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.

My top 10 posts of ’09

As 2009 draws to a close I thought I’d recap with a list of  the top 10 posts (according to you guys) that gained the most traffic on my blog. It seems the posts you guys tended to navigate towards were those that were about how brands should behave in the new media environment when trying to engage youth in conversationas well as learnings from the world’s best youth brands.

Here are the 10 posts (in terms of site traffic) in  2009 for those that haven’t read them.

1. Nike: We don’t do advertising , we do cool stuff (by far and away the most popular post of the year)

2. Levi’s ‘Go Forth’ – Inspiring Generation Optimism

3. Youth want TRIBAL IDEAS – tips on creating a movement

4. Youth are Cyborgs

5. 10 Principles for engaging Teens

6. 10 Observations on how the best youth brands behave

7. Why Red Bull is the world’s best youth brand

8. Youth marketing is about Culture Creation

9. Experimentation is the new Engagement

10. Brand Ecosystems and Participative Branding Comms Model

10 Principals for Engaging Teens/20 somethings

Here are some principals I’ve been talking about recently in different presentations about the new marketing model for engaging young people…it definitely focuses on digital natives around the world.

1. It’s not just about the BIG IDEA anymore, it’s about TRIBAL IDEAS – ideas which spark a rapid mobilisation of youth via social media, they can be big or intimate, they just have to get the tribe connecting with each other QUICKLY

2. It’s about interesting and provocative BRAND BEHAVIOURS, not brand statements or promises, it’s about DOING NOT SAYING

3. Youth are not a destination or target for your messages, they are your PARTNERS IN PRODUCTION and modulation of ideas

4. Think about CREATING CULTURE not mimicking it, provide an interesting lens into their world, rather than putting a mirror up to their lives

5. COLLABORATIVE CREATIVITY is the new platform for engagement, they want to participate in brand ideas, put their own spin and co-develop brands..they know your brand better than you do

6. Spark CONTINUOUS CONVERSATIONS NOT CAMPAIGNS, ban the word campaign from your marketing plan, think about what conversations in social media you are stimulating, fostering

7. CULTURE JAM with youth, be subversive and disrupt the status quo, find something for the tribe to CHANGE

8. INSPIRE THE SWARM don’t try and talk to individuals as decision making is a team sport

9. Ideas have to be FLUID and evolve, youth are chameleons and interests/passions change on a daily basis, so your ideas should morph and evolve with what the tribe wants

10. Have a clear and compelling reason to why youth will FOLLOW YOU

If you can apply a couple of these principals to your next conversation you have with youth, I reckon you may have some success..Word.

Creating Tribal Ideas for Generation C – my Nokia World presentation

Creating Tribal Ideas for Generation C

Here’s the presentation I gave last week in Stuttgart Germany at Nokia World. They asked me to come and present on how brands are using social media to connect with youth. I spoke mainly about the many different dimensions of Generation C and how social media is shaping their self identity. I also spoke about the key principals brand behaviours you need to adopt when tryign to create a tribal idea – an idea which sparks a rapid mobilisaiton of youth. Click through to slideshare and check the ‘notes pages’ for all my speaker notes which explain some of the points if the images aren’t clear. Had a great time at Nokia World and will be blogging on it this week.

Feedback welcome 🙂

Off to Nokia World in Stuttgart to present

Things may be a little quiet around here for the next week as I’m about to head off to Stuttgart Germany to present at Nokia World 2009. I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to present on how global youth are using social media to connect with each other and how brands are leveraging social media. My presentation is about creating ‘tribal ideas’, as opposed to thinking about social media in isolation. I’ve got some new thinking in it which I’ll be posting on slideshare mid next week and sharing with you all. I’m also hoping to see truckloads of cool new technology and will be reporting back on all of that as well. Also hoping to sneak in a quick visit to the Porsche Museum..what would a trip be to Stutgart withouut stopping by…me being a car nut and all. Back in a week. Auf wiedersehen !

One Young World – collaborative creativity to change the world

Global youth are now empowered like never before via the social web, but also probably because there’s so much crap going on in the world. Youth marketers like myself often talk about how we can use creativity to create conversations with youth and build our brands we work on. But the real challenge/opportunity is how we can use our creativity in collaboration with the leaders of tomorrow to create real global change. My old boss David Jones/ CEO of Havas has created One Young World – a brilliant initiative whereby 1500 Under 25yr olds are going to get together next February in London to come up with ideas on how they can influence the world positively for their generations and beyond.  Potential delegates can submit a video on the OYW  youtube channel as to what they would do to change the world. They’ve got some heavies like Kofi Anna and Bob Geldof behind it, so that will assist in making the idea very social in nature as the OYW tribe has these guys to inspire them. It’s brilliant, and I wish I was five years younger so I could go. This is Part 1 and 2 of Davids’ speech at Google Zeitgest where he speaks about what One Young World is all about.

He uses words like ‘collaborative creativity’ which I think are spot on and really capture how Generation C behave and want to interact with brands and each other in todays environment.

Youth want tribal ideas – tips on how to create a movement around your brand

The fundamental emotional need of youth is and always will be BELONGING. It’s hardwired from birth, a primal need to belong to a community, to a tribe. It’s a fundamental form of self expression that is at the core of the human psyche. The growth of social media has turbo charged young peoples ability to connect and be part of global tribes.

The best youth brands understand that youth are desperate to connect with each other, so youth marketing is not about pushing messages onto a target audience of disparate individuals, it’s about inspiring the TRIBE, so they connect with each other. It’s about talking to the WE, not necessarily the ME.

 Tribal marketing in 2009 is about leading and connecting Gen C ‘The Connected Collective’ with ideas and each other, it’s about finding something worth changing and mobilizing a group of likeminded people around it.

Think the Red Bull energy tribe, Apple’s creative tribe, Nike + running tribe, Zoo York’s mischievous skater tribe, Lego’s imagination tribe, Axe’s player tribe,  Roxy’s chic surfer tribe, Wii’s playful tribe,  Threadless’ design tribe – just a few examples of brands that have inspired people to come together and form a tribe around their brand, a community with shared passions, interests.

So, how do you create a tribe around your brand? Here are a handful of thoughts

1. You have to have the balls to create ideas that polarize, ideally AGITATING and DISRUPTING the  STATUS QUO. You have to be a little subversive and not scared to create CHANGE. Unless you spark an interesting conversation, you won’t spark a movement. The biggest mistake youth brands make is trying to appeal to everyone, they end up standing for nothing and falling for everything. Think less about your proposition, and more about your brand point of view or your call to arms.

 2. Gen C are the ‘CONNECTED COLLECTIVE‘, they join tribes for the CONNECTIONS.  They’re dying to mobilize around something interesting.   Think about how you’re letting them connect via web 2.0 platforms and how they can work together around a cause/idea. It’s all about making it easy for youth to find each other and connect. Music festivals have been tapping into these shared ‘connections’ for the last decade and now the gaming world is doing the same with MMORPG’s. 

 3. It’s about leveraging PEOPLE POWER.  Done successfully, the collective becomes your most powerful asset, they’re empowered to spread your idea, to create the movement. Your job is to help facilitate the interactions amongst the tribe and give them something worth talking about, something worth changing, something worth believing in. Politicians and activists have been doing it well the past few years, think Obama, think Al Gore, think One Young World.

 4. Find your brands TRUE BELIEVERS, listen to them then, create utility for them, provide value in the experience and your brand will become magnetic. You only need a 1,000 or so, look at T-Mobile with their flash mobs. Virgin are the kings of seeking out their true believers and always giving them utility, no matter what category then enter.

 5. LEAD THEM, all the great tribes have great charismatic leaders, you create your own brand charisma by showing leadership attitude and staying true to a belief system, committing to a cause. People mobilize around strong people/brands who believe. Red Bull, Nike are the archetype leaders in their respective youth cultures, always appealing to the fringes, but not alienating the masses.

 6. CREATE CULTURE for the tribe. Create something that matters to youth, don’t try and mimic what’s happening now, give them a lens into something new. Create a new sport, create a new way of doing something, EXPERIMENT and don’t be afraid to fail. You’ll get credit for having a go.

 7. TRIBAL IDENTIFICATION is important, you have to create a way of knowing if you’re in or out. Whether it’s badging yourself or an internal point of association, it’s extremely important as tribal brands have followers, not customers. I witnessed this first hand in Austria last week, with Austrian teens plastering their bedrooms with the stickers of their favourite brands, Aussie kids brand their mobiles with stickers of their favourite surf brands.

 8. CONSTANT CONTENT CREATION  – This takes ingenuity and effort over pure big scale production budgets.  Youth brands have to think of their marketing calendars not in quarterly installments, but as an ONGOING STORYTELLING PLATFORM.  It’s less about discrete uniform evolutions of ad campaigns, but about creating interesting narratives youth can follow – think youtube channels that are constantly update with new content, whether that be experiential type stuff or raw stuff. The surf brands are the kings of this, as they see themselves as media businesses, not just surfwear sellers.

Remember tribes exist, your job as a marketer is to help organize and connect these people. Find something worth changing, then create an interesting point of view on it, something fresh, something worth believing in that they’ll want to talk about and belong to.. See, easy?