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Firms race to exploit youthful market

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By | October 26th 2010

By Patrick Githinji

In the face of unpredictable consumer demand and increasing competition, companies are now developing robust marketing strategies to remain afloat.

The focus is swiftly shifting to the new breed of consumers, perceived to be agile and dominant-the young consumer. And the bait is engaging them in sporting, entertainment and fine art activities.

Leading mobile operator in the country, Safaricom Limited, is among those that have exploited this lucrative niche by partnering with Homeboyz Entertainment in an initiative to identify and nurture music talent.

Coca Cola, on the other hand, is banking on its Sprite Slam Tournament, an event that brings together education institutions such as universities, colleges and secondary schools. The beverage manufacturer says it intends to expand the tournament to reach the marginalised communities.

According to Maureen Sika, the brand manager of Sprite, since the launch of the programme, consumption of the product has tremendously grown. Tetra Pak East Africa, a food-packaging manufacturer, has tapped into this growing market through the use of appealing packaging. Sika says the change in demographics have necessitated the shift in packaging that are more appealing to young consumers.

Chris Harrison, the chairman of Y&R, Brand, argues that young consumer’s purchasing power, market size and family influence are dynamics that manufacturers and service providers have to keenly factor in their processes.

“Understanding the young consumer market includes examining consumption symbolism, since this phenomenon peaks in adolescence and influences young consumers choice behaviour as well as potentially influencing prejudice and stereotyping,” said Mr Harrison, adding: “Because of the influence that consumption symbolism has on the choice and the possibility of the negative consequences, it is important to understand how this phenomenon develops in young people.”

The Y&R Brand boss notes that there is also increased focus on this market from the public sector that has seen them integrated into the Government agenda and investments by the government. Latest census figures show that more than half of Kenya’s 38.61 million population is aged below 25 years. By 2012, about one million youths in Kenya will turn 18 years or would be young adults.

Francis Wachira Marketing Society of Kenya Chief Executive says over recent decades, the young consumers have become an important market segment to marketers.

The cost to attract a new customer is as much as five times the cost to keep a current one and the loss of a customer means losing more than a single sale.

“Young consumers have been playing an increasingly important part in family decision making, and their buying power has been increasing more rapidly than that of any other age segment of the population,” Wachira says.

He adds today Ìs consumers are growing up in an era of choice with respect to merchandise and preferred media for obtaining product information and store formats for purchasing.

Young consumers

Many young consumers actively participate in shopping for their own and their families’ needs. Keeping in pace with these trends, merchants are scurrying to attract the influential young consumers by designing merchandise and creating flashy advertising to suit their lifestyle. With increasing buying power and the variety of choice in products as well as media for shopping, young consumers have become important segments in the electronic market place,” he said.

A new survey by Forrest Research indicates that young consumers, particularly those aged 16 to 22, are becoming the Internet’s hottest market.

And they spend an average of 15 hours a week online and spend about 25 per cent of their disposable income for online purchases, which are greater than for adults.

Almost 60 per cent of young consumers in this age group have experience with purchasing items online. The Forrest statistics notes successful marketing is based on correctly representing customer lifestyles and making products relevant to their lives.

A range of advertising styles, techniques, and channels are used to reach youth, to foster brand loyalty, and to encourage product use. Some approaches are market segmentation, television advertising, stores, and sporting events, multimedia exposure, celebrity endorsement, and product placement,” the study says.

It further says using television commercials to reach youth is rapidly becoming more expensive and less efficient. Young customers are exposed partially to different types of mass media, including radio, magazines, newspaper sections written especially for them, but and mainly to interactive computer technology, it says.

The general trend is towards the use of the Internet as an important shopping method and cellular, as the most important communication tool.

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