Kathy O’Meara looks at the teen market, a valued group of consumers so hard to influence they make the Scarlet Pimpernel appear more ubiquitous than David Beckham
Intangible, impervious, intransigent – positively incorporeal, getting a marketing message to today’s elusive 15-24 age group requires a skill set of Leviathan complexity. Some marketers are now said to be employing young people in the belief that they will benefit from their unique insight into this frustratingly elusive demographic.
Others are tentatively treading into unchartered territories such as guerrilla marketing, website avatars, celebrity endorsement or SMS text messaging, with variable results.
Marie Diver of Universal McCann, who buys media for X-Box, said 15-24 year old, advertising-savvy adults are a challenge to reach with effective communications both in media terms and creatively. They are fickle consumers of traditional media and tend to be out and about. As they are lighter users of TV, it proves more expensive to reach them.
Diver said that up to recently, there was little by way of radio station choices for this audience, but now the likes of Spin, Beat and Red FM fill the void. In print there are few Irish titles targeting this audience. While cinema still proves to be the effective channel for reaching youths, digital is the only media that is showing real growth, Diver added.
So what are the problems in targeting the new social paradigm? What distinguishes the 2007 dude from the nineties troglodyte? Easy, more leisure options. Social networking sites Bebo, MySpace, Facebook and YouTube have changed the teen mediascape.
Add into the mix electronics which further eat into downtime and compete for attention - Gameboys, PSPs, X-Boxes; there is the time spent podcasting, blogging and texting. So all of this results in a schism twixt audience and message delivery.
Time poverty. The final wave of Decode research highlighted lack of downtime, mainly because of high levels of employment and this is a big concern. Forecasts projecting that Irish youth will move from being a volume market to a premium market have been right.
Cynicism. A recent study conducted for Permanent TSB/Foróige indicated that celebrities, popstars and rich people have far more influence than parents (surprise!), teachers, or community activists. Teens choose not to trust traditional media and can sniff out a product placement or celebrity endorsement a mile off.
Singularity. Successful marketing has become more niche, more personal. Advertising to the masses now translates as recognising the need to advertise to a number of individuals.
Fickleness. What’s ‘cool’ today is ‘so not cool’ tomorrow. ‘Twas ever thus, but the pace of change, driven largely by the ‘want it, have it now’ nature of today’s cash rich, consumerist society, makes successful teen marketing hard work.
So how to capture the attention of the intangible teen? A wise agency guru once commented ‘If you can figure out the secrets to word of mouth marketing you’ve got it made.’ In Buzzmarketing, Mark Hughes says that unusual marketing makes its way into pop culture and gives brands currency. He identifies six ‘buttons’ of buzzmarketing (or getting people to talk about a product or company):
Taboo (sex, lies, toilet humour)
Secrets (both kept and revealed)
Hughes says the ‘influencers’ are key to achieving marketing goals, citing the name change of Halfway, Oregon to half.com to promote the fledgling dotcom start-up. Success in convincing the residents was only achieved when local students became involved – at the paltry cost of ‘limited edition’ t-shirts and some quality time. Most of the students told their parents “these half-com guys are cool”. They turned out to be the biggest influencers. Six months later - and without spending a dime on advertising or marketing - the company was sold to eBay for $300 million.
Malcolm Gladwell, in the seminal The Tipping Point, agrees, by introducing the concept of certain ordinary people who are natural pollinators - busy bees driving word-of-mouth. A visible examples of this on our shores is the wildfire uptake of ‘Dubes’ (Dubarry loafers) among schoolchildren across various age, social and geographical spectra.
Jay Abraham’s The Guerrilla Marketing Revolution identifies the draw of offering incentives to young adults such as opt-in only email carrying discounts and cinema tickets. By inviting consumers into a two-way dialogue with a brand via mobile, say for free, exclusive content, the rewards can prove significant.
The social tension within the intangible teen bracket is the need to belong to a peer group while at the same time struggling to be individual. It is reflected in youths consumption behaviours and attitudes to media and marketing.
As mobile is a permission-based medium these consumers have opted - in from word go, so they are already receptive to the message. Simpl. Go gt d teens.
Vodafone ran a campaign in the UK based on Alex Comfort’s popular Seventies sex guide, The Joy of Sex. Using the Joy of Text theme, the idea was to help make the brand a network of choice for students. Print ads were run on university campuses and were backed by a microsite where students could win two VW camper vans.
Kathy O'Meara (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a director of MediaRepublic
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