Gen Y Mocks Twitter Users: The walled-gardens of social media

02 April 2009

This is pretty much truth – not all social media sites are created equal. Well, maybe a bit more accurate to state that not all social media sites were created or used with equality of purpose.

So, that in mind, watch this video from “SuperNews!”, an animated sketch comedy series airing on Current TV. it features some ‘young adults’ battling an addiction to Twitter….the social network Gen Y just doesn’t get.

As you can see by the video, as well as the comments below, Gen Y not into Twitter. As Gen Y love social media and played an important role as facilitators in the growth, it’s obviously not an adoption issue. Recently however many ‘adults’ have also come to crash this at one time exclusive party. In fact Facebook states that it’s fastest growing user base is 50+ women, and the highest percentages of people on Twitter are 30-40somethings. With the exception of the mother who Facebooks her kids to spy a little bit, there is not much cross-generational communication happening online. Why?

Well many tools are used differently by different groups. While some may use Twitter for random status updates (“I am eating dinner with my cat on the couch”, “I just ran into the bar, it said ouch”), most use it for information spreading, personal branding and a whole lot of networking. As the video clearly points out, Twitter is for people ‘who have no friends’, another way to state that it is not about hanging out but participating in open, public dialogue…with no one in particular. On the flip side, research supports the Connected Generation uses social networks more of an extension of what they do offline, that is socialise with their existing group of friends. So these places that ‘adults’ have invaded and are networking…Gen Y not interested.

So varying social networks, varying user groups with varying interests. It turns out that social media is actually just a huge set of walled-gardens. It is important for marketers to keep this in mind. Next time we casually throw out “leveraging social media”, we need to challenge and be challenged on understanding not only the functions of social media sites to distribute information, but the role it plays in users lives as well. Kids don’t want to be friends with brands on Facebook, and branded content on YouTube doesn’t just “go viral” because it is on there….not that I was born understanding this either, but after several years of working with Youth brands in the digital space, it is all becoming a bit clearer.

What message does fake content reveal to your youth market?

26 March 2009

Last week I finished reading the last post of 8-part installment of “If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead”, (posted and written by Henry Jenkins, co-founder of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program) discussing the misuse of the term “viral” media. The white paper is a lot to digest, but insightful and I have a background in philosophy so am generally a thinker….should’ve been an analyst. Back to my point, the assertion is to be viral by nature assumes that the consumer is an unwilling host to media distributed by a “producer” (insert marketing rep here). Well when you put it that way…I think it highlights the industry’s reluctance to admit that we (a collective we) have lost power of the message. Let’s face it – we are not clever enough to throw this model of collective culture on its head, so why not continually reinforce terminology that inherently emphasises the producer but does not account for user motivations, so at least we can still sleep at night. NB please excuse if I continue to use the word VIRAL in my marketing efforts….I am not “immune” to this either.

But, the connected generation….they are clever. Not necessarily in a I-got-you sort of way, but in a I-see-through-you sort of way. They aren’t merely hosts to our subliminal messages, they choose to engage and spread the message when they see relevant. Good branded content is as good as good non-branded content. When “fake” content is revealed often the final message is not a positive one, it continues to spread but the message behind it has been distorted. As a brand manager we need to choose carefully what we want our lasting impression to be.

So fast forward — all of this is tossing around in my head when today I got this Mini video from @JamesDuthie. There is a classic line in it, “I get it, we’re in a viral”. I love the openness and transparency of it. YES it’s fake, but who cares?! In fact the fact it is makes it more funny than if it were real. It is soooo 2008 to develop a fake, and while it’s only early 2009 that is how fast we are moving and must adapt. Let’s not forget that from the beginning of internet-time the those who got it could always insert themselves into youth pop-culture by being real. As a general rule I don’t believe in hyping up controversy to sell brands – the phrase “any PR is good PR” is one of the worst things that happened to my industry, oh let’s say ever. As professionals we need to further instill that there is very thin line, if one at all, between brand and corporate reputation.

In summary (love my summaries, don’t I?) – what does this highlight to me? We (again that collective “we”) need to understand more the nature of social media and what makes our messages valuable and “spreadable” not viral, and this means owning up to the power shift the digital media has brought upon us. I thank Gen C for forcing this upon us and brining relationships back to the forefront of our communications mix.

That said, please enjoy the Mini video, courtesy of who other than BMW Mini.

PS love this comment: “It IS REAL !! the cousin of my uncle´s maid said that he heard some guy saying his neighbor´s hot daughter had a boyfriend that used to do this tricks with his car !!!! i swear !”

NB highly recommend the above mentioned paper.

DUDE, Carl’s Jr taps into mysteriously hungry gen-y skateboarders

19 March 2009

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.

What is your “freesumer” business model?

16 March 2009

Saw this Kutiman music video flying around twitter last week, it’s amazing, not just for the concept but because I think it encompasses some of the key pillars of youth marketing – it’s creative, collective, and just cool.

Really it just comes down to talent, Kutiman is obviously a good musician in his own right, however this ultimate sampling remix is the manifestation of how youth consume in general — streaming, sampling, and SHOCK even pirating.

Whether we like it or not, the internet  model of giving “things” away for free is steering a major consumer macrotrend, and those in the connected generation are the captains of this “Freesumerism”. This YouTube sensation highlights how free doesn’t necessarily mean giving up quality, free can be premium. With more than 1 million views in 1-week (no advertising, no marketing, so SEO), it also highlights how value-add offers drive WOM – they got it for free, why not share it with friends.

So how does this materialse into revenue driving business models? There are heaps of examples that capitalise on notions of “free”. For example McDonald’s and Telstra have announced plans to provide free WiFi in 710 locations in Australia by March 2009, making it the country’s largest distributor of free internet. What a great example of brands combining forces to provide a value-add for customers. Or the subscription services model, which we are seeing emerge surrounding music distribution. With Nokia’s Comes With Music, for a few dollars per month you get access to millions of tracks for free.  Even the good old fashioned Gift With Purchase is getting a face lift – there was a recent promotion with the Commonwealth Bank and offering $20 per month of downloads to account holders of CBA’s new Smart Access card. This may look like a GWP promo and is in a lot of ways, but it extends the GWP concept of a throwaway token item to provide real value and good experiences to customers.

There are many more models, and many more creative examples, and as I don’t work for any of the above mentioned companies can’t speak on the business success of these specific examples. What is important however is to recognise is there is a shift in the notion of value, especially when marketing to the uber-consumers of Gen Y, so if none of these will work in your business structure no worries, sure there is one that will.

So, what is your “freesumer” business model?

NB for more information on Freesumerism check out LS:N (paid subscription required). I recently attended a Future Trends Lab they put on and discussed this macro-trend in detail, really insightful.

Global Financial Crises not just for grown-ups

12 March 2009

What does the Global Financial Crises (GFC) mean to you? Well, probably a lot. You have probably been following the stocks, the interest rates, the stimulus packages; you are probably concerned about job security, know people who have been made redundant, or maybe even putting off retirement.

What does it mean to the 18yr old in uni, or 21yr old just out? Well a lot more then they apparently seem to know.

As part of the voxpop series for this blog, I hit the streets to interview 18-25yrs old on the GFC and what effects it was having on them personally. Here are a few of my favs which I think provide interesting insight.

What does this mean to me? Not that teens aren’t affected by the GFC. They are, their families are, and in their lives there has never been a more important time to get on top of finances, be wary of out of control credit debt (not speaking from personal experience…), learn about savings and investment options. In fact in a recent article in the London’s Daily Telegraph, research conducted by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in the UK suggests “16 to 24-year-olds are the most at risk”, particularly with regards to planning ahead and choosing financial products.

Many pessimists argue this lack of understanding is due to Gen Y’s “irresponsible optimism”. However if you look a bit deeper much research suggests that while, yes, Gen Y are optimistic, they are also realisitic. This video highlights they are actually eager to hear about the ground rules, they agree they need to know more.

That said, I would suggest the heart of the issue is that the conversation hasn’t yet become directed to Gen Y – WHY they should care, and therefore they haven’t listened. I know I don’t listen when someone is talking, or even shouting, to the person next to me, why would I? (that is unless of course they are whispering and it is gossip)

So here-in lies a huge opportunity for banks and/or financial services – utilize this inherent interest in the economy to extend your brand out to them, educate through dialogue, and in turn build a trusted advisor relationship…the holy grail…usually we usually we are trying to create conversation and force ourselves in, well here it is, on your doorstep, just jump on in.

Who knows, as my colleague Helina Lilley (a Gen Y in our Corporate Services team) very cleverly pointed out to me, maybe with the right guidance, these Gen Yers and their optimistic outlook will no longer be criticized, but instead become known as Gen Yield – the ones who steered their way through the recession and emerged with handsome high yielding portfolios. And let’s face it – it isn’t a hare-brained theory to think these cashed-up Gen Ys could potentially save the economy — cue to many major organizations that are counting on exactly that business strategy.

In my humble opinion, Helina, you have nailed it – educate Gen Y and convert to Gen-Yield.

Don’t Punish Us: grass roots campaign fighting for the rights of our social life

11 March 2009

Oh the power of peer-to-peer movements…I recently came across one I had to share.

I was out over the weekend at a local watering hole in Sydney, waiting in an absurdly long line to get a drink, when I spotted an unusual donation box of some sort. On it was a photo of a girl holding a giant speech bubble that read “Who Says I Can’t Drink Responsibly”.

A bit of background for non-Australian readers. Last year Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stated he would “scare the living daylights” out of Australian youth by highlighting the real and dangerous effects of binge drinking. The solution proposed was a $53 million national campaign including TV ads, increases in alcohol-related taxes, as well as a host of measures put in place at bars and nightclubs, including a 2AM lock out.

Gasp, horror many night owls screamed in protest!

Stop right here though, this is not a commentary on binge drinking, this is a post to discuss what happens when an “unimaginative” government initiative (as deemed by the Sydney Morning Herald) collides with the empowered millennials of today.

Back to the beginning of my post. The donation box was collecting funds for a campaign called Don’t Punish Us. This is a non-profit, grass-roots movement established to build ground-swell support in favor of retracting the above mentioned pub and venue restrictions. From what I can read those supporting this movement are not suggesting to turn a blind-eye to the issue, but instead question in rather harsh terms the benefits, or lack thereof, of those that were initiated.

So, you might ask, other than lambasting the government on a public forum (what’s new there?) what to date really has Don’t Punish Us achieved?

Well, quite a lot. Already they have 17,000+ registered as part of the petition, and 18,000+ members joined the Facebook cause. At some stage the sheer volume of supporters will force the NSW government to respond.

However it is not just about numbers as we know, it is how this movement has sparked a conversation via the blog platform that highlights the real impact to me. This group has an opinion and they are holding the government accountable to finding the solutions. And of course they all have an opinion, why wouldn’t they? It is their issue, it effects them both the binge-drinking and in terms of the new restrictions. Why is it an after-thought to engage the target audience, especially when you are trying to effect change among them?

As for Don’t Punish Us, I think this is a great “youth” marketing example for several reasons:

- I like the power of grass roots demonstrated here, it is a bottom-through-to-top strategy, it makes people feel involved.

- I like the fact that it is both on and off line, just like social networks.

- I like that while it is a serious issue, the tone is perfect for the audience, it is entertaining and cheeky.

- I like how it is empowering and relevant – keys to youth marketing success.

- Most importantly, I like how it harnesses conversation and dialogue to effect change.

Moral of the story – if you doubt the impact of youth advocacy and/or social media, then I hope this modern-day story of David with his slingshot working to take down Goliath may make you think.

Oh, and thought it would be fun to post a little artistic irony from a friend (check out the box in the background)….

Top brands for teens globally: may the most relevant win

05 March 2009

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)

The Pixel Generation’s music video: Chairlift’s “Evident Utensil”

02 March 2009

For a dreary Monday thought this “pixel nation” video would provide a little inspiration.

Chairlift’s music video “Evident Utensil” uses an editing effect known as “datamoshing” to create this throw-back, psychedelic feel. According to Wikipedia this is “visual style is produced by an exploit of the different ways video codecs process motion and color information”….whatever that means….

Why I like it – I like anything that challenges conventional interpretation. From a youth marketing perspective, I think it highlights the visual cues that appeal to the Pixel Generation. It also has a not-so-subtle sense of visual irony that is relevant to kids who are growing up on computers – the band is frolicking in nature fields, but the video is this uber-synthetic visual mashup.

Whatever the meaning behind the message, it is creative and unique. So sit back and enjoy (and don’t adjust your screen)…hopefully it provides you with some inspiration as well.


Chairlift, “Evident Utensil”
Video directed by Ray Tintori
Cinematography by Rob Leitzell
Datamoshery by Bob Weisz

Oh, and watch the How To here:

iTunes University, but what about the football team?

26 February 2009

I love the studies surrounding university lectures now available on iTunes from several test campuses (‘iTunes university’ better than the real thing; Ewan Callaway, New Scientist) — apparently if you go to the class, take notes during the lecture, then download the podcast following and go back through the difficult sections time and time again until you understand – you increase your average score on the next test….really?!

I am not being critical of the concept of online learning or even this study, let me be clear that I am a huge fan and applaud these universities as it feels like a natural progression. It seems the higher ups understand what is driving youth culture and are attempting to harness it – good on them. Furthermore I think that in the current economic landscape, online lectures provide a great opportunity for disadvantaged youth to participate in higher education. On this note I would like to see more universities making  lectures open to download although I understand the DRM issues surrounding this as it is by nature proprietary….maybe it is a form of online university with a different monetization model…but once I again I have digressed…

I just feel all of this is missing something, probably because I am concerned that the whole professor, theater-style of lecture is outdated for Gen Y. It’s hard enough to get kids to go to one lecture, let alone download it and listen 2x, 3x or even 4x times to fully digest the info.

What I think would be interesting would be to flip the whole lecture-university model on its head and adapt more of the Gen Y mentality. I think as everything for this generation, it is about collaboration, empowerment and even entertainment. My point is when marketing to youth (and yes, that is what universities do) we need to completely rethink these engagement models to really harness the power.

All this being said, it’s great to daydream about what an online iUniversity will look like, just wonder how some of the more traditional pillars of college will transfer into this virtual world – iDebt, iFootball, iFraternities or iDorm Rooms?

Ford Fiesta movement calling for “agents”, but are they agents of change?

24 February 2009

Love the new Ford Fiesta campaign ( – the company is giving away 100 free cars to chosen “agents” as part of an ambassador program. To enter people (I’m assuming as they are targeting “millennials” there are restrictions on who can enter but didn’t come across them as of yet) have to submit a short video on their own YouTube channel (great idea as they will have more reach, one of the entrants has a video with 1.2 million views…). As part of the vid they need to share how big their social network is and what it consists of, might as well be upfront in what Ford is asking of them, right? Once they have the car Ford asks that they blog, tweet and share their experiences with friends…

So let me get this straight – I can submit a video, get a FREE car (already hooked), and write about it on Facebook – sold!

I like it for several reasons – it empowers people to leverage their network versus trying to pull everyone onto the Ford site, it is transparent in its intent – hey blog for us and you may get a free car, and the message is simple hence why there are already 1,500+ entries. It might not solve the world’s problems and give Ford a CSR platform, but I think it is clever and fun, all you have to do is check out a few of the videos to get what I mean.

Not just a pretty face, it is also a strategic business move -  according to Sam De La Garza, Ford’s small car marketing manager (in a recent comment on MarketingDaily), “By the time of the Fiesta’s U.S. launch, Millennials will account for 28% of the country’s driving population (a total of 70 million new drivers). The movement gives [Ford] an opportunity to connect with the group before they have established brand loyalty while appealing to their affinity for social networking and technology.”

So the strategy seems solid, the launch has proven to be successful, now I look forward to following the follow-up. How will this campaign in which they are encouraging direct consumer feedback on their product change either marketing or development? I want to see what Ford does with any constructive feedback (ie is this being used for R&D purposes), and how they will use the platform to turn any potential criticisms into positives. Early days but if they can harness these conversational elements inherent in social media marketing, they could nail it.

And just for fun, wanted to share my fav video of those I watched – Ford, Fiesta (can you believe I actually took the time to watch several, but they were amusing, what can I say?)  – definitely give both of these guys one! And I want an invite to the Ford, Fiesta :)