Monday, March 16, 2009

Gen-Y Gives Up On Celebrities Hawking Crap

Chris Brown Brand Marketing for Wrigley'sBefore Chris Brown got all Mike Tyson, he was singing songs for Wrigley's Gum. There are 2 big problems with this scenario:
1. Do I/we believe that Chris Brown feels passionate about the gum? No.
2. Is Chris Brown (remember to think back before the last few weeks) going to make us rush out of our seats and buy the gum? Again No.

Celebrities no longer have the same affect on Gen-Y and youth culture as they once did. I attest a few reasons for this:
1. It seems like every teen can have their 15 minutes of fame - from YouTube to Myspace to Facebook Apps to whatever else, it has never been easier to display a talent, or non-talent an have the whole world notice.
2. We have seen celebrities dump brands and brands dump celebrities overnight - thus not allowing the 2 to grow together. When there is no brand loyalty, there is no reason to believe the person telling the message.
3. Ad campaigns are shorter than ever. With attention spans speeding up quicker than 10 year-olds on Riddlin, advertisers are launching new campaigns to get attention rather than growing story lines and initiating brand loyalty with young consumers.

Brands can overcome this position by being genuine with their younger audience. There are core influencers in the young demographic who are preaching for brands, who have a real affinity and pureness about them. The kids who throw brand names around in rap songs, the kids who race cars in the underground, the ones on forums who will tell Windows to shove it to every PC person in the room or the group that will time after time pay the extra dollar, two dollars to get a beer that makes them feel comfortable.

Right now I am in the middle of looking for a clothing sponsor. When I was in a band, I always thought it would be cool to get free clothes, and there are so many companies out there that will take care of musicians who take care of them. Now that I'm off one stage, I am in another. I have a great core audience here, a growing audience at Gen-Y Rock Stars, speaking engagements across the country and some really cool clients and partners. Representing an up and coming t-shirt designer would mean increased exposure for the company and confidence in myself that I am wearing a brand that I can be proud to show off.

But can the company expect to sell many shirts because of my association?
They will get some exposure, sure, but they will ultimately need to come in, have great products and find a group of core influencers who can extend their brand. Bloggers, musicians, pro athletes, etc can open the doors, but not sell the product. The youth with big wallets are not going to buy because someone like me told them to, they are going to buy because it will make them look cool on a date, give them confidence walking the halls, make them more money or make them drive faster.

As I am closing in a deal with a sponsor, the core values that I need in a brand sponsor are:
1. Growth potential from both parties. I want to play a factor in helping the brand grow, from marketing tips to utilizing my network to getting in front of people and wearing a logo I believe in. At the same time, they need to be ready to watch me grow. As my career grows, so will their need for support, swag, custom items and new initiatives.
2. Long term commitment. I'm not in this for a month, 6 months or even a year. I am looking for a brand that is in this for the long haul, to help create a brand image that is innovative, yet sustaining. Nike and Jordan are one of the only great examples of a partnership that has made sense over the past 20 years. No abandonment.
3. Great creative vision. I am a marketing guy and my design skills suck. Hopefully they won't be looking at me for design concepts!

As pockets get tighter, the young pockets are going to contract as well. This past weekend saw the lowest movie ticket sales of the year, down 16% from last year, and the Watchmen is only in week #2!

I found an interesting article from New Dheli in India that shared a similar perspective on young people:

They do not see celebrities as demonstrating what is either real or authentic, and that should serve as a blow to companies that spend a fortune on celebrity endorsements.

Only 6% identify with celebrities. Instead, they look up to real-life heroes and their parents. They appreciate companies and brands that are trustworthy and authentic and stay true to their values.

Even in a culture as different as apples and oranges from kids here in the states, core values and authenticity play a major roles in what kids buy, wear, feel and do.

If you are using a celebrity to promote your products, what do you expect from that person? If you are looking for advertisers, or sponsors for yourself or your business, what do you expect from the brand? Should they be different? I'm all ears.

-Greg Rollett


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