Friday, August 29, 2008

Marketing to youth: Part 5: UNIQUENESS

It goes without saying that effective marketing to youth is both unique and impactful. In fact, youth are perhaps the audience who demands uniqueness the most in their advertising because of the competing sources for their attention, their dynamic multiuse of media, and their relative low tolerance for pithy, info-focused messages. Hit them hard and hit them fast. As my co-blogger and fellow B!G Executive, Olga, wrote in her previous post, if you can also make them laugh, then awesome!

As I’ve introduced in previous posts in this series on marketing to youth, uniqueness is rooted in Gen Y’s strong sense of individuality. Bland or generic brands simply have no place in the spectrum of bold designs and transparent, authentic company values. This was the problem, among others, faced by The Gap at the end of the 90s when customers began to fall out of favour with the unoffensive blue and white style that the store was so well known for. Gap became dull and quickly lost touch with changing consumer trends. There was nothing to make its brand voice unique and identifiable among the din raised by all other casual apparel retailers.

In comparison to the other youth marketing best practices which we’ve analyzed here – transparency, participation, and relevance – uniqueness stands out as being perhaps the most uncontrollable and challenging to master. How do you inform a brand manager how to come up with a witty zinger subject line in the email? How do you suggest a standout call to action in an experiential marketing campaign when it has never been attempted by the brand before and there’s no basis for determining whether it will prove to be a success.

Uniqueness is a gamble.

It’s a risk that brands must take to show that they can be unconventional and hip, while also retaining the legacy aspects of the brands values that appeal to the demographic. Condom manufacturers (from Europe) have always seemed to excel at this:

A real standout though - and I seriously wish I could find an embeddable clip to show - is, a microsite created specifically for a HP laptop contest. MacLaren Momentum, a Canadian promo agency created it and integrated the online campaign with some pretty scary tv spots that are currently running on Much and MTV Canada. Great ads that immediately capture one’s attention and pique interest. Why? Because they’re unique and unlike other sales ads for electronics and back to school shopping.

Although not specifically targeted to youth, another famous commercial from HP stands out and perfectly conveys the simplicity of the ‘click and print’ message:

Also clever is this from Guinness, too bad it didn’t show here:

But uniqueness from the Gen Y perspective implies originality as much as any twist, pun, and memorable tagline. Sure, your spot is quirky or obscene…but has it been done before and been overplayed too much? Marketers’ zeal to have a commercial or campaign out the door with a zippy message can sometimes do more harm than good if that message has been diluted and worn out in the consumer’s mind. Enough already with the Telus animals and the Rogers Wireless teenagers on summer vacation. Go home, Abercrombie, with your intimidating abdominals and idealized WASPy lifestyle. No one lives like that!

…I wish my high school experience was like that…so full of beauty and boredom. Suddenly I feel like I’m not wearing enough pointless dogtag chains. And stop trying to pay homage to the semi-nude B&W style of photography of Herb Ritts:

Being derivative and unoriginal can only get a brand so far with a young audience. Gen Ys crave creativity and novelty. New content, media, or ideas all resonate with the ring of a tuning fork to young consumers’ ears. Repetitive messages and different plays of the same game really are unsustainable brand strategies that do nothing to push the brand forward in new directions and build itself a new avid base of customers.

Being unique is a great quality. You stand apart and can assuredly state that your values and message is your own. For marketers that’s a golden ideal in brand building and it’s a moral that youth consumers live by.

So there it is, the best practices for youth marketing. It has to be transparent, participative, relevant, and unique. Hit all these, with a little bit of luck, and some magic pixie dust, and you'll have an effective campaign that stands out and still builds the brand.

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