BOYS VS GIRLS….the social differences

I’ve been doing some thinking about the key differences in the way young boys and girls socialise. My research is based on talking  directly to about 20 boys and girls aged 7-13 in essentially the tweens and early teens. Here are some thoughts on the differences I see in how they interact with each other and the psychology behind it.


Younger boys hang in larger groups less structured groups, they seek validation by surrounding themselves with 4-5 friends all the time. They seek out less intense relationships, happy to see those buddies once or twice a week and hang out at the skater park. Their conversations are very ‘light on’, they never go into much detail, they are starting to develop their masculine side and it’s seen as weakness if you talk in lots of detail with your buddies about stuff…no conversations on a topic last more than 5 minutes. A key part of this is the word ‘MY’ – all the young boys I spoke to saw themselves as the centre of their tribe, even though they clearly weren’t J. They are very much into ‘my crew’ mentality and seek belonging within these mini tribes which exist typically at a locational level in where they live.

In contrast, young girls of the same age display duo or ‘US’ behaviour, in that they seek intense relationships with 1-2 other girls.At this age,   rather than spend time organising to ‘meet the girls’ (this kicks in around 15), they are far more into the 1-1 dynamic,  where they can dive deep into stuff in their lives: pop stars, boys at school, dance, etc, etc. At school they are very much defined and classified by who their ‘bestie’ (best friend) is. Whereas for boys, it’s more the collective of 6+ close friends.


Boys are more mechanical in their interactions with their buddies, their connections typically revolve around ‘playing sports’ with each other, hanging at the skate park, playing xbox, going down to the beach. There’s very much a ‘side by side’ mentality and the tween and early teen years are all about finding what you’re good at. It’s a time of constant discovery and experimentation.

Girls are into ‘face to face’ time, it’s about more intimate dialogues, online or offline. For them it’s about ‘getting to know each’ other and they are starting to develop their nurturing and supportive personalities.


Competition between males is part of our DNA, and kids/tweens start exhibiting this behaviour on through ‘dares’ and ‘physical challenges’. The boys I spoke to were all about ‘daring’ each other to do tricks in the skate park, jump off logs into the creeks. It’s all about status within their micro communities and achievement. They are starting to master their body and this then builds as they get into more competitive sports at school. In the virtual world this competitive side also comes out through the games they play, typically fantasy and war games, so they are also displaying more ‘aggressive’ personality traits than previous kid/tween generations.

If boys are about ‘competition’, girls are about ‘CO-OPERATION’. For them these years are about exploring relationships, the need to constantly connect and seek validation about their personalities, their likes and interest. Today kids are seeking immense pressure in how they manage their online personas, how they are perceived on facebook, bebo etc.

Marketers looking to engage kids aged 7-13 need to think about these gender differences between young boys and girls and the psychology behind their interactions. Obviously, BELONGING and developing their self identity via interactions with other kids is part of growing up, but it is interesting to see the fundamental differences between the sexes which continue to manifest into later teen years and early adulthood. I’m going to do a similar study on 14-18yr olds and to see wha

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?

The Australian Government are MORONS – more dud anti-drug advertising to youth

The Australian Government seriously don’t get it. They are currently on a youth targetted advertising blitz, buying out pretty much every bus stop lenticular in Sydney and Melbourne. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great they are trying to combat the growing drug problem amongst Aussie youth but they are making some massive stuff ups.

Stuff up #1 Poor media placement

They are advertising anti ICE , MARIJUANA and ECSTASY at the same time, and when I say time, I mean the dumb media agency are buying consecutive billboards/transit sites.

Stuff up #2 Two different drugs, virtually same message

The ICE execution ‘Ice Destroys You’ is virtually identical to the ecstasy execution…literally same type face, same shot of youth being restrained. It is so retarded and makes by blood boil that they are so out of touch with the psychology of young people and marketing 101.

The Australian government are treating all drugs as equal, and that’s an unforgivable sin. What does it say to a 16yr old where he sees an ad for ICE seeing a kid being restrained then walks 5m and then see’s virtually the same ad with a message for marijuana or ecstasy? It’s plain dumb. ICE is 500X worse than ecstasy and is way more addictive, deadly etc. In a nutshell the government is confusing kids and saying all drugs are as bad as each other. Totally ridiculous and totally untrue. Like saying a BB Gun (ecstasy) is as dangerous as an AK 47 (ICE).  It’s creating a ‘Boy who cried wolf syndrome’…kids who experiment with ecstasy know it won’t kill them, they see their friends having a great time on it every weekend – when they see ads depicting ‘death’ they call ‘bullshit’  as more people die of the flu every year than ecstasy deaths. So when a really bad drug like ICE comes along and the government basically creates EXACTLY the same  headlines/visuals for their campaigns,  of course young people are going  to go ‘bullshit’..”ICE can’t be that bad, it’s old K-Rudd trying to scare me again”….  It’s like they’ve got a template down there in Canberra for anti drug/alcohol print and outdoor advertising that  says:

1. Insert Scary Headline around ‘death’

2. Insert image of 18yr old male out of control (they do the same for anti- drinking ads too )

3. Use the same layout for every ad, it has to be ‘consistent’……what a joke.

As usual they are using ‘fear’ tactics which youth reject, especially for ICE..  ‘Ice destroys lives’ is the message. This campaign is a carbon copy of one that ran in the USA in ’07 which did absolutely in reducing the incidence of ICE usage in the USA…it actually fuelled their excitement to try it out. 

I believe the government should stop trying to scare kids and provide an honest assessment of what ICE does to you…show the good and the bad, and let kids make their mind up. Let them roll the dice. Treat them as adults and change the conversation.

ICE DESTROYS YOU bus stop poster in Sydney....5m away an almost identical anti-marijuana ad...

ICE DESTROYS YOU bus stop poster in Sydney....5m away an almost identical anti-marijuana ad...


The Australian government behaves as a PREDATOR when it comes to communicating to youth and they  in turn typically ignore the communication.  They’ve got to start behaving like a PEER…infiltrating social networks with their messages and starting conversations about the issue, rather than trying to scare the shit out of kids. The key here is education and creating That’s my Sunday night rant.

Ecstasy ad 5m away from a virtually identical anti ICE ad

Ecstasy ad 5m away from a virtually identical anti ICE ad

content that tells a true story of the pro’s and con’s of each drug and empower them to galvanise against drugs as a whole, rather than trying to pick them off one at a time.