Commentary

Engaging Teens And Young Adults At A Time Of Economic Uncertainty

Economic crises have dominated this summer’s news cycle. The European Union has been in back-and-forth conversations with Greece, which is in technical default on its debts. In China, the stock market has entered the largest bubble since the dot-com era. And Puerto Rico is also in danger of defaulting on its debt. 

These economic woes have significant impact on teens and young adults in the affected countries. Youth unemployment is higher than 50% in Greece, and young people are leaving en masse. The same is true for Puerto Rico, where more than 300,000—many of them young people—have left over the last 15 years to relocate to the U.S.. Enrollment in Puerto Rican public schools is down a staggering 40% over the last decade. 

People in China often don’t have the same opportunity to move away. Youth unemployment rate in China is believed to be anywhere between 13 to 20%. The country’s young people are well-educated, but most of the jobs available are low-skilled. In 2012, an estimated 600,000 Chinese youth graduated from school without job prospects. 

North America isn’t immune from these economic challenges. Many companies in the U.S. and Canada rely on international markets for growth. 

In a world where teens and young adults are increasingly unemployed or on the move, marketers need to find ways to better connect with these customers. Here are three ideas how. 

1. Cater to the unique needs of young immigrant entrepreneurs. 

A large population of immigrants offers opportunities to sell products to the customers who have relocated and to provide products and services to the businesses that cater to them. To take advantage of that opportunity, companies need to engage with entrepreneurial immigrants and learn about their needs and challenges. Find out how you can work more closely with them to support their businesses. If you’re selling a product that’s not familiar with these customers, provide low-risk trial opportunities to introduce your brand. Insight on the behaviors and attitudes of these customers can help you develop more thoughtful ways of marketing to them. 

2. Support young entrepreneurs who are staying behind.

The only way these troubled economies are going to turn around is through the creation of jobs, and some entrepreneurs are doing just that. Nonprofits are fostering a startup culture in Greece, and Athens is seeing the rise of many incubators and co-working spaces. 

In particular, the sharing economy is now gaining ground in these markets. Platforms like ride-hailing app Taxibeat have been booming as the economy started tanking. Companies should look for ways to support young people who wish to participate in this new economy. Providing platforms and programs for young entrepreneurs can drive revenue while building your company’s brand. For example, a low-cost automaker could educate customers on how purchasing the car could pay for itself if the driver provides a certain number of rides to passengers every month. Empowering entrepreneurs to make a living benefits brands as well as the economy. 

3. Market more thoughtfully to the unemployed. 

If you’re marketing to 18-to-25 year olds in countries where the economy is currently weak, you need to question your assumptions. Many of your customers are probably still living at home with no jobs and no partners. Emphasizing quality, durability and value might work better in this economic landscape than focusing on conspicuous consumption. 

Look into changes in family dynamics as well. Parents are probably providing considerable support to young adults, so marketing programs need to speak to this audience. If families are doing more together, position your product or service as an affordable bonding experience with intergenerational appeal. For instance, dinner out at McDonald’s could be a treat for a family and an opportunity to spend time together without busting a budget. 

This summer’s economic challenges show that the world is more interconnected than ever. Every company needs to do what it can to address the economic turbulence in Greece, China, Puerto Rico and elsewhere. Empowering the next generation of customers is the right thing to do—but more importantly, doing so could inspire new business ideas and practices that build your company’s brand and drive revenue in the long term.

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