A short interview I did a while back with Harry, a super connected digital native here in Sydney who had an interesting perspective on connectivity, digital culture, brands and how social media fits into his life. Pretty amazing that a 16yr old has such a strong POV on brands in the digital age.
Coke has just launched an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) based around its secret recipe and a dude called Dr Pemberton (who apparently invented Coke). It’s quite cryptic and weird but I’m sure if they seed it correctly with their massive Facebook fan pages, it will get traction, big time.
They’ve seeded a video on YouTube embedded with hidden clues and links to a Twitter page, FTP vault accounts, Facebook App Pages, Live video Feeds, Random Microsites, more Microsites and a YouTube video.
Seems like a big departure from their ‘happiness’ positioning, but for me brands that have mythology around them like Coke, should celebrate it. I think this is an interesting way to start conversations on social platforms for Coke’s fanatics who always have wondered about Cokes recipe…maybe?? Having said that, it feels about like Levi’s ‘Go Forth’ where they’re tapping into the whole 1800’s Civil War thing. Am gonna follow it and see how it evolves. Good on Coke for having some interesting initatives out in the market, combined with Expedition 206, they are experimenting with pop culture.
I was thinking last night about how I judge ideas that I work on with creatives at the agency, and it got me thinking about the key elements I look for.
Here’s my checklist of 10 things to think about when you’re judging ideas or thinking about creating ideas for modern youth brands
- Is it SIMPLE, SURPRISING and SOCIAL?
- Does it capture my IMAGINATION and create a NEW REALITY for me?
- Is it built of FRICTION POINTS between culture and the brand’s POV on the world, which will get me talking?
- Is there an inherent MAGNETISM to it?
- Is it PARTICIPATORY on several levels and easy to SHARE?
- Does it have the potential to be REMIXED in some way
- Does it create SOCIAL VALUE when I interact with?
- Is it making a useful/interesting CULTURAL CONTRIBUTION in some way?
- Is it AUTHENTIC and true to the brand?
- Is it a LENS into a fresh consumer perspective versus a reflection of the target audiences lives?
I’m sure there’s probably a thing or two I’ve missed here, this is just some stuff I jotted down. Thoughts anyone?
Am proud to say that last weekend marked the launch of our first idea for Telstra. We call it Cabbie-oke – a culture mash between karaoke and free weekend cab rides.
We wanted to create an experience for the youth of Sydney and Melbourne which was both entertaining, useful and a little surprising. So we created Cabbie-Oke, a heap of kitted out Cabbie-oke cabs offering free cab rides with a twist every weekend in Sydney and Melbourne. All you have to do is take a breath and belt out a tune for your free ride home (or to the next party).
We got ‘Sensitive Cabbie’ to get the ball rolling.
For added fun, the ‘bands’ (performers in cabs name their band) have their videos uploaded to the Cabbie-oke youtube channel and every week limited edition Cabbie-oke Xbox 360’s are given away for the best performances who will join the ‘Cream of Cabbie-Oke’. People who vote on cabbieoke.com.au get a chance to win a Nokia E71.
So far, we’ve had some belting performances..some good, some really really bad, but everyone seems to be getting into it.
Here are a selection of some of the bands who got their groove on:
And to prove we’ve got a few elderly fans, check out ‘Wounder Bread’ going solo
I wrote a post a few days back on Coke Expedition 206. They’ve got 3 teams of 3 people, one team will be chosen as Happiness Ambassadors to travel around the world for a year in 2010 spreading happiness in every country Coke is sold in. It’s a global expedition on Coke (excuse the bad pun). It’s a cool idea that really only a brand like Coke could pull off. I was lucky enough to get in touch with a fellow Sydney-sider Greer, who is one of the finalists in team WOW who are currently in second place with 38% of votes. She’s got some interesting perspectives on Happiness and why the expedition will be valuable to her (if her team wins). So vote for Greer in Team WOW. Here’s some thoughts from Greer on the Expedition, Happiness, youth culture and what she stands for.
Tell me how you got involved in Expedition 206?
I was lucky enough to be on the mailing list for Lonely Planet suppliers as I had sold them a travel video about Italy. When Coke put out the call for applicants they did it through companies/agencies who would be able to find people with relevant experience for the project; it was not private just targeted. The initial job application did not state the company that you would represent, it was very secretive. It was not until the final 18 were invited to go to Atlanta for a week long selection process did we find out that is was Coca-cola. I, along with 17 others spent a busy week in Atlanta. We did team building exercises, filming expeditions, under pressure video editing as well as psychological testing. On the second last day, we found which which 9 had been selected as finalists and who was in which team. We then had approximately 24 hours to film and put together our promotional videos, when I finally got on the plane home you can imagine how exhausted I was! It was a roller coaster experience. we got to know that other 17 people very well and formed some great friendships. When we found out who was in the final 9 and who had not made it, it was bitter sweet. Happy to be included but also thinking of your new friends who had not been selected. Having 18 talented people to choose from I am sure the decision about the teams would have been very tough to make.
What does ‘happiness’ mean to you and why do you believe it’s important for global youth?
I am happy when I am content with the things I have happening in my life and I am able to just relax & enjoy them. Everyone suffers pressures whether it be from work, family, peers or themselves and I think happy people are the people who can accept or ignore those pressures and just be content with who they are. This is a tough concept for youth as I know when I was a little younger I was constantly aspiring to be, have or do something other than what I was, and that can make it harder to enjoy the ‘here & now’. Of course it is still important to have goals and work towards them but smell the roses along the way and live in the moment not in the future.
Is there a ‘happiness’ issue/crisis?
I believe happiness has always been and will always be an important issue. It seems to be a simple concept but in fact it is very complex. It is not just about enjoying happy moments but also about living in a happy/positive state of mind. Being happy does not need to depend on your economic situation, and I think by being able to ask people in so many countries from so many walks of life; will give us a great understanding about what truly makes people happy.
Why do you think ‘happiness’ is so important for global youth culture?
I am not an expert, but when you hear stories about youth suicide and depression; it does make me very concerned. As youths our lives should, in theory, be less complicated and more carefree than adult life, but so many youths to not have a healthy state of mind and do not enjoy their younger years. In privileged societies such as our own it would appear that we are less content with all we have than those in poorer countries who are content with far less. I think it is very important to address this and help show youths how to be happy with less and how to be content with themselves.
How is it that two Aussies made the final 9? What do you think it is about Aussie youth that make us ‘happy’?
I can’t be sure how they picked us, though I think what appealed was our sense of humour and easy going nature. Australians, generally speaking are a culture of people who are always ready to have a good time but we are also hard working. Internationally I think we are well liked by most other cultures; travelling, I never had a negative response towards Australia.
What’s your life mantra?
My mantra is not very fancy, its very simple. It will all work out, one way or another. When ever things don’t seem to be going to plan, I just think ” Ah well, its going to work out somehow.”
Why do you think your team deserves to win over the other two teams?
I’m not sure if its a matter of deserving it more, but I think our team is best suited for the trip. We will live in each others back pockets for 365 day to survive that you need to have the right personalities. I am very driven and love to be busy so I will adapt well to the hectic schedule of the trip. All three of us have high energy but also know when to buckle down and focus. We also have the perfect skill set between us; EZ (Erin) is the writer of the trio, Brendan and I both of plenty of video experience and we are all experienced using online technologies and blogging. I studied digital media at COFA and have technical knowledge as well as a creative eye. Aside from our skills we are all genuinely nice people. Working together so far we have all been under a lot of pressure and we have proven we can make quick and sensible decisions together. We all contribute and compromise to work together as a team. Being a prima dona on this expedition will just not work.
Complete these sentences…
I believe in…what goes around comes around
I am inspired by…people who rise above their circumstances.
I hope..to always be happy and enjoy my life.
I hate..feeling like I am wasting time.
I care….about other peoples feelings.
I wish….that’s a tough one because I wish can be something almost unattainable… I wish there was no war
My friends…are all important to me.
My dream….is to be able to live my life creatively, without feeling trapped by circumstance or finance.
The link to vote for our team is : http://www.expedition206.com/TeamWow.aspx
And our facebook page is: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Team-WOW/169501557448
Got a chance to interview a real music expert and pop culture maven in Emily Copeland – we met the other week and she gave me some great insight into the world of music and some great examples of what brands are doing right to connect with young people (and how they’re fucking up too) in the brand saturated space that is music. Em works at MCN and also hosts a music program on FBI radio. Check out her blog here. She’s got amazingly deep insight into youth culture and how brands and ‘playing’ in the music space.
Here’s here perspective on brands and music, music tribes and what’s coming up this Summer.
Which brands are doing well to leverage music? Maybe a few different examples
I love seeing brands do something a bit different in music. The ideas of giving away tickets to have an ‘ultimate festival experience’, running an unsigned band competition, and setting up your own branded music event have been done to death. More importantly, there are brands that now ‘own’ these spaces (Festivals – Smirnoff; Unsigned Bands – Tooheys Extra Dry; Branded Music Events – Bacardi) , so it is incredibly difficult for anyone new to try to play in these areas, or to do it better than those existing brands.
Ted Baker leveraged music well this year, with the creation of the ‘Gig Race’ to promote a new clothing range. Entrants had two weeks to attend as many gigs as humanly possible, whilst blogging and twittering about their experience as they went. Ted Baker used something their consumers were already doing (going to gigs, blogging and twittering) to promote their brand. And more importantly, they found a way to credibly link their brand with music – by having consumers do it for them! Every tweet and blog post that went out in relation to the competition mentioned music and Ted Baker – and came direct from the target demographic. (FYI – the winner was a 29 year old guy from Kent, who went to 27 gigs in 14 days. He now holds the Guinness World Record for most concerts attended!)
Are there any ‘must do’s’ when considering using a music marketing strategy to engage youth?
There are two major ‘must do’s’ that I would recommend every brand look at before trying to engage youth through music:
You need to do something that makes sense to your audience, in relation to your brand. Just simply deciding that you want to be ‘aligned with music’ isn’t enough. Nike are a great example of a brand that does this well. Nike are all about sport – so rather than trying to put on a gig, or use a band in their advertising, in mid-2008 they teamed up with A-Trak to create a mix to help people “Keep on Running’ – which adds a music element to their sporting brand. A few months back they also helped De La Soul to release their first new album in five years – which was designed to play as a workout soundtrack, and was produced by Flosstradamus. Nike found sneaker wearing musicians, who had massive credibility, and helped them to do their thing (release music), while still retaining their core brand focus (helping people to exercise).
Don’t just look for trends within your target demographic and try to copy them (like Taco Bell did in the US, when they tried to take an ironic look at white boy hip hop with their ‘Roosevelts’ campaign . Look to do something unique, or look to support an artist or sound that is emerging (like BMW have done with The Presets and Empire of the Sun http://www.omgwithemily.com/2009/05/bmw-parters-with-empire-of-sun.html). The support of an emerging artist will almost always be looked upon favourably, as everyone knows that these independent artists can’t pay the rent with just hipster cred!
Youth music tribes.. what tribes are popular at the moment?
Back in 2004, the British Council compiled a document that identified 9 youth ‘tribes’ – Townies, Goths, Nu-metallers, Soulstrels, Indie Kids, Pop Princesses, Clubbers, Grungers and Skaters. The interesting thing about this study was that every tribe was partly identified by a particular musical artist, or a genre of music they were all into.
Music is incredibly important to young people, primarily because it is something they all use to create their own identity. Music also helps define their other choices in life – from who they hang out with, to the clothing they wear, the bars they go to, the media they consume, and even the alcohol they drink.
In Australia, we have seen a rise in the popularity of Indie Kids over the past few years – and the music at festivals has reflected this. There has been a move away from techno and hard house, toward more indie electro sounds at major festivals. Even more traditional ‘rock’ festivals have seen an increased number of indie bands and indie electro acts in the lineup.
You will also find multiple sub-tribes within each tribe. The 9 youth tribes defined in the UK are massive generalisations. If you are looking at identifying youth by the music they listen to, then everyone who listens to electronic music would be a ‘Clubber’. However, when you drill down into the electronic music genres, you get everything from Disco, to House, Jungle, Trance, Nu Rave, and Garage. Then, if you look into sub-genres, you find styles such as Baltimore Club, Industrial Rock, Fidget House, Glitch and 8 bit. It will probably be hard for you to find huge similarities in lifestyle, fashion and speech between someone who passionate about Juke (similar to Booty House – think Kid Sister), compared to someone who is crazy about Psytrance (think something from Infected Mushroom) – even though both styles are in essence ‘electronic’.
What do you feel will be the bands/artists which will gain traction with Aussie youth this summer?
There is a huge amount of female electro-pop currently hitting the mainstream. From the horrible (Lady Gaga) to the more interesting acts including La Roux, Little Boots, (both of whom we just saw performing around the country as part of Parklife) Ladyhawke and Bat for Lashes. I’m sure these sounds will continue across summer, particularly with Ladyhawke having just received five nominations in the 2009 ARIAs.
There are a few tools that I use to look at current trends in sounds and artists. One is Shazam (see Shazam’s picks for 2009 here: http://www.omgwithemily.com/2009/01/whats-that-remix.html), another is Hype Machine’s ‘popular’ feed. I also RSS feeds from around 150 different music blogs, of all different genres, and from right around the world – and keep an eye on these for hot tracks, and musical trends. Young Aussies are also getting better at supporting local talent, and we are seeing huge support for local artists in both the commercial and indie scenes.
Get ready, strap yourself in for some fun people.
I’ve interviewed a fair few cool cats on this blog since Feb this year, but this one takes the take. Meet one of my best mates Benny, we grew up together in Sydney, born on the same day, same hospital, share a middle name and his Mum almost killed us both driving us to soccer training when we were 13 (she got the One Way sign mixed up. He’s just returned home from a year on the run travelling around the world living the type of life us professionals only wish we had the balls to do. He is the ultimate ‘free spirit’ with an amazing perspective on life and youth culture, and he can tell a story, boy he can tell a story. I threw him a few questions late last week to talk about global youth and some interesting stories from his year abroad, and this is what he came up with. For more of his great stuff (dribble ;)) , check out his blog here.
You just returned from a massive adventure around the world, tell us why you decided to do it at age 28 and what were the highlights?
Ever since my first big trip at 22ish I’d planned to chuck it all in at some point and just bugger off for a year+ to become a free radical – beholden to no man, living outside The System, free from the regulations that govern the rest of the plebs kinda thing. Hell, we live most of our lives in the comfortable, fully furnished cells afforded us by the wonders of capitalism and social democracy, pretending we know what true freedom is but all the while knowing, deep down, that we’re living and playing by someone else’s rules. If I’m spending 80 odd years on this planet I want to know as much as I can about the world and who I’m sharing it with – and I want to find it out for myself, I don’t wanna be told by Catriona Rowntree while she’s swanning about some bullshit Bora Bora resort in an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, my-boobs-are-popping-out bikini. Does she even do Getaway anymore? Not gonna lie to you, I haven’t watched that bollocks for so long I don’t even know. If I wanna give some context to my life I’m doing it my way.
I used to work on the Toyota business, and they’ve got this great saying: genchi genbutsu, which means “go and see for yourself.” How else will you know for sure? Trust someone else? Eh… rather not. It’s a lot easier said than done, though… to actually get out of the country I had to quit my job, break up with my girlfriend and have my puppy put down. Ok, I didn’t really put my puppy down – I don’t even have a puppy – I was just using it to illustrate how difficult it can be to break free of the torpor of convenience, to shrug off the inertia of routine, to kick lethargic indifference square in the nuts and to go for gold while you’re still young and virile enough to do so.
What did you learn about ‘global youth culture’ on your travels? Similarities/differences between teens/20 somethings in developing vs developed countries?
There are far, far less differences between youths of different countries than you’d think. And by ‘far less’ I mean practically none. Take away the language barriers, moderate the cultural differences, and teens and 20-somethings – be they in a western Chinese provincial shithole (and I’m looking at you here, Chengdu) or the red martian deserts of northern Chile – are one and the same. Globalisation has seen to that. Same sensibilities, same insecurities, same use of tech and social media to belong, rally, learn, congregate, get fucked up, get laid. Same rabid grab-happy fervour for hot brands, cool brands, up-and-comers… regardless of whether they ‘fit’ with that brand or not. They’re all looking for something, looking for an identity, but they’re not sure what it is exactly; not yet anyway. I may not be an L.A. Gear kinda guy, but dammit, everyone else is and therefore that makes me one too. (Fine, so I may have an unhealthy obsession with the long-dead b’ball pump hi-tops that I could never quite pull off – I was more an Airwalk kinda guy – but they’re back, they really are, they came back last year, and whether or not they have Corey Feldman as their spokesperson (they don’t, they never would) I’m still with ’em.) Seventeen year-old Ahmed from the dodgy part of Amman will never pick up a basketball in his life, but should that stop him looking like he might? Hell no.
Teens and 20-somethings don’t really have an image at that age, they’re ameobic sponges that take on the identity of whatever social group will have them. And then they consume and relate to the brands utilised and advocated and lusted after by the group… and the global similarities here are astounding – the same brands fill the ‘Hot’ and ‘Not’ columns almost universally across the globe. The kids in developing countries and already-developed countries are all after the same thing – the only difference is some of them have it, and the rest want it. My old man went through the USSR 30 years ago in a VW Beetle and the Russian teenagers back then payed him exorbitant amounts of money for his denim jeans. That one pair of jeans paid for his whole road trip. Nowadays the Russki’s have caught up, they’ve got their own ideas of cool and, having realised the latent potential of their cultural and economic juggernaught, they write their own books on cool rather than follow other people’s. But still, that didn’t stop youths from Lake Baikal to St Petersburg making obscene cash offers for my big-buckled cowboy belt. Didn’t part with it though – it was Jeans West ,too. Ha. I don’t so much loathe as pity Jeans West, but here I am an unwitting, steadfast brand ambassador of theirs. How in the world did that happen?
What was the weirdest thing you saw on your travels in relation to young people?
Mate, how long have you got. Seriously, you would not believe the shenanigans that go down, I couldn’t make this up if I tried. I saw Mexican metal fans carry around dolls violated to look like Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (photo attached – nice glasses… horns up). Kids jonesing for a music fix crowding around the only iPod still with batteries in the middle of the Amazon jungle. Teenagers popping ecstasy like M+M’s and dancing in old nuclear fallout bunkers under Slovakian mountains. An alternative youth community in Texas railing against the state’s archly-conservative leadership by embracing homosexuality, hard drugs and hedonism. Eighteen-year old Israeli kids in fatigues lugging around Steyr machine guns bigger than they are while they wait for their first pube. Bedouin tribesman in the middle eastern desert that are twenty-one but look fifty, their faces chiselled and worn by the relentless elements. Pregnant Puerto Rican princesses pushing prams. Polish youths uniting nations with impromptu vodka summits. An Arab henchman and an Israeli fox shagging seven shades of shit out of the Kama Sutra in a 10-person dorm room. A Nubian rolling infinity spliffs for his international brothers from another mothers… his words, not mine. Smoking hot Japanese girls fulfilling cartoon fantasies in public parks. All the TV shows and Youtube clips ever made cannot adequately capture the ridiculous, inappropriate, remarkable, piss-funny carnival of life. This I will tell you for shiz – truth is stranger than fiction, by a long, brilliant way.
Some people belong to the ‘indie’ tribe or the ‘surfer’ tribe, what tribe/s do you identify with/if any? Were there any common youth tribes you saw on your travels?
The uni-tribe youth is a myth. It just doesn’t exist. You can’t categorise youth like that because it doesn’t work, you end up with amalgams and half-truths. Ask anyone 15-30 what ‘tribe’ they belong to, and dollars to donuts not one of them will classify themselves as belonging exclusively to just the one tribe. For example… I’m disaffected indie. Festival rat. Esky-lid shredder. Fashion demi-god. Day-clubber. Pub-grubber. Barfly. Sports tragic. Closet gamer. Retro-seeker. Blah blah, and so it goes. I refuse to pick between one… I oscillate depending on my mood, the friends I’m with, the time of year, and who I want to impress, antagonise, or inseminate, among a billion other factors. So I identify with all tribes, in a way… those I’m not a part of or haven’t encountered before intrigue me, some of the things that drive these kids are utterly fascinating… it’s the subversives I like the best, those youth that from a preternaturally young age question the structures and strictures around them and probe and push to see how far things can bend and stretch before they break, before consequence comes crashing down. They’re the ones that are gonna change the world.
In regards to a common youth tribe… there isn’t one, in my opinion. Not in the travelling community at any rate. Everyone adapts and experiments according to where they are and who they’re with: if you’re in Morocco you buy carpets and get hassled, whether you’re a goth or a private school princess. Why be there otherwise? The people that don’t embrace the more curious aspects of their personality never even make it that far in the first place. That’s the only commonality as far as I can see: a fluid, bright-eyed inquisitiveness, and a willingness to accept and explore and experiment with what’s different.
Do you think the ‘free spirit’ that many young Australians have in terms of need to discover nex experiences is shared by youth around the world?
Without a shadow of a doubt. I used to think that Australians were more inclined to up stumps and go exploring than continental peoples, largely because of the tyranny of distance we’re saddled with. But that’s an utter fallacy, the reality is no amount of profiling will ever adequately capture the true essence of the free spirit, at least not with any great accuracy. For the most part the free spirit can’t actually tell you what it is they’re looking for because they don’t really know themselves. It’s one of those strange internal yearnings that can neither be captured nor quantified.
My one great, all-conquering fear is of the homogenisation of experience that will undoubtedly come with the monstrous, insatiable onslaught of rapid global sameness. Soon we’ll all be using the same appliances, watching the same TV shows, drinking the same energy drinks, all caught up inextricably in the advent of the all-pervasive Great Nothing (that’s an obscure Never-Ending Story reference right there. Don’t know if the writer actually intended for his unequivocally rad kids flick to be poignant societal commentary, but for the purposes of this piece I’m going to assume that he/she most definitely did.) The fun is rapidly being sucked out of it out of the travel experience… hell, I don’t even have to worry about forgetting to pack something when I go abroad because I’ll invariably be able to get that phone charger or 8-bladed razor (don’t scoff – we both know it’s only a matter of time) wherever it is I end up. Uncertainty, unpredictability, having to rely on your own resourcefulness and cunning – that’s where the fun’s at. Take that away and you got nothing.
How important was technology on your journey around the world…mobile, web ,skype etc…what kept you sane?
Good question…technology was one part incredibly important to three parts laughingly redundant. I chose not to take a mobile phone with me – what price freedom if every Tom, Dick and Needy can reach me at the touch of a button? For the first month I reached instinctively for my back pocket whenever I heard my old phone ring, and cursed myself for doing so. That huge, awful feeling that somehow, somewhere, I was missing out on something of vital importance gradually receded and I was able to devote myself wholly – gloriously! – to the moment. Best thing I ever did. I’m aware how trite and hackneyed this sounds, but it was as liberating as pissing naked off a mountain, so much so that I’ve been back in Sydney for nigh on three months now and the shitty old 80’s Nokia I’ve started using again (under duress) only has about six numbers in it. Functionally, though, a phone would have come in handy sometimes. Stuck at some godforsaken bus station in the Czech Republic at 2am. Trying to meet up with a mate in the ass-end of Guatemala. Scrabbling for a non-existant hostel bed in Finland during the Helsinki Festival. And Jeebus, you would not believe how hard it is to find a public phone these days. Especially one that isn’t broken or vandalised (thanks for nothing, New York). But, funnily enough, it was these times that gave me the most garish, terrifying and heinous experiences of the trip; in short, all my best, funniest, most unbelievable stories and memories came from not having the tech to get out of a jam. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
Websites like Hostelworld and such helped things out this time, but again, using them meant there was less sleeping in Israeli caves and under Transylvanian train platforms. Less balls-out, life-threatening adventure. Having said that, Skype was pretty good to me when I needed to clock in with the family on the cheap at some Godforsaken hour. At least when it worked… one time Skype suspended my account for an entire month in Egypt because the sketchy networks over there are so eminently hack-able by telco pirates. All technology failed me at some point or another, and I learned – sometimes brutally – not to put my faith in any of it. And I actually felt sorry for those poor saps you always see scrabbling about for an internet cafe… unless your uncle was on fire back home, what was the hurry? And at the expense of an experience you may never repeat. Meh, this is geting preachy now, sorry. Actually, no, I’m not sorry at all, I just thought I was for a moment there.