Living in a GenY world

Will’s written a very insightful post on Tabula Rasa, using the artists in Converse’s My Drive Thru video as an example. I just posted on Marktd about how that concept has been extended to Converse Festivals (read that post to know more). Those two thoughts along with an oldish article of Faris’ called ‘Remixing the Future’, and a post of Gavin Heaton’s about how brands need to present themselves completely differently in order to seriously speak to GenY, got me thinking – about a lot of inter-related things.

First, like Converse Festivals, where Converse is not trying the usual ‘advertising’ route to speak to its target consumer group, (essentially 14-25 year olds), the time has come for brands to re-think their own definition of advertising and marketing in-house. Is the brand, for example, bigger than the product, or not? (A case in point is today’s news that Unilever is moving away from the Dove Real Beauty campaign in order to focus on the product rather than the message.) Once the brand answers that question, it is probably much easier to answer the rest of it – like what channels they should use. A message-oriented campaign is much more amenable to multiple channels of connection with the consumer than a product-oriented one. A product-oriented campaign (like Drench), may have a digital component, but that can only go so far. Something like Converse Festivals or Dove Real Beauty can go much further, though they are also digital, because they are about a message.

Given that we live in a digital world and there’s no going back, can any brand resist the temptation to jump on the digital bandwagon today? Saying that brands need to re-think what marketing is to them is very simplistic, but the fact is that a lot of them are confused. It’s like peer pressure, this whole talk of ‘social media’ and ‘digital’. Do you want to be part of the ‘in-crowd’, or a dork? If you stick to your guns and remain a dork, then as a brand will you lose your fan base? Conversely, if you decide to get ‘in’, will you lose steam after a point because you don’t know which direction to head in?

There’s no easy answer, but this is what I think: yes, we’re children of the digital age. Even if we weren’t born into a digital world, we probably grew up in it. If we didn’t grow up in it, we’re living in it now. So yes, a GenY mode of communicating to consumers will probably be sensible. BUT, GenY doesn’t necessarily mean ‘website’.

Think of touch-points. How is a consumer going to remember your product, or your brand? Get out there and give them those memories. Whether it’s Nike+’s 10K Human Race, Innocent’s Village Fete or Red Bull’s Air Race (which are events that don’t use ‘digital’ in the traditional sense of the term but are very much GenY ideas, so to speak) or Orange’s Play Balloonacy campaign (which was purely ‘digital’) there’s a reason those brands stand out.

I’m not saying traditional advertising is dead. You’ll have the Cadbury’s Gorillas, yes. Creativity will never die. That ad was brilliant simply for the idea. But even Cadbury’s didn’t know how popular YouTube would make it. I doubt they factored that bit in. But you know what? I don’t think they’ll be completely oblivious to it next time.

Hire me, and I’ll give you plenty of other brilliant ideas. 😀

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