Crack­ing the Youth CodeX™ in South Africa

Un­cov­er­ing the cul­tural and com­mu­nity codes of this mar­ket

Finweek English Edition - - Advertorial -

WHILE THERE IS NOT one ab­so­lute def­i­ni­tion of who should be placed in the ' youth' cat­e­gory, the 18-24 year old age group is gen­er­ally ac­cepted as the "heart­land", as that group is in the most in­ter­est­ing tran­si­tion phase in terms of de­cid­ing who they are and what is im­por­tant to them.

Speak­ing at a fo­rum at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria's Gor­don In­sti­tute of Busi­ness Science, Dee Blackie, a strate­gic mar­ket­ing and brand con­sul­tant, ex­plained that CodeX™, "aims to un­cover the cul­tural and com­mu­nity codes of a par­tic­u­lar mar­ket, con­sumer seg­ment or brand, to en­sure that all your busi­ness and mar­ket­ing ef­forts are rel­e­vant and ef­fec­tive".

Young peo­ple's choices are af­fected by cur­rent events and ex­po­sure to new cul­tures. Dur­ing her re­search, Blackie uses par­tic­i­pant ob­ser­va­tion, dis­cov­ery work­shops and desk re­search to an­a­lyse at­ti­tudes to­wards cul­ture, while stim­uli such as TV, film, ra­dio and print ads, as well as semi­otic anal­y­sis, are used to eval­u­ate ap­proaches to­wards com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Semi­otic anal­y­sis is the study of signs and sym­bols, both in­di­vid­u­ally and grouped in sign sys­tems. This in­cludes the study of how mean­ing is con­structed and un­der­stood.

There are three types of clues which can be used by mar­keters, namely vis­ual (images, colours and sym­bols), ver­bal (cor­tex vs rep­til­ian / ra­tio­nal vs in­stinct) and be­havioural (ac­tions, in­ter­ac­tions and ex­pres­sions). Mar­keters and brand man­agers must have their com­mu­ni­ca­tion on code, says Blackie, as if their ad­ver­tis­ing or mar­ket­ing is off code they will not ap­peal to your mar­ket. A new code can also be re-writ­ten for a prod­uct, for ex­am­ple Guin­ness re­for­mu­lated their ad­ver­tis­ing strat­egy when they en­tered the South African mar­ket.

Blackie's re­search di­vides youth codes into 5 cul­tural codes, namely race, gen­der, suc­cess, com­mu­nity and con­sumerism, and looks at them across three eras:

post-94, present and fu­ture. Race Post-94 many brands tapped into new feel­ings of na­tional iden­tity, how­ever racism still ex­ists to­day, al­beit more covertly. Many blacks be­lieve that whites think they are un­qual­i­fied for their po­si­tions, while whites think they might have ac­cess to bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties abroad, and there is in­creas­ing black-on-black racism. The youth hope for more in­te­gra­tion and aware­ness in the fu­ture. Gen­der Af­ter 1994 young black women gained more in­de­pen­dence, and youth in gen­eral sought self-reliance and fi­nan­cial free­dom. Tra­di­tional and parental ap­proval was still im­por­tant, and black so­ci­ety was still very pa­tri­ar­chal. Cur­rently men some­times feel

Blackie's re­search di­vides youth codes into 5 cul­tural codes, namely race, gen­der, suc­cess, com­mu­nity and con­sumerism.

like a lost gen­er­a­tion, with women play­ing mul­ti­ple roles in so­ci­ety. Young peo­ple hope for more mu­tual re­spect and to un­der­stand each other’s val­ues. They do be­lieve how­ever that power plays and egos will play a large role in so­ci­ety.


Pre­vi­ously, en­tre­pre­neur­ial cap­i­tal­ism and be­ing self-re­liant in­stead of trust­ing oth­ers, was im­por­tant, and youth thought of them­selves as 'en­thu­si­as­tic ma­te­ri­al­ists'. Nowa­days there is BEE and a new face to big busi­ness. En­trepreneurs are seen as pre­dom­i­nantly white, while black youth as­pire to be a bil­lion­aire like Pa­trice Mot­sepe or Tokyo Sexwale. Look­ing ahead, the youth think that there will be an even greater fo­cus on money with con­tin­ued overt dis­plays of wealth, and lit­tle con­cern for work ethic or moral­ity.


Post-94 young peo­ple were con­flicted be­tween want­ing com­mu­nity sup­port and in­de­pen­dence, and chafed un­der moral and so­cial re­stric­tions. At present fam­ily struc­tures are chang­ing, with smaller fam­i­lies and sin­gle moth­ers the norm, and moth­ers in­creas­ingly seen as strong role mod­els. There are con­flicts be­tween young and old as the youth do not seem to recog­nise the wis­dom of their el­ders. Go­ing for­ward, young peo­ple be­lieve that there will be more in­tol­er­ance and a de­sire for free­dom from re­spon­si­bil­ity.


In the past there was a strong de­sire for in­ter­na­tional brands, and th­ese brands were seen as a mark of suc­cess – young peo­ple were not very con­sumer savvy. The de­sire for brand names has de­vel­oped into a de­sire for in­ter­na­tional lux­ury brands, how­ever there is also a growth in proudly African con­sumerism and shop­ping is be­ing seen as al­low­ing youths to con-

There is also a growth in proudly African con­sumerism.

nect with oth­ers across the world. Young peo­ple be­lieve that in the fu­ture shop­ping will be used to mask frag­ile egos as they look for brands that rep­re­sent and ful­fill them­selves.

Mar­keters and brand con­sul­tants alike have no doubts about the po­ten­tial for a vi­brant youth mar­ket, how­ever it is im­por­tant to be aware of the many fac­tors that in­flu­ence the youth of to­day and to­mor­row. By ac­knowl­edg­ing the im­pact that th­ese fac­tors have on the youth, mar­keters will be far bet­ter placed to cater to that mar­ket and to cre­ate brand aware­ness of their prod­ucts.

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