Strops, the silent treatment and whimsical impulsiveness all sound like they come straight out of a teenager’s bedroom. However, this behaviour is no longer reserved for just close family. Brands targeting the youth sector need to exercise as much care and attention as a long suffering parent if they are to nurture this fickle sector.
The internet and mobile phones have enabled instant gratification and two-way communication. These benefits are not only useful to the consumer, but for marketers using these channels to communicate, seed and interact with their audiences. One specific market, tooled up and ready to pass on anything it believes in, is the youth sector. But getting them on board is often the first hurdle brands fall at.
Blessed with street-savviness and confidence, teenagers everywhere are far more switched on to selling tactics than most audiences. New mediums for communication are emerging almost daily and provide new playgrounds for brands to target the youth market. And the audience is getting younger and younger. Club Penguin is a classic example of children interacting with their friends, bringing their imaginations to life online in a secure environment, all before they even get into a school uniform.
We cannot imagine a time without TV and radio. Similarly the youth of today cannot imagine life without mobile phones, e-mail, the internet and services such as Hotmail, Facebook and Flickr. Video over broadband is seeping into our computers and mobile phones, growing at such a pace that this time next year it could join the ranks of technology we can no longer live without.
Approximately 6 million Europeans regularly watch video through MSN and the number of videos streamed is growing at over 60% every month. The reach and engagement of video via mobiles and the internet is a high attraction for big brands. Vodafone, Disney and BMW have already run MSN Video campaigns.
However, there is a “live fast die young” threat to brands reaching out to the youth sector. One of the biggest considerations is that this audience is more sceptical and advertising savvy. Marketers also need to implement far more intelligence and data analysis, ensuring programmes reflect fine-tuned demographics including segmentation and delivery over mass media. Factors including interface, usability and interoperability across different platforms must also be accounted for. If your message can’t get through in any way that the viewer chooses, time, effort and money is wasted as they move on to The Next Big Thing.
Walk into any teen’s bedroom and it is likely that the laptop will be fired up with Facebook, e-mail and Instant Messenger. At the same time a mobile text conversation is in progress, the TV may be on and the MP3 player glued in. It is essential for brands to respond to this multi-platform, multi-dimension evolution. Miss one platform or omit a social element and your carefully constructed message can be missed – or, more dangerously, dismissed – in an instant.
Yet the Holy Grail of marketing remains unchanged throughout time. There is no better message than a positive word-of-mouth campaign. Thanks to the ability to share content via e-mails and mobile phones, the advertising and marketing industry has a golden opportunity to tap into the lucrative youth market, who like nothing more than to share something new with their network. Messages can quite literally appear in the palms of the hands of the target audience and then spread like wildfire.
Applications like YouTube, Facebook and Flickr are already accessible via mobile phone, and have the potential to increase audience saturation by 100% overnight.
Online content will evolve this year and become far more interactive – a vital, lifeblood development to the marketing sector. The youth sector expects to be able to access, and engage with, information it wants, wherever and however it wants. Young consumers are pulling demand along at speeds that we as marketers can just about keep pace with. The youth sector has more money, opinion and persuasiveness than ever before. We should be looking to this sector, interrogating and involving it far more than we currently do.
Jamie Goldblatt is chairman of Mobstar Media