Louise Findlay-Wilson
Louise Findlay-Wilson 31 May 2019
Categories B2C, Social Media

Marketing to the 20’s

Louise Findlay-Wilson, founder and managing director at Energy PR, shares advice on how to market to the 20-something generation.

People in their 20’s are an incredibly interesting demographic. They grew up with MSN but know life without an iPhone. They’re a mix of Millennials and people known as Gen Z - but even that’s too neat a box to put them into! That’s because people aged 20 will have vastly different media habits and experiences from those just nine years older due to the tech transformation which has happened during their short lifetimes.  After all Facebook was founded in 2004, the iPhone was only introduced in 2007, Twitter went mainstream in 2009, smartwatches came in during 2013.  The age someone was when these developments were introduced, will fundamentally impact on their attitudes to privacy and tech and their ways of doing things.   

So how does the marketeer make any sense of all this?  Well the good news is that there are some commonalities which we can draw on.  We undertook a study of the 20 something generation and found some key insights which we have distilled into a few key rules which can be applied when marketing to them.


Media habits

Rather than being fed a fixed diet of news and content, this generation is used to picking global entertainment niches for itself.  This ability to curate content means reaching this audience with your ‘stuff’ is tricky.   While some may use online news channels such as the BBC, the bulk filter their news through social media channels; they like the fact social media enables them to see national news stories as they break, interact with their friends’ chit-chat and follow their niche interests all via one app on their phone. So social media is crucial.


With millions of posts at their finger-tips, and experience of filtering content, many within this generation know to question the veracity of posts. They scrutinise content closely, often relying on expert sources they trust, or eye-witnesses who are there and self-reporting, to verify the credibility of the opinion, advice or news being shared.  As a result, credibility is crucial. The tolerance of a purely corporate message from a corporate source is limited. 

Who has influence?

This generation values friends and follows them enthusiastically.  Celebrities are also consistently liked across the age group – though their influence is mixed.  After this, 20-somethings will fall into a mix of camps. Some love Instagrammers, bloggers, sports stars – others attach very little weight to them. 

But there are subtleties within this too. For instance, while sports stars currently at the top of their game have a huge following, 20-somethings also like to follow former stars who, without sponsorship deals to protect, are much more likely to reveal something of their true selves and ‘shoot from the lip, ’ saying something interesting, though potentially controversial. This desire to see the ‘true self’ is important to this generation, for whom authenticity is vital.

Be real

According to our research people in this age group are positively put off brands where the relationship with the influencer looks unreal and is just a commercial arrangement.

For instance, one of our interviewees cited YouTuber, Lydia Elise Millen’s promotion of Topshop’s partywear collection. “I’ve followed her for ages and know she rarely, if ever, buys anything from Topshop. She has high-end tastes; she usually buys £200+ items! The Topshop promotion just jarred; it wasn’t real. It left me thinking Topshop were just after her following, and she didn’t care – she’d sold out!”

By the same token it was really appreciated when brands reach out to smaller social media personalities with good content, rather than simply targeting big social media names for pure volume. Student YouTuber, SunbeamsJess’ sponsored work with Urban Outfitters and Topshop was singled out as a good example of this. “Although she does a lot of promotions, she buys her own stuff and spends a lot of time editing the videos. It feels like care has been taken and she’s genuinely into the clothing she’s talking about. Also, she’s no fool – she is focused on getting her Masters – so I trust her and believed the promotions with these brands.”

So what does all this mean for the brands trying to win over the 20-something generation?  Well there are a few key take-outs I’d like to share:

  • Choice – 20 somethings curate their own content and will happily do so. So content has to be strong, relevant and in their niche to reach them.
  • Channels - social media is crucial but mainstream news channels for ‘real news’ still matter.
  • Friends -  they are a major influence – so find ways of engaging and involving friendship groups and take care to ensure your customer service remains top notch as their word of mouth recommendation will matter.
  • Niche - experts are also key influencers, but work with them wisely.  Firstly find the ones who really work into the niche that matters to your audience – don’t be tempted by a broad brush approach. Then work with that influencer to create credible, appropriate content that fits with them and works for the audience.
  • Authenticity - don’t be seduced by numbers. Authenticity is crucial.  Someone who your audience relates to and who is genuinely interested in your product will be more valuable than a bigger, blander celeb/blogger with a mass following. 
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