Wednesday, December 24, 2008

43 Ways to Engage Gen-Y and Youth Culture

Brands connecting to Gen-Y and Youth Culture(photo by Zabowski)

This year I have immersed myself in learning, studying and working on awesome projects that involve youth and Gen-Y marketing. Every company wants a piece of this market and their supreme buying power and spending habits. The number will vary and always changes depending on where you get the stats from, but somewhere to the tune of 5.5 million Gen-Y's and $50 billion a year is where we stand to make our mark in the world. That's not a bad crowd to hang with!

Working with large, small and "just right" brands and talking with many others I thought I'd lend some thoughts as to how to engage with this crowd through marketing, Social Media and branding endeavors as you focus on your 2009 plans and initiatives. It's also a good year end kinda post or wrap up of things that I have learned throughout the year. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

  1. When getting into Social Media, have a reason to get into it. It's not for every business and that is ok.
  2. Do not interrupt what Gen-Y is already doing.
  3. Create a product that is truly amazing and unique. Or one that is better and shinier than your competition.
  4. When creating your web site, remember the people who are going to read it, and look at it and have to figure out how to navigate it.
  5. Know that if it is a trend, it is not a branding strategy, but rather something that will have a short shelf life.
  6. If it's a trend and you are just realizing it, you missed it. Let it go and look for something else.
  7. Don't look for the next trend, create the next trend. Don't make Myspace 2, make Twitter.
  8. Don't be the Zune and play catch up, find an iPod and let people catch up to you.
  9. As soon as they come close to catching up, create the iPhone and kick everyone else in the balls.
  10. Hire people that care about your brand. They are your advocates first and foremost. If they hate your clothes, products, etc how can they turn a window shopper into a fan?
  11. Hire people that aspire to have your job and beyond. Passion trumps skills in Gen-Y, we can learn anything, we cannot, however, get excited for something we dislike.
  12. Find the next celebrity, not the "IT" celebrity. Case studies - JUNO and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
  13. Surprise people by helping the little guy, the small nonprofit that can do more with your donation and will become advocates of yours forever vs the large nonprofits who only care about your bank account. Gen-Y will appreciate that.
  14. Get people to answer your phones. You are losing more business than money you are by having that shitty automated system.
  15. When a young person learns about your product at a concert or event, and they go to your site, say something about that event.
  16. Better yet, make a mobile site or microsite based solely on that event and how they can get involved, buy your product or learn more.
  17. Train your event staff and hourly employees better than the spokesperson in your commercials, they are the ones interacting with kids at the mall.
  18. Find local trends. The internet makes this possible. What teens like in Orlando is different than teens in Paducah, KY.
  19. Listen, don't respond, listen some more.
  20. Gen-Y doesn't buy cars based on your commercials. Car commercials are some of the worst commercials ever made for turning anyone into a brand advocate.
  21. Phones that do everything are the future, if you do not have a way for kids to access you on the go, you will lose to the company that is.
  22. When advertising on a Social Network, make the ad relate to what we are doing. If you advertise on Pandora, make us a cool playlist or introduce us to an artist that you care about.
  23. Stop hiding. We do not like walls.
  24. Get us involved. Email the cool blogger and invite them to brainstorm for your next ad, blog post or podcast. Find a great photograph on Flickr and ask the person to do a shoot for you. You will get results that are not so cookie cutter like every other ad agency.
  25. Seek out great talent. Don't wait for that great resume to find you, find the next great person in your organization through building relationships, and knowing your ideal candidate.
  26. Be transparent. Lying is for George Bush and we see right through his crap.
  27. Do not place products in music videos if it doesn't work. It makes us hate the band too and that doens't help you out in the long run.
  28. Find the thing that makes your brand GRAB our attention in between the millions of logos, interruptions, commercials and brand names we hear every day.
  29. When the youth grab your product and make it part of their culture, find a way to keep the momentum withouth chastizing every last penny out of it to make quarterly goals. Instead, grow organically and you will see long-term success and a brand that grows for generations. Look at Levi's or Dickie's.
  30. Realize that just because you gave away some cool free swag at Warped Tour or the X Games, it does not make you cool. How did that product relate to Gen-Y, make their experience better? How can they get back in touch with you when they need what you offer?
  31. Myspace is dead, sorry. Again if you are just getting on the train, you missed the one with the cool kids.
  32. There are going to be more smaller groups that make an impact with Gen-Y, than one big group. How can your brand be a part of many groups without ruining your image?
  33. Realize that kids are going to talk about your brand in ways you never imagined. They will pick on you, call you names and ignore you on the shelf. How you bounce back the next season is important. Think the not so cute girl who grows up a bit over the summer and comes back to get the QB.
  34. Mash-ups are a great way to grab an audience that you want.
  35. Create a culture, not a logo.
  36. The co-sign is dying. Co-signing is term that was used in hip-hop when an artist came into the game on the strength of an aquaintence. Basically, it boils down to the fact that you need to stand on your own feet and get respect without that of major backing. Think Scion, it would survive to Gen-Y without Toyota's name due to the culture it built.
  37. Free is not a solution. We will pay for things that we believe in, but if we can find it for free, more than likely we will use that price point. What is so awesome about your business that is going to make me BUY.
  38. There is more competition than ever. Optimize your enite business plan. The youth search for things any and everywhere and way. Optimize your content to show up everywhere that we are, ahve an RSS Feed, Twitter account, Facebook page, mobile site, iPhone and gPhone app, SEO for Google, etc.
  39. Get back to basics. Why do you want to reach the youth? What do you gain by focusing on them? What do you lose if you miss?
  40. Get back to focus groups. Again the Internet makes this easy and powerful. Mercedes did a good job of getting teens involved in their brand focus and it seems to be working.
  41. Get offline. Sponsor events that matter, but don't just cut a check, get involved and really be passionate about the things you invest in.
  42. Educate your staff. If you have an iPhone app and your employees have no idea it exists, then why have it?
  43. Care about what you are doing.

I hope some of this resonates and lets a light go off. It is only a fraction of what we are doing to help brands in Gen-Y marketing. It's also what every other brand is going to be doing in '09. How you position yourself in this economic climate will determine how and when you get out of it.

Mobile YouthFor even better ideas than mine, head over to Mobile Youth, where Graham Brown has introduced 50 ideas to tap into the Mobile Youth in 2009 and was part of the inspiration for me to make this list as well. Graham is also a nice guy in the fact that he named ths blog a top 20 Youth Marketing Blog. Thanks!

Throw your tips in the comments and anything that I fall in love with will make its way back into this post with a link to you and your site. There are so many great ideas and opinions out there, no one is right or wrong, and the mroe uniqueness we get, the better we can deliver great results for our businesses, our clients and really for the youth who are buying them.

-Greg Rollett


Jessie Maguire December 24, 2008 at 12:46 PM  

your the best G-RO!!!

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