Youth Marketing Insights » Brand Building http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg Inspiring best in practice youth marketing through sharing of ideas, strategy, trends and conversations about cool stuff Thu, 04 Feb 2010 04:31:40 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 We are living in a Transmedia World, and I am a Transmedia Girl (Part 2) http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/12/10/we-are-living-in-a-transmedia-world-and-i-am-a-transmedia-girl-part-2/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/12/10/we-are-living-in-a-transmedia-world-and-i-am-a-transmedia-girl-part-2/#comments Thu, 10 Dec 2009 02:43:10 +0000 Meghan Stuyvenberg http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/?p=172 As promised I wanted to share some thoughts I had about transmedia storytelling and how it relates to brand storytelling. While Transmedia storytelling seems to be an obvious extension of properties such as comic books, we often forget how important the role of storytelling is in brand marketing. Dynamic brands talk to consumers at more than a functional or utility level and cross-media marketing can help us communicate more effectively.

Below are elements I consider important in marketing and idea development as initial guidelines to get us thinking in the right cross-media frame of mind.

  • Start with a central idea, not channels. I find often we want to jump straight to solution in execution – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, iPhone app. Yes these are priority platforms but consider the entire ecosystem first as there are many others that might be more effective. Don’t fall into the trap of bandwagon campaigning and most important please keep in mind offline executions as well.
  • Various channels for different audiences. Create different points of entry for different audience segments, for example as Henry Jenkins points out in this Transmedia 101 post, for the Spiderman property consider what link will be particularly attractive to females (a romance comic “Mary Jane Loves Spiderman”) or younger readers (coloring book or picture book versions of the classic comicbook stories ).
  • How does your brand fit within the role or organic nature of these channels. Discuss the nature and the social utility of relevant channels as part of development – outside of your motivations or brand of course. Many good ideas are executed without this insight, resulting in a half-assed branded community somewhere. Strategy is more important than ever so while I wouldn’t criticize for trying something new, I would for not thinking.
  • What is your brand’s participatory culture. Once and for all, adding a share function is not encouraging participation – consider not that you engage with your audience but how you can allow your audience to engage with you.
  • You don’t decide the value, your audience does. This is one of the most important things to keep in mind when creating great content that will get audiences in social media communities to interact and engage with you. Without the value to the audience, you will get the inevitable “so what?”.

What I love about marketing in today’s culture is it makes you think deeply but connection, engagement and relevance. For those of us not blessed with off the cuff creativity (ahem), what will survive are those brands that value a customer-centric, holistic approach. If you don’t get analysis paralysis and over analyze – it is way more fun.

Image credit, Geoffery Long

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We are living in a Transmedia World, and I am a Transmedia Girl (Part 1) http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/11/03/transmedia-part-1/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/11/03/transmedia-part-1/#comments Mon, 02 Nov 2009 23:51:53 +0000 Meghan Stuyvenberg http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/?p=170 A great video on transmedia storytelling by Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture. Here Jenkins (my hero BTW) discusses the fundamental shift from spectator culture to participatory culture and inspires us to think of the opportunity presented now that individual voices carry so much weight. This is an intellectual look about how the world is changing – not just media or marketing.

From my perspective I find the concept of multi-platform storytelling especially intriguing as it is fueled by relevant youth marketing trends – the proliferation and popularity of new media forms like video games, social web and mobile platforms, as well as user demand for spreadable content and assets. Each platform makes a unique contribution to the brand narrative, and at the same time build on each other to create a larger story. These stories are non-linear, constantly shifting and ever engaging. What keeps marketers awake at night (figuratively speaking, otherwise take a vacation) is that a growing proportion of this is now formed outside of corporate HQ.

In every challenge is an opportunity and here we find it is in exploring and delivering on every possible media platform to effectively engage an audience. Transmedia storytelling is not a new concept, and sometimes it happens organically for fan-building brands. However this is more than marketing-speak – to me this is Opportunity #1 for thought-leadership in shifting from the old to the new.

Next post I will discuss my ideas on important considerations when developing transmedia brand stories – so stay tuned!

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Why you should market your company culture, not just products http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/08/24/why-you-should-market-your-company-culture-not-just-products/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/08/24/why-you-should-market-your-company-culture-not-just-products/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2009 01:54:34 +0000 Meghan Stuyvenberg http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/?p=166 While a shift from traditional formulas for advertising ROI, I believe that the best youth brands have discovered how to not only market products, but market the companies.

This is important for two reasons – 1) your company is your products/offer, and your products are your company – seems obvious but unfortunately there is often a disconnect here as companies get bigger and execs get removed – CEO’s need to make an effort – cue Richard Branson. 2) there is a very fine line between your offer and your reputation, therefore you need to consider your company from a holistic point of view – no more left-brain and right-brain business structures.

Red Bull – the gold standard for which most youth brands aspire too (and I would argue most brands full stop) – is organised so that at heart of the company sits the brand and marketing. This is a fundamental difference to more traditional corporate structures where the marketing department is there to support the business. Red Bull understands that they are in the business of energy, not energy drinks, and this is why the brands resonates.

I love the idea of promoting the culture of a company as a branding exercise in order to deliver these messages to the consumer. Clever companies are realising their biggest brand fans and advocates are sitting right next to them and experimenting how to leverage this.

Zappos is a great case study of how to democratise social media within an organisation to help communicate the company culture outwards to consumers. We are not talking casual Fridays and a beers on Friday night, but what the company stands for and how this is communicated form the inside out. For example in this latest Zappos video several employees show off their tattoos and tell the stories behind them. Quite personally the tats seem a bit ‘hey look at us, we’re cool’ but I think that is more my personal feeling of tats then the initiative (btw I have tattoos and therefore am able to make such generalisations).

Check out insidezappos YouTube channel here for more company culture videos including baby showers, profiles of employees work spaces, and general antics.

Another company has recently announced a similar initiative. PUMA has a new integrated campaign which features a selection of 14 employees proclaiming their most random thoughts – their love for chicken nuggets and cupcakes, date-seekers and ex-girlfriend rants. Believe the photo shoot featured here will also form the new advertising campaign. I think this is great, PUMA is cleverly using employees to highlight how as a brand they are young and creative.

Check out PUMA’s YouTube channel here for more info.

I would only add an element to make this even more integrated by using this content at retail level. I think it’s a really good feeling if you were to walk into a store and get a sense of the corporate culture. I could see this content on loop in stores, each location creating and incorporating their random thoughts as well. Integrate the ad campaign with an internal comms initiative and watch it grow.

I think we all get at some level that being good is no longer good enough, companies need to be relevant. Youth want to buy into more than a product. Considering this audience participates in 145 CONVERSATIONS a week about brands – twice the amount as adults – I would suggest we all consider how we can resonate at every level, not just product.

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Levi’s Go Forth: Over the Hype, Let’s Talk Substance http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/07/10/levis-go-forth/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/07/10/levis-go-forth/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2009 03:47:53 +0000 Meghan Stuyvenberg http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/?p=154 Interesting debate on Ad Age regarding the new Levi’s campaign, “Go Forth”.

I think everyone has had their say on the credit or merit of the creative. I like it, and I am the target, so take that for what it’s worth. Might be a bit lofty even for myself with an advanced Literature degree – Walt Whitman and all – but it’s good. Check it out below. Check out the site here.

I think this brings a truly interesting concept with youth marketing to life – how to mean something and be relevant to your audience. Creative agency reps and media contacts can bag, applaud or turn their heads from the new creative concept, if it resonates with the youth audience does it matter what accolades it receives? I think not.

However let’s discuss ‘relevance’. There is a thin line – if one at all – between brand and reputation and that should be the true test for brand marketing campaigns. So – does Levi’s stand by its positioning? You need to be authentic (yes that buzz word again) to be credibile (two in one sentence). This means more about what they stand for not what they say.

Inherently it seems to fit with me – Levi’s with its heritage also bringing forth the New American spirit. Nice message. But other than creative, how do they stand for the New America? Not arguing, just posing the question. I am very interested to see how they roll out this element for submissions of ‘good ideas’ supporting American pioneers (see here), I love a good empowerment campaign!

So let the war of opinions wage on if this is the next Cannes Lions award…I think let’s move beyond the hype and talk about how Levi’s will deliver on this positioning – because it is a strong message.

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Nestea takes Nes-step Online http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/07/07/coca-cola-nestea-ctrl/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/07/07/coca-cola-nestea-ctrl/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2009 01:45:40 +0000 Meghan Stuyvenberg http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/?p=151

Coca-Cola’s Nestea is the latest brand to launch online-only branded content. As noted in a recent Brandweek article, “[CTRL], which launches on sites such as NBC.com, USANetwork.com, Hulu.com this month, stars Tony Hale of Arrested Development as an office worker with the ability to change everyday reality by drinking Nestea”. The webisdoes will supplement the current Nestea “Liquid Awesomeness” campaign running online, and launches in mid-July. You can read the full interview with Annis Lyles, VP of Media and Interactive for Coca-Cola, North America in Brandweek here which gives some interesting insight.

The strategy seems right to me – empowerment. Adding value and content to youth’s lives. Ms Lyles also noted that it takes more than building the site or posting the videos to draw attention, there is a seeding strategy in place to drive awareness (I hope that seeding strategy doesn’t mean banner ads, by the way). Another tick for success. Furthermore, entertainment as a core youth pillar seems a natural fit for a brand trying new engagement models.

However I do feel there is a major hurdle for any brand moving into a youth space – it can seem hollow. I think this is because youth feel brands need to earn a certain level of credibility that offers this humorous, playful tone for example. Cracking the youth demographic is difficult, if you look at really successful brands like a Boost Mobile or Red Bull, they are ingrained at a really grass roots level. Boost Mobile people are present at local surf events, pick-up basketball games, and the other relevant places their target audiences are – in real life, and online. That level of commitment and authentic interest from a brand is a cultural thing, and if that is not your company’s brand I think it poses significant challenges. Red Bull is a unique company where the marketing runs the organisation, not vice versa.

That said we all have to start somewhere whether trying to find a new audience, or making the jump to an online engagement strategy. It is all a learning process and evolution for us and I am surely not one to criticise brands for making the leap. I look forward to following [CTRL] – sounds like something I would like and yes, I am the target millennial. Anyway maybe some more of my millennial readers (which believe it or not there are quite a few) will check it out as a result as well…

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Why being teased as a kid might help brand marketers http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/04/07/why-being-teased-might-help-brand-marketers/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/04/07/why-being-teased-might-help-brand-marketers/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2009 00:13:20 +0000 Meghan Stuyvenberg http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/?p=100 There are all different types of bullying, some more spiteful and hurtful than others. However some forms of teasing, while at the time of childhood development could be quite damaging, are actually probably more a compliment. This is called impersonation, we all know how the saying goes, it is the biggest form of flattery.

With that in mind, watch this Dove Evolution parody:

While I know the video or remake is not new, I just got this for the first time. It highlights how the central idea offered by Dove in the form of a spreadable video is so powerful and simple, and now so iconic, that others borrow from it to spread their own ideas which live on in the online universe. This video is only one example of the several that have sprouted up in the years since this Dove brand campaign launched in 2006, and it is case in point that the best ideas are those that can be stripped back, appropriated and reworked by a variety of communities. Look beyond the content of the re-make as it does not have to be about the product anymore, if you inspire people to act or to speak you are evolving as a brand. Probably someone is going to come across this clip for the first time (not seeing the Dove Evolution ad), and create a mock of a mock. The cycle of culture creation continues, and deep within the new content lies the heart and soul of the first version….the potential is inspiring actually.

As brand managers we should take the time to grasp this opportunity, and instead of trying to stop or contain the online shenanigans, embrace it. Allow people to have fun and create their own interpretations. It is brave to allow consumers to be brand transmitters as that means we lose control, but it is naïve to think that they aren’t already. This is a modern approach to brand-to-consumer communications that really grasps how it works in real life. I would love to see Dove somehow harnessing and connecting back to the consumer activity, not to control it but to remain in the “conversation” so to speak, build on the momentum.

I’m not inherently a creative person with a big “c” so instead of creating my own video I am going to re-post Dove’s original ad and hope that this discussion inspires someone else who might stumble upon this blog.

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DUDE, Carl’s Jr taps into mysteriously hungry gen-y skateboarders http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/03/19/carls_jr_taps_into_hungry_gen_y/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/03/19/carls_jr_taps_into_hungry_gen_y/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2009 01:41:01 +0000 Meghan Stuyvenberg http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/?p=87 American quick-service chain, Carl’s Jr., has revealed more details of their BFF partnership with skateboarding star Rob Dyrdek, aimed to engage “hungry” Gen-Y and Gen-Z guys, as explained by Andrew F. Puzder, chief executive of CKE Restaurants in a recent NY Times article.

Background – the partnership is an integrated campaign with retail elements, sponsorship of a new charitable skate park in downtown Los Angeles, YouTube videos, all the social media sites and featuring the brand and CEO Mr Puzder on “Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory,” the skateboarder’s MTV show. For those not familiar, Carl’s Jr. is the QSR that brought us pop-culture marketing campaigns such as EAT MEAT (my first bumper-sticker BTW), and the infamous bikini-clad Paris Hilton car washing video. So needless to say they have been pretty successful at creating campaigns with WOM appeal among that meat-loving, fast food eating, young male population. Oh, and me to but I am probably an anomaly.

I have always been loyal to Carl’s, in LA they were my guilty, late-night pleasure. So I am all for this campaign. Of course as the article references it is great to see companies continuing to invest in “experimental” marketing initiatives – although at what point will we stop calling them experimental, maybe at the same time we stop using traditional vs non-traditional to describe media. In my opinion and without access to any evidence of this, I would think Carl’s would already have a relationship with this audience, therefore already have a level of involvement. Something about the “hungry” male and Carl’s Jr. seem to go hand in hand. Can’t stop myself from calling out the not-so-subtle reference of the super-hungry, skateboarder – is it skateboarding that makes them sooooo hungry?

Moving on….what I think is really interesting is the involvement CKE CEO Andrew Puzder in the partnership. I think it’s a solid move to integrate him into the show, press images and other channels. This says to me Carl’s values the relationships they have with its audiences, and could signal a shift in its marketing into more of a business model. If he could only become a pro skateboarder that would be the pinnacle, in the meantime I appreciate that he physically delivered food to the skateboarding posse as the first point of contact.

One note of caution, I think this will be a big test of authenticity for the brand. The skateboarding community has been notoriously difficult to tap. However defined, this specific tribe is hard on brands that try to market to them as “skateboarders”. In some cases we have seen that they even use the cool insert-service/product-here that companies flog them, and then they turn around and bag them out for it. Grass roots approaches seem to resonate here more than other sports-tribes such as snowboarding or surfing. That is why it took Nike so long to crack, and why Red Bull and others have dabbled but not dropped in. Maybe as high-profile figures such as the Tony Hawk, Bam Margera and Rob Dyrdek continue to bridge the mainstream divide, they will be able to do the same for the brands they work with.

While sometimes difficult to make a corporate brand messages skateboarder-esque, the videos are funny, the food is good, they donated to an inner-city charity and it has some good examples of multi-channel executions –– so, DUDE, I like it!

Photo credit: NY Times, Rob Dyrdek, left, and Andrew F. Puzder, CKE CEO, united to promote the sport and sell burgers.

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Top brands for teens globally: may the most relevant win http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/03/05/top-brands-for-teens-globally/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/2009/03/05/top-brands-for-teens-globally/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2009 06:00:58 +0000 Meghan Stuyvenberg http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/meghanstuyvenberg/?p=63 I was reading an interesting (or is it expected?) press release on a study that has surveyed and identified the “Top Brands for Teens Globally” (TRU Global Teen Study)…to no surprise all the world’s biggest names were there, including Coca-Cola, Nike, and Adidas. Deservedly so, those brands have for years been setting standards in best in practice youth-marketing, and I am certainly a fan of all three. However the topic of the survey got me thinking generally…being one of the “world’s biggest” brands isn’t neccesarily the same as being “global”?

Splitting hairs in diction maybe, but I think there is a significant difference between the two – only one builds relevance. This is when I question to what extent “awareness” is important, potentially a lot of our affiliations with big brands is residual from mass-media days where the biggest that bought the most media, had the most retail space won.

But those days are over, and the times, they are a changin’….so is awareness alone enough to sustain  appeal among youth? I think not, and this could potentially be too much of a shock for some big giants if they can’t learn to adapt.

To today’s teens and early 20-somethings, niche’s are important, grass roots campaigns influence, consumers expect companies to hear them – and respond. A small home-grown can be nimble, flexible, they are ingrained in the consumers. That encompasses everything youth marketing is. So where does this leave the big guys that have been driving culture for decades? Well, I think it leaves them in the same place as the little guys, it equals the playing ground.

What it comes down to is any brand that underestimates the importance of engaging their consumer and adapting accordingly is going to struggle to maintain relevance and, while this is a generalization, the bigger the brand, the more difficult they may find it to effect change.

Stop right there however, this isn’t my potentially career-ending theory of a bunch of Davids taking down the Goliath (a fav and unoriginal analogy), it is more a piece of advice for all youth brands, may the most relevant win. If you are “big” you can’t rest on your laurels, if you are “small”, as you grow don’t take for granted your core customer base that helped define you.

Either way it will be interesting when this radical shift in consumer behavior becomes more of a ripple and less of a seismic earthquake to see what big brands have become little, and what little brands have become big, or what value size will have period…. and what will be really interesting will be what, if any, control any of us “marketers” (versus the consumer) had on it anyway.

Full of questions, not answers, that’s always the way.

Photo credit: Barbie turns heads at the launch in Shanghai (Claro Cortes/Reuters)

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