Different world — targeting today's technology-savvy youth market, by Merlin Stone
At the end of 2001, I wrote about communicating with younger customers. Since then, I've been working with Ian Spero — of youth marketing agency Spero Communications — to develop some ways of helping big brands understand and approach this demographic group. We've been helped in this by Martin Lindstrom's new book, BrandChild, which amongst other things documents an enormous global research project focusing on 8-12 year olds — the "tweens".
The book reveals not only how much these younger customers spend, but also how much they influence their parents in some way; they affect the choice in 67% of parental brand purchases. It also documents the incredible amount of time they spend in front of a screen and their familiarity with new media: 50% go online daily while 83% of texts are sent by 13-19 year-olds. It describes how these technologies have created new communities, a world where millions view time spent in the real world as a necessary evil to earn time and money for the virtual world. Most importantly for us, young people have made up in speed of communication what they have lost in creativity. They learn about brands and what their friends think of them faster than they ever did before.
The conclusion we have reached is that the gap between marketing as we know it and what is needed to succeed in the youth market is widening. While teens may aspire to be young adults, this does not mean that they want to buy what adults buy. Their buying is strongly influenced by peer group pressure and internally defined values rather than flash gadgets such as WAP.
For example, many young people say that they have nowhere to hang out, as public spaces in the real world are carved up and given over to private interests. Security and privacy are not guaranteed. So they create an online world, which allows them to create and sustain short or long-term relationships in chat sites, role-playing games or 3D virtual cities. Marketers are realising that locating in, investing in and building tween and teen communities does more for product uptake than expensive launches. Rather than the marketers, tweens and teens need to do the talking and be the messengers.
"Marketers need to focus on how young people
The proposition, from product through to payment, needs to play a credible part in a different world. It may need to be offered in a different (virtual) place, one that allows communities to discuss it just as they would in a real place.
Is this all real? Well, BrandChild says it's starting to happen and representatives of leading brands who came to a seminar we ran in February confirmed it. If you feel that all this is passing you by, it's probably because you're simply too old.
This month's column is reproduced with kind permission from Database Marketing, April 2003.