Thursday, August 28, 2008

Marketing to youth: Part 4: RELEVANCE


Relevance is the name of the game today in our five part series of youth marketing best practices.

You know those songs we have in our iPods that are really embarrassing and we don’t really share with anyone? Well, mine came on shuffle today, Hilary Duff’s “Wake Up”…so as I laughed and strutted my way home I reflected about Hilary Duff.

Where has she gone? What has she even done lately? It really does seem like she vanished off the face of the planet. The somewhat ephemeral nature of popstars is not particularly new or earth-shattering, but it is a useful context for tonight’s topic. Teens cultivate a remarkable bond with bands, celebrities, clothing styles, and friends, and then just as easily drop them from their folio of favourites. Record companies have encouraged and played to this fickleness and churn and prepare their next star far in advance of their fifteen minutes.

How does one explain this churn in youth consumer attitudes? It’s because new things become relevant in their lives. Like the Kirk and Spock performing a slingshot maneuver around the sun in a Klingon Bird of Prey in an attempt to go back in time in Star Trek IV, the Voyage Home (see minute 1:40…!), youth frequently can have a very strong attraction and repulsion from consumer brands. This is natural and all based on relevance.



When Gen Ys like something, it is strongly based on how relevant it is to their lives and its fit within the context of their other interests. Relevance implies a meaningfulness to me and an compatibility of my own values with those of the thing. For example:

  • Obama is relevant to me because we share the same opinion of certain issues
  • Triscuit crackers are relevant to me because they’re not made with trans fat and I am careful about what I eat
  • Applying for graduate school bursaries is relevant to me because I am desperate for cash during a time when I have no income!

In marketing, relevance is therefore highly intertwined with the explicit (spoken) and implicit (assumed) values of the brand. To appeal to youth, these must be easily communicated and the relevance to them made singularly clear.

Experiential marketing is actually a useful technique in which to analyze relevance as a factor for marketing to youth. Consumer experiences are rich, holistic brand moments in which the individual plays the lead role. This form of marketing is effective to convey relevance because it hits the consumer at a moment they have actively opted-in to. A simple example: you try a potato chip sample in the grocery store because you want to. You’re likelihood to actually buy those chips is now much higher because of your active role in the environment of the grocery store. Compare your likelihood to buy the chips if you sampled them in-store versus on the street outside of a subway entrance – a situation that is irrelevant to the act of eating junk food.

Last year’s Virgin Festival provides some useful examples of experiential marketing being widely utilized as a way to drive home relevance of the brand to the target market. The psychological equation goes: ‘I am attending the Virgin Festival, General Motors is also attending the Virgin Festival, therefore GM is relevant to me and the context I’m in’. The same logic applies to why brands will sponsor bands or tv shows. It associates your interest for that band or show to the brand itself.

Here’s Virgin Mobile:



And xBox:



And Energizer:



…wow, look at that line. I actually played this last year at the Festival and won a beach ball!

But relevance must mean more than just making sure that the brand message hits the right themes and notes with the audience. It must also mean more than being present in situations where the consumer has a higher perceptual tuning to the message you’re selling (the grocery store, the Virgin Festival…). The biggest opportunity for relevance to be increased in youth marketing comes from leveraging the power of CRM programs. Building these out to a level of sophistication that captures varied forms of activity and interaction that youth may have with a brand is absolutely essential. Consider the profile of a the following young man who loves Axe bodyspray (otherwise known as glorified Glade air freshener for armpits):

  • Purchases two cans on sale at Shoppers and swipes his Optimum card at the register
  • Goes online to enter promotional codes from the cans he just bought on a special Axe microsite
  • Watches a clip on the microsite and send it to his friends through a form on the microsite
  • Enters a contest through his phone and participates in a viral MMS campaign for Axe

So this guy’s obviously avid, but consider the tremendous marketing potential of all the data that was collected. The frequency, the overall spend, the logins and online referrals, the multiple touchpoints now captured for this one guy…not to mention the shopping cart data collected and owned by SDM through his swipe of the Optimum card. (SDM can sell direct mailing and merchandising opportunities to Axe based on the collection of this in-store individual consumer data)

As discussed yesterday in relation to participation, CRM programs has the ability to integrate complex patterns of consumer activity and match this to existing demographic fields. The psychological profiling is limitless.

Very scary, yes, but the good news? With all the data we give up daily into the consumer world, we’re making it easier for marketers to hit us with messages that are relevant and meaningful. Marketing is no longer mass. As Tony Chapman states, it has moved ‘from mass to mind’, underscoring the greater emphasis on personalized marketing specific to each consumer.

Relevance must be a strong part of any campaign for youth. Relevant marketing campaigns stay in the consumer’s hands and mind longer than generic ads and are great methods of deepening a preexisting relationship. Although youth are highly skeptical and dismissive of marketing which can be too cloying and sycophantic for their personal information, they do respond to marketing that recognizes their unique individuality.

Tomorrow we will examine the fifth and final youth marketing best practice, uniqueness.


1 comment:

Joe said...

God insights, thanks. Also, I think that Star Trek 4 is the best TOS cast movie of all of them, good call.