Should brands alter their approach to young people in a recession? The Marketing Society Forum

Should brands alter their approach to young people in a recession? Benetton's latest campaign highlights the plight of unemployed people in their teens and 20s.

MAYBE - EMMA HARRIS, Consultant and former sales and marketing director, Eurostar

Brands should connect with consumers in a way that reflects the current context. However, it is most important that the brand stays true to its narrative and the messaging is relevant to the specific demographic. Brands must stay focused and not turn away from a strategy that worked during better economic times.

If insight tells you that your brand's demographic is likely to be affected by the recession, then it's worth adapting your approach. Perhaps highlight value for money or use specific messaging, as Benetton has, but do it through the same tone of voice that succeeded in the past. Benetton has done this, addressing the issue in the controversial way consumers expect.

YES - MARK FAWCETT, Chief executive, National Schools Partnership

Brands and agencies should be considering the environment within which activity takes place - economic, social, seasonal or even Olympian, because all effective campaigns need context.

Consumers under the age of 25 have spent most of their working life in a recessionary environment. They face the threat of unemployment, often coupled with debts.

Young consumers are smart - savvy about education, work, media and communications. Whether 11 or 21, they have a more mature attitude than previous generations and are more economically aware. Brands should treat them accordingly.

MAYBE - Jason Goodman, Chief executive, Albion

This recent campaign by Benetton is typically bold work; it's going to get noticed. Disruptive marketing will get people talking, but I worry it's picked a tough subject that, in truth, it doesn't care about.

This was a brand originally built on serious values about equality. However, if this campaign has been chosen just to exploit the tough economic environment, Benetton will appear to be opportunistic.

With the right execution, built on a genuine set of values, it could rebuild a loyal fan base among young people that will last long after the crisis has ended, but I'm watching this campaign with serious doubts.

YES - CHRIS WILLINGHAM, Partner, Fallon London

For the first time since World War II, today's under-30s are having it worse than their parents did, so I applaud Benetton's stance. Here's a brand brave enough to tackle the issue and to offer an outlet to young, talented people.

There is an opportunity for brands to undertake relevant social missions that people can rally around. They can make a tangible difference in the world, taking on problems other institutions are unable or unwilling to confront.


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