At the beginning of last month, bedding company DuPont, created a
media splash by identifying the latest 1990s style phenomenon ’The
A MORI telephone survey of 506 single women aged from 18 to 34, aimed
initially at finding out about seemingly mundane matters - such as
duvet-washing habits - actually discovered that a significant number of
women enjoy swilling beer, hunting for men in packs and rarely do any
While these findings can hardly have surprised anyone, the DuPont study
does underline the changes that are happening in the youth market
’In yer face’ blondes such as Ulrika Jonsson and Zoe Ball have become
media ’babes with attitude’ icons. Some of the implications of this
trend are rather worrying - such as excessive drinking - but there is no
doubt that single career girls are catching up with much of their male
counterpart’s behaviour and expectations.
Undoubtedly, football is a major driving force and last month’s World
Cup, a defining moment when women joined the cause with a passion. This
media obsession with females and football is now hard to ignore. ITV for
instance has promoted its new sitcom, Babes In The Wood, with its stars
Denise Van Outen and Samantha Janus strutting their stuff in the England
strip. Likewise, ITV Sport is to launch a new Saturday lunchtime
football slot fronted by ex-Sky Sports presenter Gabby Yorath.
But while the term ’ladette’ is somewhat derogatory, marketers are now
tuning in to the large number of young females, who want a good career,
demand a good time and have serious spending power. ’Over the past year
client briefs have changed’, says Talk Loud PR managing director Addie
Churchill. Talk Loud’s clients include Polygram Filmed Entertainment,
for whom it handled the blockbuster Godzilla.
’We used to be asked to target 18- to 25-year-old male opinion formers,
now increasingly we are seeing an even male, female split aimed at 18-
But if women really are adopting men’s hobbies and habits, how do you
tread the tightrope of retaining brands’ core male appeal, but with a
female spin? If women drink bottled lager because it is ’laddish’, they
will shy away from any feminising of the branding.
This year, Nintendo took steps to gain support outside the
male-dominated video games media, by joining forces with design label
Red or Dead for London Fashion Week. Fraser Butters who heads the
Nintendo account at Harvard PR says: ’By using realistic computer
generated images from Nintendo’s Top Gear Rally game, the Red or Dead
models glided down the catwalk to the backdrop of a high speed virtual
trip around the US.’
Similarly computer games software company Ocean has tied its Mission
Impossible puzzle game in with the rerun on Channel 4 of the original
1960s Mission Impossible series.
But while, the new ladette is a bonus for traditional male products such
as alcohol and cigarettes, uniquely female brands such as toiletries and
cosmetics also need to match up. The recently relaunched Boots 17
cosmetics range has tapped into the new female bravado by developing the
ad strap line ’It’s not make-up. It’s ammunition.’ Liz Pyrke, 17 PR
manager says: ’We position ourselves as the only cosmetics for girls
To make the older aggressive message more fun for its teenage audience,
17 has used PR activity such as a rampaging Lippy mobile, a two-tone
pink tank with a lipstick shaped gun. Launch-ed at the end of April,
this has been used for guerilla activity, such as gate-crashing road
shows to hand out free samples and goodie bags. Fronted by Denise Van
Outen, probably the ’safest’ media ladette icon, this initiative has
dramatically boosted sales.
But as the number of channels to reach the youth market grows, so does
the media literacy and cynicism of young people. It is no longer
acceptable to create a big bucks advertising campaign and wait for the
sales to come rolling in. All youth marketing activities have to be
relevant and credible.
Cigarette paper manufacturer Rizla, which has launched a range of subtly
branded female merchandise from earrings to girls’ underwear, has set up
a mobile cafe which is touring all the UK music and sports festivals
this year. Mike Mathieson, managing director of youth PR specialists FFI
who handles Rizla’s PR says: ’The idea evolved from the mud bath at last
year’s Glastonbury festival, where we realised people needed a place
where they could get a decent cup of coffee and chill out.’
In addition, non-competitive brands are realising the value and youth
credibility of working in partnership. This summer, Diesel clothing is
running ’Street Skate’ events once a month, outside key stores with
French bottled-water brand Evian, providing refreshment for the
Similarly, Evian is also working with Diesel, Rizla and Guinness on a
stage called Unification Square for this year’s Notting Hill
But in terms of creating the essential word of mouth that drives youth
trends, Evian has also undertaken some low key activity. This includes a
themed garden in a club in Leeds and a stainless steel waterfall at the
Fluid club in Manchester. Mathieson says: ’You have to integrate
activities rather than thrust them upon people. Evian is providing an
experience that adds to someone’s night out, which helps create a real
warmth for the brand.’
Now that club culture has reached its peak, in 1999 Evian is planning to
move on to bar culture, which it sees as the next big thing.
Indeed the past few years has seen retail bar chains such as All Bar One
make their outlets more attractive to women. Hugh Corbett, who founded
the Slug and Lettuce chain in the early 1980s, recently set up a new
venture, Tup Inns.
’We are offering a user-friendly, comfortable clean and spacious feel
good environment’, he says. ’So it’s a natural knock-on effect that the
outlets are more ’female-friendly’ than most.’ Established over two
years ago, more than 50 per cent of Tup Inns’ staff, including the
management are female. The decor includes elements that Corbett believes
are important to women such as fine art and fresh flowers and customers
have a clear view of goings-on in the kitchens.
In fact it seems that while many brands are cashing in on the media hype
of the ladette, those that address some of the more prosaic aspects of
women’s lives are achieving the best results. It is no coincidence that
Tesco is currently riding high in the supermarket stakes when measures
such as allocated parking spaces for women with babies actually do mean
’Every little helps’.
Likewise healthfood rest-aurant chain Cranks recently received a shot in
the arm by revamping its interiors and menus in response to women’s
demands for healthy food that tastes good. Many of the dishes are 95 per
cent fat-free and the takeaway packaging is bright and fun.
In fact, a recent audit of media sources aimed at 18- to 21-year-olds by
branding consultancy Interbrand Newell and Sorrell, shows that the idea
of the ladette is much more marketing than consumer led. Chris Cleaver,
head of brand innovation says: ’Currently, the ladette is a good
platform to reflect the feminising of society and the wider move to
identities being more fluid.’
In an age where technology such as the internet, increasingly allows an
individual to be who or what they want, brands and their messages are
moving the same way. The future it seems is unisex, with young people
keener to be idenitified by their tribal grouping rather than the
traditional gender divide.
LIFESTYLE CHOICE: Launching Urban Outfitters
In the US, lifestyle retailer Urban Outfitters has been in business for
over 20 years. However, as the company’s core audience is
individualistic 18- to 25-year-olds, it shuns any sort of advertising or
overt PR activity.
It claims to recognise that this market is smart enough to work out what
to do with a product without being told. In fact, despite having around
30 stores in the US, few Americans would recognise Urban as a retail
Aside from a small core range of products, each outlet is unique both in
look and the goods that it sells.
This year, Urban decided to export its shopping style to London’s
Kensington High Street. Alongside voodoo dolls, rubber chickens and
inflatable chairs, there is street wear, a coffee shop and a music shop
run by Ministry of Sound DJ, Jan Mehmet.
To position itself as ’subversive retail’, yet keep its identity fluid,
the company hired Red Rooster PR to handle the store’s opening on 4
’The company is very consumer-led, so wanted customers to discover Urban
for themselves, rather than receiving a set identity on a plate,’ says
Catherine Morris who oversees the account.
As a result, short news items were released to most of the media, but
only the Face, Vogue and the Independent had access to the full
To generate word of mouth and encourage shoppers to visit the store, Red
Rooster undertook some ’guerrilla’ PR activities. In the week leading up
to the opening, a fly-poster campaign was conducted in London’s
style-conscious districts, including Covent Garden, Soho and Notting
Hill and flyers were distributed to London’s top bars and clubs.
On the Saturday after the opening, Urban held a party for staff and key
guests in the vacant warehouse space above the store, sponsored by
leading youth brands such as Chupachups, Evian, and Cobra beer. The lack
of an official media launch gave the party added kudos, with journalists
jostling for invites.
Since opening, the store has become increasingly popular and looks set
to live up to its US image, described by the Wall Street Journal as ’The
Gap’s evil twin’.
BALANCING ACT: Selling tradition to trendsetter
As youth is no longer about age, but state of mind, brands that rely on
quality and tradition now need to target younger markets. Women
especially, want to buy quality goods as just rewards for working hard.
But how do brands target this new market without selling out on their
But, to hold onto core brand loyalties while attracting a new younger
market, most big names create different levels of merchandise. Fashion
designers favour ready-to-wear ranges or subtly branded accessories such
as cuff links, belts and bags to enable more customers to buy in.
Family-owned Italian fashion house Ferragamo, started out by
hand-crafting shoes for stars such as Joan Crawford and Gloria Swanson.
Today the company makes scarves, bags and ties, and is about to launch
its own fragrance.
Recently, to pull in a younger audience, the label introduced products
such as a pink inflatable ’lilo’ bag. Likewise, its ready-to-wear ladies
range includes combat trousers and shift dresses. Jenny Phillips who
heads the label’s PR team at Aurelia PR says: ’Ferragamo has developed
an identity that appeals to the likes of the ’It’ girls, but at the same
time does not alienate the loyal base of older customers.’
Chanel, the French fashion, fragrance and cosmetics house revealed last
month that it is considering initiatives, which have not yet been
unveiled, to make its brand more appealing to a younger market.
The reasoning behind this is two-fold. Firstly, its perfumes have been
losing ground sales-wise to fragrances aimed specifically at the youth
market, such as Calvin Klein’s cKone. Secondly, it is well aware that
those who can only afford a small piece of the Chanel ’experience’ may
well one day afford to buy its suits and handbags.
Increasingly, PR agencies are launching new services for these top of
the range clients needing to target new audiences. In March, Talk Loud
PR set up Talk Luxury, following its involvement with top London tailors
40 Savile Row, who now offer bespoke tailoring to women. Everybody it
seems wants to clinch a bit of the new found female pound, from
jewellers to travel companies.
While not specifically targeting women, over the past four years car
manufacturer Volvo has been moving its key values of family, reliability
and safety onto fun, fashion and performance. Its latest C70 model, is a
joint venture with Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) and comes as both a coupe and
’We have not walked away from what we had before, but we wanted to
appeal to a modern and younger market.’ says Volvo Car UK public affairs
manager, Roger Ormisher.
MARKET RESEARCH: Experience can equal understanding
The youth market is notoriously fluid and fickle. As styles and
attitudes change, so a whole new generation of 15-year-olds enter the
equation each year. In addition, ’oldies’ at the other end of the scale
continue to hold onto their youthful past, while taking on more
traditional responsibilities from career moves to children.
So amid this confusion, how do youth marketers keep up to speed on what
is really happening in the market place? Where does an ageing
20- to-30-something professional turn to understand the attitudes of a
16-year-old All Saints fan or football freak?
Traditionally, research has been the key. Through questionnaires and
discussion groups, brands have sought to understand the perceptions of
their target audiences. The tracking study Roar, for instance,
commissioned by the likes of Kiss FM, advertising agency BMP and
Guardian Newspapers has followed over 1,000 15- to 24-year-olds for the
past three years.
To date this has identified eight youth sub-cultures, ranging from
’Cooling Britannias’ - jaded clubbers and pubbers - to ’New Modernists’
- free spirited trend setters.
Recently however, a new generation of youth marketing specialists has
started to question this approach. Instead, they are advocating the use
of ’translators’, such as DJs, clubbers and journalists, who are
actually living the youth scene. At its most extreme, this entails
strategic input into campaigns from the 19-year-old clubber working in
But even as a cultural signpost, this method is fraught with
’Experience is definitely a fantastic measure,’ says Alison Hall, head
of planning and research at the Guardian. ’But the youth market is not a
homogenous one, so one person’s lifestyle can only add flesh to the
bones of what you already know.’ However, where she thinks research can
fall down is in its ability to relate to respondents. She says Roar
avoids this problem in its qualitative work, by using the suit-free,
youth specialist research agency, Murmur.
But for a really sharp picture of the market, the best approach is
almost certainly a combination of good research, translators who drive
market changes and experience.
Mike Mathieson of FFI, takes clients, such as Nike and SmithKline
Beecham on weekend trips to ’do’ the youth scene of cities such as
Bristol and Manchester.
Similarly, as FFI handles PR for many of the UK’s music festivals,
Mathieson thinks it is a real eye-opener for clients to attend events
such as this year’s V98 at Leeds and Cheltenham, although he admits: ’I
stay in a nice comfortable hotel down the road.’