Cutting through Gen Y/Gen Next/Millennials’ short attention spans and getting them to keep choosing your brand can be a problem, as the youth are one of the toughest markets to get buy-in from. Nicholas Barenblatt, Group Marketing Manager at Protea Hotels & African Pride Hotels, tells us how they keep winning favour at The Sunday Times Generation Next Brand Survey Awards…

South Africa’s Protea Hotel Group is no stranger toThe Sunday Times Generation Next Brand Survey Awards accolades, having won six times overall. This is a clear sign that they’re doing the right things to attract the attention of the ever-texting mobile youth – critically important for brands looking for longevity as today’s youth are the future, as the survey recognises South Africa’s most-loved brands, products and celebrities in 72 categories voted for by over 5,400 youth aged 8 to 23.

But things are not so clear cut for the bulk of brands out there, especially those still figuring out how to hashtag content and whether adding a dedicated selfie-spot to your physical shop will make your brand that elusive ‘cool’ or just seem like you’re trying too hard. That’s why Barenblatt says many brand and marketing managers are confused when creating a brand that appeals to Generation Y or ‘Next’.

If you’re still wondering who exactly this ‘Generation Y’ is, you’re in for a treat as Barenblatt explains it all from the Protea Hotel Group’s perspective and shares some marketing tricks brands can follow to keep Gen Y interested in their products or services…

1. Let’s start off with a basic definition for Generation Y…

Barenblatt: Generation Y can be defined as individuals born between the 1980s and late 1990s. The members of this group are known for their social behaviour, prefer communicating via social media channels and text messages, are socially aware, and are more interested in people than they are in brands. They value time over money as time is the ultimate luxury. Confident and technologically savvy, this age group is known for being up-to-date on all social happenings.


2. Well put. Why is there then such a struggle to get this generation to notice and engage with brands?

Barenblatt: It’s not just Generation Y that marketers should be concerned about, but the next generation as well. With generations past, there wasn’t the volume of media that is available today through the internet and other channels. These options are only growing every day. This in turn means target audiences just flick through the vast amount of options for a few seconds.

3. Clearly you’ve got this right – tell us more about your Sunday Times Generation Next Brand Survey Awards.

Barenblatt: The Sunday Times Generation Next Awards are accolades that we take seriously every year, having won the ‘Coolest Hotel Group’ title five years in a row and six times to date. These awards are decided by vote by a large pool of individuals from the Y and the next generation – Gen Z, 5,400 cool people in total. They are polled on what brands, personalities and TV and radio stations they consider to be the coolest. Being dubbed the coolest brand means we’re current and have a relevant offering, but most importantly proves that we’ve been listening.


4. Let’s help some of the other brands out there – how can marketers best appeal to Generation Y and Z?

Barenblatt: Marketers just need to keep current with the trends of the moment and listen to their target audience’s needs. Media is a two-way channel these days, where it is actually possible to engage with your market directly. Show them that you are listening.

5. How is Protea Hotels demonstrating this and winning favour with this seemingly fickle market?

Barenblatt: Protea Hotels is keeping informed by monitoring social media channels and peer-to-peer review platforms to ensure we are listening to our customers, and acting on what we’ve heard through our channels, then integrating it into our marketing messaging, and combining this feedback with global trends that work within our markets. In doing so, we are able to remain relevant by ensuring our product offering continues to anticipate, meet and exceed our customers’ needs. We supply to an ever-changing demand; keeping up with this change is a winning formula.

6. Lastly, why is this a model for youth marketing success?

Barenblatt: When you can communicate with your target audience in their language, you gain their trust as a respected and likeable brand.
As simple as that. Read more from Barenblatt here and here, on ‘”But first let me take a selfie” – evolution of a lifestyle brand” and ”Marketing to millennials” respectively.

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