5 Friendship values for youth marketers

Friendship is about truth

Just reading through McCann Worldgroups recent ‘Truth about youth’ study which had some interesting findings. I’m going to blog separately about some of their key themes from the global study of 7,000 teens and 20 somethings, but one thing which immediately caught my attention was their POV on the top 5 values young people seek in their friends. I thought this was particularly useful as youth brands today are constantly thinking about what type of ‘friendship’ they need to have on social platforms like Facebook/Twitter to drive engagement. These are the top 5 values and my POV  on them:

1. TRUTHFULNESS – apparently 2x more important than the next value, identifying that this is a generation defined by authentic human connections. This makes total sense to me as today we’re living in the Age of Reality where everything is about transparency and real time truth vs the 80’s and 90’s where youth culture was about Image. Brands can’t con young people as they’re bullshit detecters are finely tuned and they’re not afraid to bring you down.

2. GENUINE – being worthy of trust is critical for friendship, saying who you are and not abusing this trust is paramount. Brands that are ‘liked’ in the social world must ensure that stay genuine and don’t abuse that trust. Brands who try and stretch the friendship by ‘faking’ it risk alienating young people. It’s important to stay true to who you are and give young people something to belong to and identify with in culture.

3. SOCIABLE – for young people today in the social economy ‘you are what you share’ and your social status goes up or down based on the frequency and the quality of what you contribute to your tribe. So brands need to be sociable at the right time, in the right way, giving these youngsters content to share which increases their social status. But don’t try and be the ‘life of the party’, they’ll shut you down in a second.

4. MATURITY – young people love having mates they can look up to for advice and inspiration. Probably a function of kids always ‘ageing up’, they’re looking for brands who respect them and treat them like an adult. They’re also looking for brands with a deeper sense of purpose and contribution back to society.

5. HUMBLE – no one likes a show off, and young people hate brands who clutter up their news feeds on Facebook and bombard them, overstating their importance in their lives. Be useful, contextually relevant and entertaining allowing these teens to express themselves and you’ll maintain the love. In my opinion Converse is a brand who ‘gets it’ in the Facebook world, 16m+ fans yet they don’t bombard you with one way messages, they are humble and invite you into interesting conversations when appropriate.

I think these five values give marketers an interesting set of simple principles for how to behave in the social space and drive friendship.

Nike 6.0 ‘The Pool’ unleashing BMX culture

Loving this initative from Nike 6.0 to turn an old pool in East London into a massive indoor BMX expression park. They ran a comp with 40 of the world’s best riders and now the ‘The Pool’ is open to the public until June 12.  Awesome experiential event based idea. Well done Nike 6.0

Narcissism an epidemic amongst Millenial students

Millenials are officially the most narcissistic generation of all time..surprise, surprise.

Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, said a study she conducted of 16,000 university students across the US showed 30 per cent were narcissistic in psychological tests, compared with 15 per cent in 1982. ”They are all 18 and 19-year-olds, so this is clearly a generational shift,” she said.

”Usually the oldest people have the highest rates, because they have lived for more years, but this data showed the opposite,” she said. Only 3 per cent of those over 65 had had symptoms, but for people in their 20s it was 10 per cent.

”These were shocking numbers because you can only diagnose this starting at age 18, so there weren’t that many years for people in their 20s to develop this, yet their rate was three times as high as people over 65.”

In a keynote address to the International Society for the Study of Personality Disorders Congress, Professor Twenge will say that permissive parenting, celebrity culture and the internet are among the causes of the emerging narcissism epidemic.

She said telling children they were special to build self-esteem could foster narcissism.

Narcissists had an inflated sense of self, lacked empathy, were vain and materialistic and had an overblown sense of entitlement. Some resulting social trends were a greater interest in fame and wealth, more plastic surgery, and an increase in attention-seeking crimes – for example, ”beating someone up and putting it on YouTube”.

Professor Twenge was concerned about a culture ”that seems to not just accept narcissism but finds it laudatory … It worries me, when I talk to college students, that they are not surprised at all that their generation is more narcissistic.

”They say, ‘We have to be this way because the world is more competitive.’ But the problem is that narcissism doesn’t help you compete. It blows up in your face eventually.”

She said narcissistic students tended to have poorer results and were more likely to drop out, probably because they thought they didn’t have to study because they were already smart. ”It’s delusional thinking.”

The Art of Flight: Red Bull collaborates with Quiksilver

I’ve just got back from 3 weeks skiing in Squaw Valley and Jackson Hole and had an epic time. I am a die hard skiier, I’d never go to the darkside of snowboarding, but I was impressed with ‘The Art of Flight’ trailer. It’s a collaboration between Red Bull Media and Quiksilver. Just another example of how these brands (esp. RB) are amazing media producers and are maintaining their places as cultural leaders in the snowboarding subculture.

Gen Y & Social Networks – my radio interview

Last week I was involved in a radio in terview with Simon Canning (marketing/media writer from The Australian) and Nick Love, CEO of Myspace Australia talking about what Gen Y want from social networks and the reinvention of Myspace.

You can listen to the interview here

Influencer Interview #7 The word on Nordic Youth according to Em Wahlstrom

Youth expert Emelie Wahlstrom from MTV Brand Solutions on Stockholm

I haven’t done an Influencer Interview in a while so I thought I’d touch base with

Emelie Wahlström, a youth marketing expert from MTV’s Nordic ad agency, Brand Solutions.  She’s got some really interesting perspectives on what makes Nordic youth tick and the differences between the countries youth.

What are the main tribal differences between Nordic youth from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden?

There’s some general differences that apart us.. To start with, Fins love huge VIP-tags, to drink in their trillion saunas and to head bang their long hair.

Danes wants to go full retard – travel to Roskilde festival and get piss drunk, naked.

Swedes aim for stars and success, wanting to move to New York, are big followers of the jante law, maintains traditions such as crayfish parties and candy only on Saturdays.

Laziest of us four, is the Norwegians, who relies fully on their oil and the money that comes from it (yes, you can read my jealousness between the lines). Working 5 hours/day and still piss rich, moving to Sweden for the “pulse”. The only country in the Nordics not part of the European Union.

What are the main youth subcultures emerging at the moment? Similar or different from the rest of Europe/Western countries?

The love of brands and what role they play in their lives is quite interesting to me… Europeans are slightly less brand focused than US youth. “Self-made” is huge in the Nordics even though they expect brands to enhance their lives and play a pivotal role for exceeding their possibilities. The huge difference is probably not between the US and Europe though, but among Asian youth who really believe that they depend on brands for succeeding.


Friends before family is a huge thing, especially in Denmark and Sweden, I believe that’s going to grow even bigger.


I guess this is a common thing; but young people ARE the media, and they are well aware of it. This has become really clear in regards to the blogosphere which is huge in Sweden and Norway. The sales results that can be measured after co-operations between brands and bloggers is huge. You would think that the social broadcasters have less impact than your closest friends (according Nielsen US research) but I beg to differ.


How would you describe Nordic Youth in a word? Explain

Connected. Simply constantly online, being offline causes anxiety.

Who are the main  ‘influencers’on  Nordic youth – celebrities, parents, others?

The young ones who has succeeded. Nordic youths want to be high achievers, and they are a pretty self taught generation. Today, they are more concerned about having a good career than they are about being popular and having sex… Today, knowledge is cool, and the ones who succeeds and earns a lot of money gain not only huge respect, but inspires a lot. Examples; Robyn, Jon Olsson, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Søren Kongsgaard and many more. And as I mentioned above, friends is definitely the new family.


What are the big issues affecting young people in the region?

Mainly, I’d say it’s the stress for success.


It’s finding out what you want to do, earn big money. And, finding the fast lane for it. The economic recession of course affected youth last year, but it seems like hope is back on track in the Nordics. Especially compared to Germany, where there’s a total of 20% unemployment, and only 5% of German youths have high hopes for the future. Still, the new big thing for young Swedes and Danes is to move to Berlin.. eager to be unemployed??


Which brands are young people most interested in engaging with and why?

The brands who are relevant and useful to them and who offer conversational capital. Let me give you Nike as an example, who we’ve created an MTV Brand Solutions campaign for this autumn. We were asked to reset Nike Running in the minds of young ppl, and they wanted to join the conversation. The idea was built on the subway system in Stockholm – which has a lot of emotional traction among the target group as it defines who you are. Are you red? Green? Blue? Each section of the city had a color and an ambassador who engaged youths to join, and take over the streets. Concept: Run anywhere in the world, each kilometer is one credit. Color your blocks or steal the streets of your rival. The online application was synced with Facebook, meaning that you in real-time shared not only your distance and pace, but which blocks you colored. Each post was therefore “tailor-made” by the user and became “new news”. This enabled a lot of buzz and a huge engagement since you became a part of something bigger – with the ability to make a change for your team.


Is the super high levels of digital connectivity amongst Nordic youth affecting their interpersonal ‘face to face’ skills at all?

Oh yes. And definitely when it comes to interaction with companies. I’ve experienced examples of this, where only 1 out of 2000 youths would prefer to be contacted via telephone instead of e-mail. So not only “face to face”, but their whole personal sphere. They want to take the control. This also makes it easier for youths to speak about difficult things with friends, being hid behind a screen. I believe that that has implication about their relations and their whole social skills.

What do brands need to know about Nordic youth when they’re looking to start a conversation with this audience?

They want to take part.

You only have one chance, so embrace it! Make it relevant, useful and allow them to participate. Keep in mind that success comes when your communication connects them with each other, not just with your brand.


Alienware Clan Challenge – a gamers heaven

Well done to the boys at TCO (Julian Cole & co) for creating this event for Dell.  The Alienware Clan Challenge brought together the 8 best ‘Call of Duty’ teams  in Australia to Sydney in an all in gaming fest. Serious geekville here it looks like ,but hitting 75,000 views on youtube so far is pretty decent for a little event in Sydney with a handful of gamers. Just shows what a clever online content distribution strategy can do.

Australia Day Floatfest courtesy of Red Bull

What happens when you drive a Red Bull truck equipped with hot DJ’s onto a barge, then float it  in a quiet Sydney bay on Australia’s biggest day of celebration, Australia Day? Sun, girls, dancing, good times all powered by the dudes at Red Bull. Another example of how the brand brings the party tribe together and creates culture. Rock on !

Tribal Blending – self expression via mashing personas

Youth today in Western and Eastern cultures are tribal blenders. They no longer belong to one specific youth tribe or culture, but too many, chopping and changing. Social media has seen the rise of the BLENDER, or as the guys from Pedestrian TV call it, ‘ SLASHIES.

 Blenders are all about creating their identities (both on and offline) via mashing together elements of different subcultures to create ‘blends’.  Just as they’re into remixed music, art, cinema, they’re also into remixing their own self image. Think of them as Emo SLASH Supergeek, Surfie SLASH Supergeek Entrepreneur Slash Eco Warrior.  Sasha Molitorisz in his Youth Tribes piece  states, ‘shallow membership of many tribes is replacing embedded membership of one tribe’.

Being a hybrid blend is in in 2010.  Social media has turbo charged the opportunities for Blenders self expression. You just have to look at any 21yr olds Facebook photo page to see that impressing your mates is about showing off how many different events/experiences you’ve been able to cram in to one summer.  It’s also the fact that through technology, anyone can become an expert in a subculture – just spend 45mins scanning a fashionista blog and you be considered at least knowledgeable about a certain fashion genre.

Tribal blending is as much about young people’s internal resistance to definition by culture around them, they’re constantly looking to be chameleon like and change their stripes based on what or who grabs their fancy. As a 21yr old Sydney Uni student told me last year “If there’s one thing I don’t want to be viewed as, it’s being one dimensional’. The tribal blending and the hybrid nature of youth means that marketers have to be sure they don’t pigeon hole youth by assuming that all Indie Hipsters are into Punk Grunge for example. I believe what engages young people is the cultural mashing of fresh and interesting social objects which create a new perspective for young people to see the world through.