Firstly, before I start making claims about the state of South Africa’s youth and how our marketing strategies to reach young people need to improve, I would like to mention that I very much spent much of my youth in South Africa’s sub-culture in the 90’s.
I started skateboarding at the age of 10 and continued until the age of 16. I then took up surfing and did that competitively for many more years. My social life involved sitting in my friends room while we made drum and bass and our large group of friends regularly frequented drum and bass parties.
Even though I am now a middle-aged father, I still regard myself as being fairly in touch with youth culture, which is why I find it even more surprising when I am left wide-eyed at what “the youth” is getting up to these days. Have a look at this documentary on Joburg’s underground youth:
Here are four insights that stand out to me with regard to young people in South Africa and what we (brands, companies and agencies) need to keep in mind if we want to engage them.
1. Young South Africans Are Incredibly Ambitious.
Below are a couple of quotes out of the documentary when the artists were asked the question: “Should people be excited about what’s happening in Joburg at the moment?”
“…It’s really one of the most exciting times ever…”
“This new generation knows that the world is looking and looking for something new and fresh and someone has to step up. And all these new kids, all of us are f£#%ing stepping up”
“Right now, if you are young and you’re in Africa and you are part of this generation you are blessed… because everybody wants a piece of this African cake. I don’t want to open for Lil’Wayne. I don’t want to open for Kanye West. I want to fill up the dome. I want to headline, I want to be that cat filling up the dome!”
2. For Them The Internet & Social Media Is Like Breathing.
These kids have grown up with the internet, that’s obvious. But more than that, they are shooting inexpensive video’s and using free internet based platforms like YouTube and Twitter to spread their creativity and in the process are racking up more YouTube views and retweets than most of our expensive advertising campaigns.
The one artist from Dirty Paraffin @Okmalumkoolkat has 45,000 twitter followers, 80,000 followers on SoundCloud and their music video’s get views averaging 200,000. To put that in perspective, one South Africa’s biggest alcohol brands Carling Black Label has just over 9,000 twitter followers.
Murray Turpin, Joburg based performance artist, musician and triangle enthusiast says:
“…The internet has played a massive role in it(being successful), everything is a click away or a search away whether you like someone in Nigeria or in F£#%’n Antwerp…
3. They Respect Tech Start-ups.
The growing interest in the start-up scene in Africa is confirmed by the respect from the youth in South Africa right down to underground sub-cultures. In short, start-ups are cool. I suspect we will continue to see young African’s identifying gaps in the market and launching start-ups with enough traction to get funding.
South African rapper, entrepreneur and party animal says:
“The social networks, shout out to them, you know what I mean. Shout out to the cats that created Facebook. I’ve got mad love for those cats because they’re young dudes doing their thing you know what I mean. Shout out to the cats that created Google, shout out to the cats that created Twitter, shout out to the cats that created Sound Cloud, shout out to the cats that created any social network that can connect anybody from any corner of the world.”
4. They Are Proudly South African With No Apartheid Baggage.
For these ambitious youth their focus is on the future and for them the past is in the past. Apartheid is behind them, there is no more struggle no more need to fight for freedom and in their view there is nothing that stands in their way.
Bhubesii, a rapper, fashionista and Zulu from Soweto says:
“I don’t want to look like a generic American cat”
“There is a new energy that’s actually really depicting what the new Joburg is about and there’s no stigma’s. There’s no being caught up on apartheid and what what what what.”
Again SA rapper, Chocolate says:
“What’s crazy is that in 1976, kids were doing riots in Soweto for liberation. In 2011 kids are making big moves.”
This recent ad for DSTV shows that the current South African youth don’t want to be American they are truly proudly African. And I say, finally! If hear another African kid talk in an American accent I’m going lose my shizzle my nizzle.