Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Youth - mindless enthusiasm or marketers' last hope?

Was at the Malaysian Media Conference last week and was really taken with Khailee's presentation on Youth in Malaysia and what they have got to say. While I think it's brilliant but I think some areas are opened for debate.

Question: If we let youths run the country, will we have a brighter future? Personally: I think we'll be in havoc.

Having a voice and being heard is important. But when it comes to running marketing campaigns, I'm sceptical. Marketing with youths is essentially marketers utilizing youths. Hey, let's face it, there's no other way to sugar-coat the pill. Swallow it, will ya? YouthAsia talks about marketing with youths, hear em' and let them drive your campaigns spiritedly to achieve your goals. Don't appear and 'hang out' with them when your brand isn't even their friend. Hey, is Apple your friend? Is Nike your friend? Is Facebook your friend? NONE. They're an indispensable tool. An idol at best. But NOT a friend. How can a brand claims to be a friend when at the end of the day, every day it's still trying to sell me something? Is your insurance agent your friend? Is your car salesman your friend? Is your MLM promoter your friend? Come on.

What brands should do is STOP trying to be the consumer's friend. Stop trying to look cool, be cool. You're either cool or you're not. And that usually starts from the top. So here's talking to you, Mr. CEO. DiGi is cool because their CEO is young. And wears jeans to work (maybe). Practices flexi working hours (for sure). Believes in innovation (most definitely). Try that with Maxis. Or Celcom. Hmm. Brands should just sell stuff. The difference is people appreciate transparency. Just own up, will you? I think marketing with youth (or to, or at, whatever grammar proposition you decide to use still boils down to the same thing), is about empowerment. You don't have to be like them. You don't have to do what they do. You only need to empower them so that they know (NOT FEEL) they're in control. And they will appreciate what you have done. Because you kept it real. And in return, vote for you with their dollar (willingly and most gladly).

The 'friend' model is just another disguised 'transactional' business model. Getting youth to get more youth to buy into something is getting the gullible to lead the gullible. It should be organic. Keep it real remember? Stop being a control freak and wanting to see how the dots connect from the mousetrap to the cash register. WELCOME TO WEB 2.O. It doesn't happen that way. Brands should focus on themselves. Improving their service, products, conduct user research, listen to feedbacks, listen to critics, empower consumers to improve their lives and most importantly, in the boundless democratisation of the net - give them a choice. Brand loyalty is not something which can be built by ADEX, by frequency, by exposure, by mindless advertising. Brand loyalty is now truly scarce because you screw up once, bad news travel far and fast. But when you finally do get the loyalty of your consumers. Trust me. It will be a lifelong relationship and return.

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