Marketing Strategies and Appealing to Today’s Youth

By: Chase Wichman


There is a popular trend in today’s world that the automotive industry is aiming its marketing campaigns at younger drivers when people of this age are not necessarily the ones who will be purchasing these products. Well, not for a while anyway. There have been many articles written about the specific age groups that the advertisements are directed towards and the age groups of the people who actually purchase these new cars.

The Past vs. the Present

When comparing the marketing industry from 10 years ago and from today, the automotive industry created its advertisements for completely different reasons. In 2003, New York Times author Robert Strauss wrote an article about this exact discussion. He says in his article that the automotive industry was not exactly trying to focus its advertisements on the younger generation, in order to motivate younger people to buy new cars, but instead to create younger and more “hip” commercials so that the older groups of people who actually do buy new cars, feel younger and in turn buy one car over another. In 2013, New York Times author and journalist, Stuart Elliot, says that nothing

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has changed in terms of the age group that the automotive marketing industry is geared towards and that in the past few years, more and more cars are being purchased by younger and younger people but that as of recently, younger people do not have their eyes set on new cars anymore and instead would rather allocate their money to the newest touch screen phone or video games console.  


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The key concept when looking at car advertisements is to examine the ways that they are written. They are constructed in such a way that the car companies want to make sure that they leave a lasting impression on the consumer either for the time being or for the future. As seen in a study over what works in the youth market, it is seen that “the literature highlights various factors critical to the success of youth social marketing campaigns.” It goes on to say that the “evidence for these success factors was strong and consistent” across the varieties used such as “use of creative private sector-based marketing strategies; use of multiple channels to increase exposure; and addressing public policy in addition to individual behavior.”


Specifically relating to the Volkswagen add about the Darth Vader kid and how everyone can relate to this ad because majority of the population of the US has seen or at least know who Darth Vader is and what the Force can be used to do. This appeal’s on a personal level, to both young teens and ad

The Force Volkswagen Commercial-0

The Force Volkswagen Commercial-0

ults. The young teens see the child in the commercial as cute and can relate because they see themselves in the kid as their childhood was a more recent memory. It also appeals to older generations who have may have kids and know how creative and imaginative they are as the father in the commercial helps the kid out by using new technology by Volkswagen to turn the car on wirelessly. Everything that occurs in the 1 minute and 2 second commercial leaves a lasting memory on the viewer, young or old, and this is what Volkswagen has hoped of achieving so that in the far future, for teens, they will invest their money in a new Volkswagen and for the near future for adults they will do the same.


If college freshman were to enter into the field of writing for car commercials and ads that they should keep in mind that if you target the younger age group, you can appeal to both young and older generations because everyone was young once but not everyone has been old. It is also important to keep in mind the advancements in technology, especially social networking. Social networking has become such a large part of young people lives that most people are checking their online profiles on a day to day basis. This is a crucial observation because social networking sites can be gold mines for advertising agencies. As Elliot states in his article, “A Safety-First Message Aimed at Getting More Youths Behind the Wheel,” an example of “youth-centric initiative is Toyota’s decision to buy, for the first time, advertising space in Teen Vogue magazine.” It can be seen in this example that this type of advertising is almost ground-breaking as it is specifically directed towards teens. He also ads that Scion, Toyota’s youth focused brand, is starting to take ‘a very subtle selling approach’ by ‘creating a lot of content like documentary-style films and free music’ and having it available for free on their website. College freshmen can learn from tactics like these to help them further their marketing abilities.  

Further Analysis

On top of carefully studying examples of other marketing companies and examples, future marketing candidates should also consider researching studies done over the subject. Specifically, studies that focus on exactly how ads are written, and how to get the most effect out of the ad and the most response from the buyers. It can be seen in the study done by Jouise Thornley and Kate Marsh titled, “What Works in Social Marketing to Young People?” that “a group of recent social marketing campaigns have been successful in achieving reported adolescent behavior change” dealing specifically with tobacco use, marijuana use, physical activity and sexual health. What they found is that ad campaigns that fight against these topics have proven to have positive effects especially on smoking and working out rates which have changed between 18% up to 40%. Studies such as this one are extremely useful because these scientists have taken the time to put together statistics on the way people respond to certain ideas or subjects which can be further integrated into applying it into the marketing campaigns in order to achieve maximum effectiveness over competitors.


Thornley, Louise, and Kate Marsh. What Works in Social Marketing to Young People?. working paper., Health Research Council of New Zealand, 2010. final.pdf.

Strauss, Robert. "Marketing; Appealing to the Youth, Selling to the Not-So- Young." The New York Times, October 22, 2003. youth-selling-to-the-not-so-young.html (accessed April 9, 2014).

Elliot, Stuart. "A Safety-First Message Aimed at Getting More Youths Behind the Wheel." The New York Times, March 28, 2013. campaign-focuses-on-young-drivers.html?_r=0 (accessed April 8, 2014).