Youth marketing – Don’t sacrifice your principles for your product

Millenials are more marketing savvy than ever. Gone are the days of sleek and polished advertising that may have appealed to previous generations. Instead, young people respond to authenticity and honesty, as well as brands that share their values.

Youth marketing is shifting from simply placing brands in front of young people, and moving towards developing a heartfelt resonance with them and the issues they face and are concerned about.

However this is a potential minefield, young people can smell corporate inauthenticity a mile off. The question quickly becomes how to identify and enter areas where you can participate with integrity. To do this marketers need to identify with their own mission, whether it’s finding a cause they can make a difference in, or an audience they want to champion, it’s about staying true to your own central ethos

At TSR we feel strongly about flying the flag for students, our brand mission is ‘to nurture the largest, best loved and most useful UK student community’ and we work hard to ensure every decision we make as a company reflects that principle at heart. Our users know this and have rewarded us with trust in our brand, but more importantly, knowing they can come to us with the big questions that are shaping their life choices because they’ll get what they need.


Of course, no brand can dedicate all it’s time to tackling an important social issue. The challenge is finding the balance between selling your product and driving your ethos. The magic happens when you find innovative ways the two can work together.

Even if you can’t measure direct conversions, it’s about being true to yourself, speaking authentically, acting with integrity and meeting your audience where they’re at. It’s about what they want to hear and not what you want to say. Here are some examples of us and other brands doing just that.


In 2017, there was a number on controversies around changes in A-level and GCSE grade boundaries. Naturally, certain sections of the media jumped on the story to paint young people as entitled and demanding a free handout.

Results day and Clearing is our biggest quarter for sales and on-site activity, but we knew it was important to stand up for students at a time when few people were. In a last minute campaign we spread the ‘Be Results Proud’ message and collected research from 5,000 students to highlight the obstacles they faced with the new course format; such as lack of practise papers, delayed text books and learning from teachers who had never taught the syllabus.

This context fed into our biggest ever results day, with record levels of traffic and engagement. Our research was picked by the likes of The Guardian, The Independent and The BBC. Students and young people understood we were fighting their corner and trusted us when they wanted to discuss important life events and decisions.

Recently, we also teamed up with the sexual violence charity, Revolt Sexual Assault, to produce research that would shed light on how widespread the issue is for students. Clearly a serious issue, and one that impacts a countless amount of young people’s lives, we knew we could contribute to emphasising the student voice. The findings will help the charity with their mission to inform a national policy for dealing with such cases.

Examples of other brands placing themselves at the centre of social issues include Facebook ‘hashing’ nude photos in an attempt to stop revenge porn and Snapchat launching a #BeStrong campaign that used filters to raise awareness on the issue of teen cyberbullying. These are brands stepping out of “business as usual” to build a direct connection with their users, in an authentic way, building resonance and relationships with their users.

Want to find out more about how you can reach the youth market with messaging that resonates? Get in touch.