This isn’t a blog about learning teenage lingo and forcing yourself to listen to the latest musicians topping the download charts in order to “speak to the kids”. Although, that does sound quite fun…

But no; this is an examination into how under-25s use email, the best way marketers can get through to them, and how marketers can learn to use technology in ways which will keep young people engaged.

Social media’s relentless growth and transformation of the way people – particularly young people – communicate, has had a clear effect on email marketing’s effectiveness. But by that we don’t mean that email itself is becoming less effective; we mean that effective email marketing has become rarer.

Good memories of email

It’s highly likely that the majority of people aged 25 and under have been using email for as long as they can remember. For many it would have been the first taste of the digital landscape that was still new to most adults – but this younger generation were born into it. Because of this, email still resonates with a younger audience when it comes to things they’re interested in, even if their personal communication methods have changed from email, phone calls and text messaging to social media and instant messages.

It’s for this reason that many marketing professionals have invested a lot of time and money into understanding how they can make their messages relevant to a younger audience. This demographic is crucial for countless industries, with travel, entertainment, food and drink, and fashion being just a few.

People aged 25 and under spend money. In fact, students – who make up around half of the UK youth population – contribute some £20 billion to the UK economy every year, according to the Guardian. The vast majority of students (84 per cent) head abroad, meaning travel companies, retailers selling holiday-related items, even bars and restaurants are using email marketing to get themselves in front of the young crowd.

The role of email for under-25s

The truth of the matter is that most young people don’t use email for personal reasons anymore; but then that’s not why you’re reading this blog anyway.

While Facebook messaging and Skype is popular for communicating with friends and family, email inboxes have been freed up almost exclusively for communications with brands. The daily channel use for teens (15-17) shows that 85 per cent of teens use email every day, and almost all (95 per cent) of young people who ‘like’ a brand on Facebook will also subscribe to their emails.
Who doesn’t love a special offer or a discount code, after all? Young people, students in particular, definitely do.

The best way of engaging

What do young people actually want from emails? Well, according to former Youth Insight Reports, they want material gain. Email marketers have to find a way for their brand to make life easier for their young recipients, or be entertained, rather than trying to start a conversation and be ‘friends’.

This goes against the entire email strategy of the brands that choose to go down a highly personal route, many of which have found great success. Personalisation in emails has been a big talking point among marketers for years, and while 37 per cent of people we interviewed called overly-familiar emails “deal breakers”, you have to discover for yourself which strategy works best for your brand – highly personalised or straight to the point.

It’s important for marketers to remember that why young people tend to have their brand-engagement fun on social media, and a conversation isn’t necessary, that doesn’t mean that emails should be bland. TBG Digital’s Jeremy Waite summarised Red Bull’s successful social strategy to the Guardian as: “50 per cent of people go online to waste time. So let’s give them some really cool [stuff] to do when they get there.” Marketers can apply this same attitude to their email work.

Use tech like teenagers

To build a really successful email campaign targeting under-25s these days, you need to make sure you’re using, building for, and testing on the same technology that they’re using. That means designing fun, engaging, and most importantly responsive email campaigns which your users can enjoy on all platforms.

Amanda Lenhart from the Pew Research Centre told that when teens think about how they use tech, they think: “How can I test and experiment and bend this thing to my will, and make it do what I want?”

This attitude is exclusive to young people – adults are equally fascinated by the manipulation of technology, and many of them work in marketing.

If you can engage with under-25s now, you might very well build a relationship with them that will carry on into their adulthood. Be relevant; make life easier for them; entertain them; get to the point; and offer them something cool. Then hope they’ll use your emails to do what both you and they want: make a purchase from your brand.