The Content Imperative
The latest on content marketing strategy, insights and trends
Image source: Chipolte

How brands are using stories to tug on youth’s heart strings

| 23 July 2015

Oh the innocence of youth. Those carefree, fanciful days when dreams weren't confined to sleep. Unshackled from the daily-grind, untarnished by life's rocky roads, the minds of the young are thirsty for learning, hungry for knowledge and easily bruised. Age sadly hardens us all. As we navigate the intricacies and delicacies of life, potholes and craters appear. But for now, I want you to remember how it felt to be the younger-you.

Impress and Imprint

The freedom of youth affords the luxury of self-righteousness. Armed with optimism, youngsters aspire to make a difference. Impressionable and trusting, yet woefully unforgiving they're tomorrow's entrepreneurs, chief executives, scientists and creatives. In a nutshell: the young are the influencers of the future, so it’s time to start influencing them.

For brands the youth audience can be your greatest fans or your biggest foes. Get them on side and they could be friends for life. Upset them, and they may never look back. Our recent research shows:

  • 84% of 18 to 24 year olds want to hear brands telling stories, and they want these tales to be funny, dramatic, inspirational or heart-warming.

  • More than half (59%) of 18 to 24 years olds want to be inspired through real-life tales of regular people.

Wisdom of Youth

Resonating with this emotionally charged sector of the population means producing impactful content that's funny, inspirational or heart-warming. The youth audience want to feel something, so immerse them in compelling stories of real-life people, or use witty anecdotes to make them laugh. As you well know they're a tech-savvy bunch of wiz-kids so produce articles, videos, infographics and images that are easily shareable across all social media platforms.

The youth audience care about the world around them, so showcase any activity that helps make the world a better place or our lives a little happier. Whether it's charitable donations, planting trees, sustainable sourcing, or fun events -- share it. Moreover, they want to be part of the dialogue so engage with them, interact and ask them questions. Show them they matter, that their opinion counts and their voice is being heard.

Here are four brands doing just that:


The Mexican food chain never misses an opportunity to spark debate on industrial farming, sustainability and animal welfare. Its video series, "Farmed and Dangerous," uses humour to convey serious messaging around the issue of large-scale versus small-scale farming.  In its "Back to The Start" campaign it celebrated the ethical sourcing of meat. Crucially, the company is transparent on its own activities and it practises what it preaches, banning the use of antibiotics in the animals it buys and working with ranchers to develop rigorous welfare standards. And it makes sure we all know.

Nike: Make It Count

At the turn of 2012, Nike started a campaign featuring top U.K. athletes setting their pledges for the year ahead, and inspiring others to join the rally by announcing their own goals via #makeitcount. They asked two filmmakers to produce a video. Unexpectedly the duo nabbed the cash and took-off on a 10-day trip around the world, an adventure of a lifetime and true to the brief. The video (that's had more than 14 million views on Youtube) urged consumers to think about what "making it count" means to them, spurring them to #findgreatness, and achieve the impossible. The campaign strives to depict that anything is possible, striking the perfect chord with the millennial generation that are out to conquer the world.

Innocent: Chain of Good

Innocent uplifts and inspires with its "Chain of Good" campaign where it showcases a snowballing of events that starts the second you crack open that smoothie and take a swig. Bursting with nourishment, the fruity delights not only make your insides glow with goodness, but they spark a whole chain of goodness across the world. The brand uses humorous videos to show the important contributions it makes to charity using a portion of the money you spend on its smoothies. This plays perfectly to millennials morals, showing how a small investment from them can make the world a better place.

Johnson & Johnson: #Seetherealme

This skincare brand is encouraging girls to not to be afraid of who they really are. On its website it showcases skincare tips, “how-to” guides and videos of young people opening up on what gives them confidence and makes them smile. Johnson & Johnson has also forged relationships with influential young bloggers to document video reviews of their products. Millennials are urged to share their stories across social media using #SeeTheRealMe.  By tapping into its customers the company has created a network of young people that inspire each other to share their stories, making them feel their voice is being heard and that the brand really cares.