Hip, wired, cool, outgoing, active, insecure, constantly online – is this the image of the youngster or young-minded person brands marketer in the Westernised economies are chasing after? Why is this segment so important for marketing planning? What should modern marketers know about the digital channel and how should they use it? How can they reach this important market and how should they communicate with it?
PHENOMENON: Youngsters are better informed than brand marketers.
In the global launch of Sony’s PSP, several Asian consumer electronics vendors were sued. Sony felt obliged to take this action because youngsters and other eager gamers, especially from Europe, saw the chance to get their PSPs already in summer 2005, while PSP was only introduced to the markets in autumn 2005. Consumers placed their orders via the Internet to Asian vendors and goods were shipped via global delivery channels to gamers. For Sony, these companies were endangering its distribution and launch strategy. The question remains: was this sort of legal counterpunch really worth it – and will similar cases become a natural part of our global business reality?
Reaching and influencing the young-minded segment is ever more challenging. Consumption patterns are shifting from mass-media toward micro-media for the masses. Savvy media-empowered consumers, often under 25 years of age, are being influenced by trends from all over the globe. The knowledge and adaptation of these trends is sometimes even carried out at a faster pace than local marketers can introduce their products to the markets. At the centerpiece of this revolutionary behavior lies the broadband-accelerated Internet.
At first glance, global consumerism seems to be great news for marketers: Global marketing works, campaigns are rapidly localized, consumers do the marketers work themselves and thus fewer resources need be allocated to domestic promotions. Yet, is this really so? For many brands, marketing to the empowered youth and young-minded segment is simultaneously a dream and a nightmare. For example, knowledge such things as product bugs and negative experiences about features, design and usability,
fly through the globe via networks as fast as the trends themselves. Consumers can tune into to the global opinion databases of any product 24 hours a day (1). The internet-empowered consumer has more perfect market information available than ever, and more and more them are aware of their new powers.
As rumors and experiences jump from one country to another, the message the brand’s agency tried originally to communicate does not remain uninfluenced. Marketers easily lose control over their campaign messages. In our wired and wireless world, it can be a major challenge to repair this damage with local initiatives, such as when a product obtains negative feedback from consumers. For example, in 2004-2005, the famous lock manufacturer, Kryptonite, had to spend a substantial amount of its marketing budget in activities to recover its reputation after an online site posted instructions demonstrating how easy it is to open Kryptonite locks with a plain ball point pen.
Satama thinks that modern marketing is all about creating a useful and sustainable dialogue between the brand and the segment. With this we state that brands need to shift from one-way push-marketing into listening to their target groups more carefully, and be ready to a dialogue with the target group in ways that encourage them to be part of the brand experience. Moreover, if an average Western consumer living in a city is daily exposed to more than 3500-5000 marketing messages (2), we argue strongly that it is more than essential to find the means and methods to cross the constantly increasing attention barrier. Satama sees that that this hurdle will not be crossed using only traditional means of marketing – new approaches are needed.
BEHAVIOUR:I’m alive – I am @ MSN – contact me!
There will be over 600 million broadband connection subscribers worldwide by 2015, versus about 200 million at the end of 2005 (3). Thus, who cares about numbers anymore? Who cares whether it is going to be 600 million people on broadband or 400 million or 800 million? Offline versus Online – could not matter less – it’s all about reaching the target in the new mass location. Online life is here – and the markets are massive. The youth segment is obviously the most experienced and skilled with regard to digital channels. They’ve grown up with them and thus these channels play a natural part in their life on daily basis.
When looking at the online presence of the young-minded segment in more detail, the findings are convincing. More than 78% of the 18-24 age group was online in the US in late 2004 (4) and more than 85 % of them had been online more than three years. Europe lags a bit behind in this, but the trend is clear. There is only one conclusion a brand can take from this – being online is a must for successful campaigning!
Furthermore, Internet users from 12-17 years old say email is best for talking to parents or institutions, but they are more likely to use instant messaging when talking to each other (5). This is reflected even in common language expressions: “Being @ MSN” is a common status of being alive, to exist amongst one’s peers. The number of active friends in a typical MSN hotlist for the active segment aged below 16 lies somewhere between 20 to 40 invitees. Consequently, the Dutch telecom service operator, Hi! (A subsidiary of KPN Mobile), leverages the MSN phenomena aggressively in its marketing. Its “Chatman” character offers a subscription though which youngsters (or any other MSN Messenger user) can be “present” in the chats though not in front of their screens, thus appealing to the self-esteem of the identity seekers. Check me out – I am always online!
In the broadband era there is no returning to life before it. Generation C (C=Content) (6) is producing its own content with powerful PCs and making it available to their peers via dedicated sites or Peer-to-Peer networks. While baby boomers (born before 1960) had to learn what mass media is; and while Generation X (born 1960-1975) grew up with television and 1st generation video games (and are now focusing on their peaceful family lives with high debt ratios); the new Generation Next/Idols/Content (Born after 1975) member is a born media multi-tasker. If their own preferences are not met with the offering from traditional channels, there is always an alternative: the online service.
The new on-demand-consumption (7) of content is something of a Pandora’s Box. Once opened, the consumers learn that there is access to a basically limitless amount of content within one’s own preference setting (8). Consumers will no longer be happy and satisfied only with content fed to them by media companies. They want to influence, get what they want – now, everywhere, anytime. And they demand this from the media company who is now struggling with decreasing profits – not an easy equitation to handle. Look at the music industry’s falling sales figures and the reality of more music being available then ever. Who is losing, who is winning? Gatekeepers losing, consumers winning? The “long tail” (9) effect enables more streams than just the few offered by media conglomerates. We will see a lot more popular performances and peer group stars outside music charts and mainstream movies.
FRESH APPROACH FOR MARKETEERS;Be part of living – online!
Young-minded people are much more heterogeneous in their needs for marketing than more settled “30-somethings” with family and kids. Youngsters are constantly in a process of finding/defining their own identity/independence. The needs of a 14 year old differ radically from the ones of an 18 year old. This identity seeking is often expressed through subcultures (skaters, Goth, manga, sudoku-players, ravers, etc.) and identification with strong opinion leaders’ behavior (pop-stars, idols, sport-stars). If a marketer wants to segment the youth market, they should carefully distinguish trends and subcultures within the age groups and demographics.
When affiliating with subcultures (skateboarding / snowboarding / DJ-ing / graffiti) or artists (Pepsi and Britney Spears) brands need a deep, long term commitment to actually gain credibility amongst youth. This can be gained only by being positively credible among the peers and locations where the segment naturally moves and meets. A brand should never pretend to be a teenager when its not. The way young people communicate is unique, and pretending will show through. The greatest thing a brand can attract to itself and benefit from is a passionate end-user community, for example Apple’s fanatic user base, or MTV’s outstanding success since 1980s.
The digital channels are on a winning streak for the time and attention span of the youth segment. Thus, they are extremely important for marketers. Even as recently as early 2000, the digital channels’ key role in communication was to support other channels, like print or TV. Now, at the dawn of the broadband era, it seems that TV, radio, and print media are like “gateways” to digital channels. Viral marketing through forum discussions, IRC channels (10) etc. are already used. Traditional advertising methods (including internet advertising, e-mail marketing, and search marketing) do not provide enough answers. It is not about whether to use digital channels or not, it is rather about what other channel to use to get traffic to the online channel.
The very diverse digital channels and ways of communication are still difficult terrain for advertisers. Satama thinks that the role of digital channels becomes important when they allow for communication between the members of a group or when they allow for the projection of icons. In other words, allowing communication between the target group members is one of key success factors in youth marketing. It is significant to notice that most of the biggest brands online (11) today are digital channels themselves. That is, if more than 80 % of all online sessions include a search (12), isn’t it essential to be strongly present in this medium?
Satama believes that brands need alternative means for their advertising: alternative ways are needed to get their message across among youth and beyond. The best digital marketing can mean digital services instead of advertising. Not everything has to go digital though, people still value tangible things, something for all the senses. The digital channels enable youth to DO “things” (e.g. they can get, create, share and influence
things that are relevant to them in a certain situation and/or time. Moreover, brands can listen to their target groups through digital channels – interactivity is the nature of these channels.
Consequently, the borders between marketers and content providers are blurring. At least, brands may be facilitating content. It seems that brands are forced to realize that stories are becoming more important than products. Target groups want to associate themselves with the fascinating story of the brand and are willing to pay a premium of this connection. Thus we see that content can still be the king. We see also that the content can be professionally or end-user generated. But does it even matter how it’s generated, if end-users want it! Satama believes strongly that increasingly there will be interesting and surprising partnerships established between different parties, old brands, and new digital brands. Movies, music, sports, retails, etc.
Innovative channels are needed. A few examples of these are in-game advertising and event marketing. First, the gamer’s world is different (see box). Rules of human behavior and limits do not extend to this world. Anything is possible. So why do even the most modern marketers stick to putting their brand in a game only as a billboard, static ad or what-so-ever. “Hello Mr. Brand! The world it different out there!” This new virtual space can also influence how a game player perceives the real world. Computer and console games form not just a “tiny hobby area for boys” – they totaled a ~€23bn area of business in 2005! Look at gaming rules. What if they were the rules of modern marketing – what would you do in this world for and with your brand? Could it be so that the best means for modern marketing emerge from the multi-complex world of game design, in a way similar to how field interactive marketing sprang from birth of the digital channel in mid 1990s?
Second, Satama says that marketers have to invest in making their events more innovative. It is good to have an event and sponsor it. Yet, to make a lasting memory among, for example, music festival participants, they need to be involved with the brand. With over 500 event solution deliveries behind us, Satama can now confidently state that using digital channels is the key to building before-during-and-after event experiences for participants. Segments, especially the youth, try out new things more freely when the involvement of the brand is higher – touch, feel, smell, experience – but use digital means to expand it beyond the conventional. For example, Satama produced in 2005 for a Malaysian telecom operator, Celcom, an integrated 3G marketing
campaign formatted around a TV reality show. The show was supported by a website, two mobile sites, a viral campaign, push SMSs, MMS blogging, plus engagement marketing on the streets for Kuala Lumpur. The outcome was outstanding: the target group, youth, was extremely passionate about the show and the campaign became one of the most popular TV programs during its existence.
RECOMMENDATIONS:What might work?
To conclude, we’ve listed a number of recommendations below that modern marketers should execute in modern marketing planning. These best practices expand beyond the youth segment; they are actually the core variables for realizing fresh, appealing, and impact-oriented marketing operations. Moreover, we claim that there is no brand that should not re-consider the impact of the internet on their brand positions.
1. BE INNOVATIVE AND DARE TRY OUT: The best way to understand
the emerging channels is through trial and error. Knowledge about how consumers behave is gained by making exploration rounds. In marketing planning, observational and various testing methods are needed, while in the execution phase proof is collected by measurement and metrics. Yet learning happens more and more through try and error. Thus, allow errors, but learn from them!
2. ACTIVATE THE LOGICAL SIDE OF MARKETING: Marketing is extending beyond creative concepts – managers increasingly call for ROI from marketing. Tracing and calculating the effects of marketing in the digital channel is more possible than in any other channel. We are committed to a process in which the measurement of marketing should be planned as carefully as well as the creative concepts currently are within the conventional advertising channels. We see that brands should do much more to ensure that communication motivates the segment to follow up one action with another.