‘OK Boomer’: what marketers can learn about talking to teens

This piece from our Social Media Manager Laaiqah Aslam, first appeared in The Drum.

Were you born between 1946 and 1964? Been burned by a teenager slinging ‘OK Boomer’ at you? If not, just wait. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s the meme equivalent of a shrug and an eye-roll, predominantly used by the under 30s and directed at their older ‘Boomer’ counterparts. The point, broadly, is to show how out of touch Boomers are with the issues plaguing younger generations. 

OK Boomer – which has been around for a while but really took off on TikTok this year – is a reflection of a generation that’s fed up of being told what to do and what to think. That if they cut out the smashed avo, they could afford to buy a house – never mind that the average house price to earnings ratio makes ownership a pipe dream for most.

And it’s an important lesson for marketers too, particularly when it comes to digital channels, where social media gives people of all ages the ability to make themselves heard. So – what can we learn from the OK Boomer meme and how it should impact marketing to a younger audience? Here’s a few key points. 

Make no assumptions 

The meme has evolved from the fact that young people feel they’re not being listened to or taken seriously. Marketers looking to reach them need to really understand what they want, not make assumptions. Thorough research, social listening, getting under the skin of your audience is essential. Don’t assume you know what they want to see from your brand. 

Embrace feedback 

Likewise, this is a generation that feels dismissed. If you’re on the wrong end of negative feedback, don’t ignore it (or worse, delete it). Respond, take it on board, and do so in an open and transparent manner. Show that you’re willing to admit you got it wrong and make the changes necessary to put things right. 

Relinquish some creative control 

It’s no surprise that younger generations are more handy with their smartphones than Boomers. So, sometimes it’s best to let young people do what they’re good at. We’ve worked with Fanta on a number of Halloween-focused campaigns aimed at teens, and they’ve always involved letting the audience use their own creative skills, especially on platforms like Snapchat; the freedom of self expression can be powerful.

Champion imperfection 

Memes like OK Boomer are fun, they’re rough around the edges. Teens like this sense of not trying to hard – this has always been the case, probably since time began. Despite the fact it’s become an awful buzzword, authenticity is key. It’s OK for younger audiences if things look a bit rough around the edges, in fact, it’s often better that they do. Embrace imperfection – as long as it’s (sorry) authentic. 

Don’t take yourself too seriously 

‘OK Boomer’ can also be directed at self righteous idiots (ref: Piers Morgan). When you’re trying to talk to teens, don’t preach. Have a bit of fun, be self deprecating, if it works for you. Don’t assume you have all the answers or know what’s best.