Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Marketing to youth: Part 3: PARTICIPATION

Today we’re going to analyze Participation, Part Three of our series on Marketing to Youth.

I am lazy. I love being lazy. That’s part of the reason why this blog post is a few hours delayed tonight! Youth are lazy about a lot of things. Don’t misconstrue it as apathy, just consider it to be the antithesis of other very intense relationships that youth have for things that interest them. So if I’m not actively engaged in something that excites me, stimulates me, or challenges me, it’s easy to see why I might be dragging my feet.

For marketers, activating youth on things that interest them really does depend on giving them opportunities for participation. It’s not good enough anymore to focus on the traditional facets of CRM-based marketing: name, address, age, and gender. Youth are complex individuals and binary variables in some database do not accurately reflect the mosaic of their interests, attributes, and consumer actions.

Don’t ever think that “relationship-marketing” should continue to mean culling consumer mailing segments from a master list and sending each person direct mail with their correct name and address. This is far too simple to be the norm for an actively consuming demographic which feels comfortable opening up to marketers. Encouraging a dual communication strategy in relationship-marketing – based on actively listening and responding to individual consumer voices – is essential to intensify relationships and retain consumers.

And youth will love it.

Seriously. When has a Gen Y not shown an ability to speak their mind? To create something individual? To put their stamp of approval on something? Remember, this is a generation raised by parents that pushed excellence and socialization on kids at a very early age. Giving feedback comes naturally to us.

So let’s call this the “Participation Motivation”. It’s a need to be heard and to be responded to. To be liked and to be given the right rewards. It’s also the cause of a really strong affinity for deep personal interests. For example, I write this blog because I have a strong personal interest in building my brand. We previously discussed Lovemarks and the same guiding principles apply: Gen Y is hardly apathetic about things that interest them and will wax lyrical on brands, issues, people, media, or things that are meaningful to them. Often this is satisfied by forms of creative expression.

And here’s where marketers come in. The good campaigns realize how the concept of ‘participation’ has evolved from providing census-style information to providing first-person insight into their relationship with a brand. It’s like a mass form of focus group research. I really admire the brands which have been able to activate consumers to create ads and commercials for them. It’s terrific word-of-mouth marketing and gets people to reflect on why they are close to a brand. I like to think that this brand reflection mirrors Maslow’s self-actualization stage in the hierarchy of needs!

Who encourages participation: Nike, Obama, Radiohead (first they release the In Rainbows album for free online, then they have a contest for who can create the best music video for each of the songs. Watch the terrific user-gen video for ‘Reckoner’. Great strategy.)

Watch more cool animation and creative cartoons at aniBoom

And remember this Super Bowl ad for Tide-to-Go? A consumer created it.

Nick Haley, an Apple fan, created a video commercial for the release of the iPod Touch, it achieved traction on YouTube, and the Apple team actually brought him in and produced his commercial. Impressive!

Who does not encourage participation: Rogers Wireless (how exactly can I develop my relationship with them on a more cerebral level…?), many apparel retailers actually (there’s limited brand development beyond perceptional massaging through mass ads and in-store experience. Room for much more experiential marketing that involves consumer participation)

Youth really do love the brands that are meaningful to them. They’ll engage with those brands in unique and varied ways, for example, adding “Ford Mustang” as a friend on one’s Facebook page….not to suggest anything…

Participation is critical and must be present in every touchpoint with youth consumers. It doesn’t matter whether they love you or hate you – it’s important to get feedback from this vocal and quick-thinking group.

Tomorrow we will examine relevance, my favourite of the four key aspects of marketing to youth.

1 comment:

Ana said...

And I quote, "For example, I write this blog because I have a strong personal interest in building MY brand." Are we forgetting that is called the "Bright Ideas Group Blog", not the "Max Billings" blog? No doubt this is a great platform for self-promotion, but might you not like to be a tad more discreet?