As the world becomes smaller, thanks to mobile technology, today’s young consumers are becoming more savvy and informed about companies and brands, and more resistant and sceptical towards marketing messages. And yet both local and multinational marketing companies find they need to target this demographic more than ever. The question is, how do they get inside the minds of the youth in a genuine way? This is where Ian Calvert’s company, Instant Grass, comes to the fore. He says the company recruits and collaborates with a carefully selected network of urban informers - 'grasses', in popular vernacular - who act as a source of insight and market intelligence into youth lifestyles. Ian points out that the grasses feed their insights into a proprietary, Web-based management system, from which the information is then interpreted and packaged to solve clients’ challenges. He adds that the business has grasses in major cities in SA and across Africa. This is critical, he explains, since the youth market is the largest and fastest growing demographic segment in all developing markets. With these markets now the new focus for major multinational brands, their traditional research companies have struggled to connect with the right consumers. Instant Grass, on the other hand, has invested heavily in Web and mobile technology, allowing the company to stay close to the ground and work with grasses in markets far beyond SA. Looking to the future, Ian says he is seeking international partnerships that will give the company a presence in key emerging and developed markets, most notably the Americas, Asia and Europe, thereby allowing the business to service its current multinational clients in many more markets.