Cracking the Youth CodeX™ in South Africa
Uncovering the cultural and community codes of this market
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.