fame, every company under the sun was making a play on Netflix and Chill, often unaware of chill’s other meaning.


At least put the phrase into Urban Dictionary first.

Using popular phrases can have its uses, though keep in mind that most words are said with a teenage sneer. If your business can speak with a slightly sarcastic tone, you could be capable of getting away with talking about your squad, or how your sales figures are on fleek, but it’s best to err on the side of caution.

  1. Thou shalt not use memes

Them youngsters love memes. If they’re funny, they get loads of shares, so you should use them, right? Wrong. There are few situations in which a meme looks good on your company’s Facebook page.

bad meme

Who knows what they were thinking.

The easiest way to look out of touch is to post a bad one. Here’s the test. Can you turn to anyone in your office and say “I’m about to post a meme,” and show it to them, without feeling a twinge of embarrassment. If not, hit delete.

  1. Thou shalt never lose track of the brand

Social media gave a lot of businesses the idea that their brand had to change. Brands with a strong identity have abandoned their tried, tested and successful approach to appeal to younger generations on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Favourite example: House of Fraser. There aren’t enough words in the English language to explain how bad their #Emojinal campaign was, so you’ll just have to take a look.


Balloons? Birthday cake? I better buy a jumper from House of Fraser!

#Emojinal was either accidently bad, or it was purposefully bad, a bit like Go Compare. Whichever it was, the campaign left a bad taste in our mouth, mainly because it abandoned House of Fraser’s well established brand. We know HoF as an upmarket, high quality store, not as every kids’ favourite shop.

It’s possible to maintain your current brand and appeal to a younger market. House of Fraser, while expensive, could have marketed their more fashionable items as aspirational. The coat that you post a picture of on Instagram; the handbag that is pinned on every Pinterest board. They didn’t need to add poor quality trumpet emojis to images of Leonardo Di Caprio.

Never forget, it isn’t only your younger market that sees your tweets. Your entire audience will see public posts, so don’t lose track of your broader demographic when you compose that tweet full of emojis.

Speaking of which…

  1. Thou shalt restrict emoji use

Emojis are massive, they’re used all the time across multiple forms of social media. In 2015, the word of the year didn’t have any letters, it was (crying face emoji). Pretty much everyone is aware of what an emoji is, but not everyone uses them. Like knowing the latest phrases, understanding how emojis are used is central to making them work.

A company like Forever 21 uses emojis well on their Twitter page. They have a young audience, likely to love emojis, but that doesn’t mean they fill every post with a thousand little pictures. Usually one, at most two, Forever 21 don’t overplay their hand. The above tweet is a dream for youth marketers, it uses a popular hashtag, two popular emojis and a nostalgic gif.

  1. Thou shalt avoid emojis/memes/buzzwords if in doubt

If you are unsure of what a word, emoji or meme means, just don’t use it. Every young adult in the world might be writing #Slay right now, but I don’t really know what it means, so Digital Media Team’s Facebook and Twitter feed won’t be using it.

That uncertain feeling in your tummy, listen to it. Ask your kids, search Google, read a few articles if you’d like to make it work. But remember, appearing out of touch and old is far more off-putting than using Standard English.

  1. Thou shalt aim for shares and retweets

Shares, retweets, likes, each of these engagements improve your reach on social media. Wouldn’t it be great if the market you’re after are obsessed with sharing, retweeting and liking posts?


These crazy kids love retweeting, and co-ordinated jumping.

Whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, the 16-24 market are active social media users, constantly sharing and posting. If your post provides something interesting, something useful, or makes the retweeter look cool, you’re likely to receive more engagement.

Think beyond your own posts. This is particularly important on Instagram. For retailers, young customers are likely to upload a shot of their latest purchase to Instagram, indirectly marketing the item to their hundreds of followers. Promote your products, in-house and online, in a way that makes the customer want to show them off.

So shares are great. But…

  1. Thou shalt not share any old rubbish

Cute cats, people falling over, incredible free-kicks, the Internet will always love these topics. It doesn’t mean you should post them. Take a look at this gif, just click the link (it’s too big to upload). Yeah, it might get a tonne of shares and likes, but if I’m a mortgage broker, it’s not going to bring me more leads. Off topic posts might be popular, but they’re unlikely to attract actual customers.


Cute picture, but it’s not going on our Facebook page.

The free-kick gif is awesome, I love it and, as I’ve nabbed it from the front page of Reddit, it’s likely to be popular. It doesn’t mean I should stick it on our company page and use it as the featured image for this article.

A better strategy is to think of how you can tailor popular topics to your brand. Let’s say you’re recruiting and looking to improve the image of your office. Organise a doggy-destress day, stick a load of pictures from it on Instagram, post a video of your colleagues cuddling the cutest dogs on Facebook and provide regular updates on Twitter. Did you see that video of the office full of gorgeous dogs? Let me send it to you.

  1. Thou shalt use real hashtags

This is a pretty simple one. When using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you can use hashtags to expand the reach of your post. It might be tempting to invent your own witty hashtag, but if no one else uses that hashtag, no one will see it.


Down wit da yoof – #IDOStreetspeak

A big brand with millions of followers have the power to start a hashtag, but if you’re not McDonalds it ain’t gonna happen. Search for similar posts, make a note of the popular hashtags and use them on your next post.

  1. Thou shalt be interesting

Let’s get straight into an example. The Presidential race. Don’t worry, we won’t be getting political. If you haven’t followed the campaign trail, all you need to know is that Bernie Sanders polls much better than Hillary Clinton when it comes to younger voters.


The commenter makes a good point. People follow political candidates because they want to know about their policies and how they will make a difference. They’re not there to see links to Vanity Fair articles about the politician’s Snapchat account.

People follow your social media accounts for a reason. A 20 year old doesn’t like your business expecting to see wall to wall emojis and memes. Provide what they are interested in, based on why they would like your page. Examine your posts using Facebook and Twitter analytics and figure out what the younger market like.

As a little present for making it all the way to the end, here’s a link to Fellow Kids, a Reddit page devoted to ads that pander to the “radical youth of today.” If you’ve enjoyed this article, head to Facebook and hit the like button, or follow @digitalmediatm on Twitter.

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