Youth Marketing Insights » Nike 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 en hourly 1 Daryl Butler of Nike wins me over, again Wed, 22 Apr 2009 06:23:50 +0000 Meghan Stuyvenberg

Recently YPulse did a brief Q&A with the very smart Daryl Butler, retail brand marketing director for Nike (and before that he was at Boost Mobile, which was also one of the first youth brands I had the pleasure to work with years ago). Nike does youth marketing really well, best in practice really, and as could be expected there was some interesting insight from DB.

I won’t include a copy of the whole interview, as I want to direct you to YPulse here for that, however I wanted to make a note of how much I think this guy gets it….and BTW in a 5 questions email interview, I generally wouldn’t be expecting a whole lot.

Take the below for example:

[YPulse] YP: Can you describe a recent successful youth-targeted initiative from Nike? What made this work?

[Daryl Butler] DB: I would be selling the brand short if I focused on an initiative. That assumes that our work is done….and that’s far from the case.

It’s not that what he says is groundbreaking, it’s that it feels genuine. There is a humbleness with which Daryl speaks about the brand and the relationship with it’s consumer that I find amazing, especially in this industry. It is a sense of learning from and listening to the customers. It is all about adding value to their lives. It is a real understanding. It is the conversation. Sounds like he is even at the basketball courts with kids on Sat morning, chatting, trying new products, just being a part of their lives – that is commitment anyone can respect.

So now that I have exhausted pretty much every buzz word in marketing (I see about 36 in the above para alone), I want to make clear why call out DB and Nike specifically. I guess it’s that while brands speak of this level of engagement, few actually do (or maybe should say can), and that’s why his and Nike’s approach stands out. This is not to be negative towards other brands, it merely highlights how advanced Nike as an organisation is, not just the marketing department.

“Going back to basics” as I believe he puts it, and listening to consumers is exciting, maybe because I grew up jaded by the you-need-me approach. Really there are very few brands – if any – that we as paying consumers need. I can think of 1 example – tow-truck companies – by the time a car is towed we have to pay them to be allowed to recover it, and most who have experienced that would agree customer satisfaction is low on the priority list there and we all hope to never run across them again. So with that in mind, does your customer need you or do you need your customer ?

As always my tangent gets a bit off track, but the point is I look forward to continuing to watch and learn closely from the mistakes and successes of a brand like Nike, where the customer is central to the company. I sincerely hope to run into more marketing execs at places I hang out listening to what I want, if that ever happens you can be sure they would have converted at least one advocate – me!

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DUDE, Carl’s Jr taps into mysteriously hungry gen-y skateboarders Thu, 19 Mar 2009 01:41:01 +0000 Meghan Stuyvenberg 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 Thu, 05 Mar 2009 06:00:58 +0000 Meghan Stuyvenberg 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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