Interview Gregg L. Witt, a renowned youth marketer and public speaker, featured in the book “Brand Storytelling, Second Edition.” published by Kogan Page.
Gregg! We met telling stories at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, DC. I was immediately impressed by your background. Can you share with our readers?
Always stoked to catch up with you and exchange ‘stories’! For everyone else, I’m Founder and Senior Strategist at ThinkWithWitt, where I lead brand strategy and consumer engagement programs for companies targeting youth audiences. It’s a real privilege to be helping build and sustain some of the most successful youth-focused brands of today. I was fortunate enough to be named a Top Youth Marketer To Follow by Inc. magazine, and I recently made the Forbes list of leading Gen Z experts.When it comes to my relationship with this work, I never fall back on the ‘know it when I see it’ approach. I have always preferred a more immersive examination of the wisdom and authenticity inherent in today’s youth culture, and encourage others to have the same respect for and curiosity about this powerful cohort.
Personally, I’m the father of four teens and pre-teens; as a former professional skateboarder, I still – against doctor’s recommendations – actively play with skateboards on giant ramps and bowls, and am truly inspired by a long family history of entrepreneurship.
In this Brand Storytelling book, I talk a lot about the importance of empathy and authenticity to be able to reach your intended audience effectively. As a youth marketer, you do the same but focus on specific insights about a younger cohort. Can you share some of those insights?
Absolutely! Empathy and authenticity are foundational, unignorable starting points to understanding and defining your relationship with any audience. The key word here is relationship. They are not a faceless target; your audience should be a group of people that you establish a rapport with.
When it comes to Gen Z and the emerging Gen Alpha, they are particularly tuned in to that feeling of connection over need, and they want to be understood and heard.
The challenge is on us. We need to ask ourselves if our internal perceptions of our audience are accurate and learn how to rise above our bias or preconceptions, so we can be open to the reality of how our product or service may be received by that audience. By getting ourselves out of the way, we can see what young people want and need more clearly. In order to do this, we need to know what informs their perceptions of the world.
Once we understand what fuels youth opinions and preferences, we can better understand what motivates them. If we want their attention, we need to figure out how to appeal to them from their perspective. This is how you tell brand stories that work in reality and not just in cubicles and conference rooms.
To help brands focus on empathy and authenticity with younger audiences, use the following directional youth marketing strategies as a guide. Youth audiences:
- Tend to reject companies without a clear and specifically relatable brand story and content;
- Want to be listened to and respected by brands and be able to trust in the reliability of those brands they choose;
- Are woke and demand to have their privacy protected;
- Seek brands that connect with their passions and interests and contribute to their lives or support them in what they are trying to do;
- Want more brands that inspire them to push forward, to reach further to achieve their dreams, and to find and inspire new and unique solutions that empower them;
- Look for brands to provide experiences that create community, a place of belonging, or something for them to be part of and share.
Get the Brand Storytelling book here.
About the Author Miri Rodriguez: