Paradox of connectedness: the sad state of Gen C holiday experiences

Gen Y bali holiday I’ve blogged alot over the years about Generation C – the ‘Connected Generation’ and their need to be constantly connected to their friends, sharing content with the world. But this pic, which popped up on my newsfeed this morning, just blew me away. Here’s a handful of cool, educated late 20 somethings from Australia, NYC and London all gathering in Bali for a wedding, yet they’re completely engrossed in their screens when you’d think they’d be engrossed in conversation.

Gen C crave experiences over material goods. We know this. They crave connection. We know this. They crave sharing their world to show off and belong. We know this. Showing that you’re always connected (even on holidays with your closest mates eating brekky) on Facebook is now a badge. New to me.

This pic is very symbolic of Gen C and the paradox of connectedness.  These friends, who likely haven’t seen each other for a while seem more disconnected than connected in the physical sense. The impact of screens on our youth is being studied by people  much more intelligent than me, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our screens are having a profound impact on our interpersonal skills. The Gen C mantra of ‘I share, therefore I am’ has completely taken over.

What happened to holidays where you just talk to people, chill and catch up?

Look, I’m not on this holiday and I’m sure they’ve all had an amazing time catching up, sharing stories about their lives etc, but the fact that they’re all compelled to start their day ‘together’ by uploading to Instagram, Facebook and check emails is really a sad state of affairs for this generation. If ever a ‘digital detox diet’ was in need, it’s for these cool cats 🙂 Chill out. Unplug. Talk to each other. Live in the moment. Ban wi-fi at resorts 😉

Creating Brand MWE in a selfie obsessed world #brandMWE

I was asked to speak about teens and social media platforms last week at a youth marketing conference in Sydney and here are some of my notes.

Image

Essentially, my talk based around the fact that teens are not longer just creating BRAND ME (their online identity), they are carefully curating BRAND MWE where every Facebook update, Instagram pic, Vine vid, self destructing Snapchat selfie is seeking social approval from the crowd. They have selfie obsessed syndrome. Curating BRAND MWE is less about their own self confidence and more about fear of rejection and isolation in the digital world.

Like it or not, the rise and rise of ‘Selfie culture’ has created a need for teens today to live in a world where they are constantly competing for online validation. How many likes can I accumulate? Talking to a bunch of 15yr olds last week, they feel enormous pressure to post the right pic on Instagram. Fear of judgement? Yes. Fear of isolation? Yes. A Need for peer validation? Absolutely. Their self esteems are taking a massive hit at the moment as they are pressured into ‘joining’ in to the banter that’s happens online. They know that their real self offline is nowhere near as exciting as their online identity, but they’re pressured to often do ‘fake’ check ins to prove their worth.

Unsurprisingly, teens want to be on social platforms that are simple, relatively secret from their parents and super fun. It’s their new oxygen. They’re after self expression, creativity, entertainment, recognition, a place to build their identity and of course connect and chat.

Facebook, although the biggest is on the nose for many influential Aussie teens. It’s not surprising, why would they want to hang out on a place where their aunts, uncles, parents are commenting on every post. It’s become a busy school playground and the cool kids always want to go and hang out in the corner. By end of 2013 mainstream youth will start avoiding FB. 

Instagram parties the new meet up

Instagram is hot for obvious reasons, these kids are obsessed by taking selfies and sharing how hot, sexy, ripped, tough they are with the world. They also use it for entertainment. I recently heard of Instagram themed parties that teens are having so they can ‘own’ that night’s Instagram feed and make their other friends jealous.  Unfortunately this is a generation where many of them are becoming more and more focused on ‘posing’ rather than ‘doing’  stuff. 

Self destructing selfies mean less pressure

 SnapChat is the hottest new photo sharing app that teens are taking up. An app that lets users send quick, SMS-like messages, which can include candid photos or videos that (supposedly) disappear seconds later — “never to be seen again.” Unless you take a screenshot. Once again it’s simple, fun and most adults don’t know about it. They see it as a bit of fun spontaneity, instant gratification. You take a photo (selfie) share it, and once people view it disappears within 10 seconds. One of the reasons why teens love Snapchat is they don’t feel the need to spend hours ‘altering an image’ like they do on Facebook or Instagram. They feel they can be themselves. Many parents are freaking out about Snapchat and the impact it will have on the sexting epidemic.  

6 seconds of Vine Fame

Brand MWE is also built by ‘long photos’, and teens are starting to get into the new app Vine. Posting 6 second vids of them in action. This app taps more into the performing side of teens. It’s no longer 15 secs of fame, it’s been squashed down to 6 seconds of fame. Another example of bite sized nibble content these teens are after.

 Be yourself on Tumblr

Tumblr is quickly becoming the de facto teen social network. It’s all about creativity and self expression without the prying eyes of parents.

They like it its celebrity and vertical (politics, music, etc.) outreach and varied post formats. Teens love it for its anonymity of and lighter emphasis on follower counts as compared with Twitter. “Even if your mum is on Tumblr, you don’t have to follow her, since there’s no requirement to use your real name. You don’t even have to know that she’s on the site,” They feel they can disguise themselves more than on Facebook or Instagram, without fear of being stalked.

 So that’s a quick look into the social platforms that teens are using to help curate BRAND MWE. They’ll be on to something new within 2-3 months so I’ll be updating this post. The latest self expression app is Pheed. Word not in on whether that will kick off.

The death of marketing? Not likely: Becoming a #participationbrand

A little thought piece I wrote for Adnews here on my views on what it takes to be a great participation brand in todays social economy. See below:

There are a lot of marketers on both client and agency side talking about the death of branding, marketing and strategy. Kevin Roberts most notably leading the charge.  Plenty of conversation has been generated promoting the ‘don’t think, just do it’ approach at Cannes and Spikes Asia this year. This kind of thinking led to the vast microsite graveyard and I don’t buy it.

We still need good brand strategy and big thinking.  We just need to change the rules by which brands are imagined and behave.

The most loved and effective brands are an intrinsic part of culture – stimulating interest, involvement and advocacy without constant media support. We call them participation brands. Unfortunately in Australia, 80% of brands create disposable interactions, let’s call them passive brands.

Participation brands put participation at the heart of the brand experience – not as an add-on. They involve customers, stakeholders and fans through immersive and interactive initiatives allowing people to join in, connect, converse, co-create and advocate. They create a gravitational pull enabling them to outsell without having to necessarily outspend their competition.

Rather than being closed, static systems defined by generic words on a brand onion, they’re open, dynamic, evolving and collaborative systems embedded into the operational DNA of the organisation.

Being a participation brand means operating at the speed of culture, not the speed of research.  Being in a constant state of beta mode and letting each and every person leave a bit of their DNA on an idea.

A word of caution though.  Participation branding isn’t just doing ‘more digital and social’.  Genuine participation brands think content, context, experience and conversations not just how many screens you can get on.

Participation branding doesn’t mean trying to get everyone to get deeply involved at all times. That’s unrealistic. Understanding different motivations for participating and sharing ideas is critical. Being useful, driving belonging, promoting achievement, enhancing one’s status, rewarding and recognising my contribution.

So how do you start behaving like a participation brand? Where do you start? Asking these six basic questions is a great starting point:

1. What’s our PASSIONATE PURPOSE that makes the world better?

2. What are we doing to PROTOTYPE new business models, new initiatives, and new ways of consumer interaction?

3. What games are we asking people to PLAY with us and the community?

4. How can we help people PROPAGATE their story whether they’re advocates, adorers or the passive massive?

5. What’s our 365 day PRESENCE PLAN mapping when, where, why and how people want to participate with us? How can we be ‘Always on’?

6. How are we PIVOTING to ensure we stay ahead of culture and relevant to our communities’ needs and interests?

So who’s doing it well?  Of course the titans and icons of Nike, Adidas, Coke, Apple, Johnnie Walker, Heineken, Google, Red Bull, Mini and Lego all have participation baked in.

What about Australia?

Recent campaigns like Google ‘Build with Chrome’,  ‘Share a Coke and a song’, ‘The Perfect Lager Project’ for Arvo beer, ‘BYO Cup Day’ for 7 Eleven,  ‘Mobile’ Medic’ for the Australian Defence Force and our Christchurch ‘Discovery Stream’ and Adidas NEO ‘Find my Gold Shoes’ Bieber collaboration  – all initiatives with participation baked into the DNA of the idea. All with amazing results.

So, no I don’t think we’re living through the death of marketing, but rather an amazingly exciting time for brands. It’s time for planners to leave our ivory towers, dump Google as our primary source of insight, banish our brand onions and get involved with the real world.  It’s time for strategy to participate.

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.”

Influencer Interview: Amanda Mooney talks Youth, Brand Engagement & Social media

 

Snr Social Media Planner Amanda Mooney

I haven’t done an Influencer Interview in a while so I thought I’d touch base with a great social media planner who I follower on Twitter – Amanda Mooney from Edelman Digital in Chicago. She’s got some amazing insight into how young people today are interacting with brands and social technology. Here are 5 key thoughts I’ve pulled out of the interview:

1. Kids ‘master media’ in under 4yrs so brands will have to continue to evolve their media/creative strategies

2. Youth today are both Entreprenuerial and Defiant.

3. Brands which fuel youth passion points invariably win

4. Forget campaigns, create sustainable means of engagement by earning the right to be in the conversation

5. Help young people belong and be significant (echoing the words of Graham Brown from Mobile Youth).

You can follow amanda on Twitter or check out her blog

How would you describe American youth in a sentence or word right now?
Can I have two? We’re not waiting for anyone’s approval at the moment. There’s a new sense of entrepreneurism and a sense of defiance that’s touching otherwise “ordinary” young people with nothing more than a bit of talent or ideas about the world and a good Wi-Fi connection.
 
How do you think social media platforms have changed the way brands ‘engage’ with today’s youth? Any learnings from your experience?
There’s an entire generation growing up now that never has to call your 1-800 number for customer care or to file a complaint. It’s never been so easy for us to take action if we have an issue or a question that needs to be addressed. According to a Kaiser Foundation report, children are also now growing up spending more time creating and consuming media per day than they’re spending in school: 7.5 hours. They’re spending more time than most marketers spend in their full time jobs. Consider the adage that it takes 10,000 hours to master a craft and kids can “master” media and communications in under four years. Brands have to realize how smart we are about media and their messages.
 
Which youth brands are ‘getting it right’ when it comes to engaging youth and why? Any brands that really are struggling?
I’m only 24 and very much still starting out in the industry but in my opinion, the brands that are really struggling at the moment are investing millions in flash and trash campaigns and spending a huge amount of effort to buy up “impressions” rather than changing their businesses at the core to address what’s happening in our world and how we’d like to engage with brands moving forward. It’s not enough to simply throw up the image of a celebrity next to your product and start asking for our last few bucks when rent’s due or pushing for our last bits of attention. At a time when unemployment for 18-29 year olds in the US is currently around 37%, the highest in three decades for our age group, you have to consider that the cost of one banner campaign on a major network could help a young person start their business, fund their entire education, provide a service that fuels a cause they’re passionate about. I can’t believe what’s being wasted on purely promotional copy, taglines, creative, product shots, paid celebrity tweets. Pay those celebrities to be a sounding board for your community and provide perspective and access! I know what it’s like to come from a family that lives paycheck to paycheck, what it’s like to pay for my own education and be in my first few years out of school while the economy’s still in a giant mess and I’ll say that one of the things I love most about our industry is the possibility of giant global brands using the vast resources at their disposal to help fuel the passions or needs of their customers.
 
Graham Brown from Mobile Youth has a great quote that’s stuck with me. He says, and I believe, we want very simply for brands to play two roles before we’ll be open to hearing your marketing message… “Help us belong and help us feel significant.”
 
Want to “get it right”? Take a second and check out the projects on Kickstarter.com and think about how you can partner with these brilliant young creatives to support their projects and establish a partnership that fuels your own brand as well. Get in touch with Amanda Rose (@amanda on Twitter) and partner up with Twestival, have a chat with Abby Falik of Global Citizen Year or Charles Best of DonorsChoose or check out CauseCast and SocialVibe to see how your marketing efforts can help us give back to the causes we care about. Instead of interrupting our playlists on MySpace, use media on the homepage of MySpace Music to help promote fresh, young bands in the community. Check out Jane McGonigal’s talk at TED on the possibility of leveraging our favorite outlets for play to reinforce a deep sense of citizenship and figure out how your own products can serve a greater good in our lives. Have a chat with all of the great people like @richardatdell who make it possible for us to get personalized service, when we need it, on our own terms and figure out how you can put this into practice in your own organization.
 
Are you seeing any new youth subcultures or tribes emerging which marketers should pay attention to?
I was particularly taken by two bits of information recently. The average age of a first-time mom in the US is now 25-years-old and according to Census projections, the “traditional American family,” married with children, is now the minority. You have a generation of new moms who grew up digital,  are in their first years out as young adults,  who may or may not have the support of a traditional household structure. They also increasingly live further away from their parents as well. For many of them, their online community is a vital space to find information and support.
 
I’m also reading everything I possibly can about youth in China as well. At 500 million strong by 2015, I wouldn’t call them a subculture by any means, but marketers should invest considerable time and energy to understand the subcultures that exist within the youth population in China. It’s an unprecedented time of change, connection and youth empowerment. I particularly love NeochaEDGE for a daily perspective on brilliant young creatives in China.
 
What have you learnt about ‘global youth culture’ in your travels/experiences? Is there even such a thing as global youth culture?
First, I’ll say that most of my experience to date has been largely observational online and has come from research as well but I’m desperately interested in moving overseas to experience and study youth culture in other parts of the world.
 
Overall, I think that we’re all excited by the sense that we have a collective power and the possibility of connection on a global scale, but it would be a mistake to lump us all together. For perspective on the sheer size of global youth, consider that, according to the CIA World Factbook, the average age of the world’s population is 29. Youth engagement can certainly ladder up to a point of global connection in a powerful way but make no mistake, your efforts have to find local relevancy.
 
3 tips for connecting with youth?
1.       Listen to us and figure out how you can earn the right to fit into our lives before you spend hours in a boardroom thinking about how you can push a message or product to us. Look at all of the resources in your network- your connections, your media, your power of voice, the access you may have to partners… and find a way to make them work for us, not just your own marketing objectives.
2.       Get out of a campaign mindset and budgeting structure and create sustainable means of engaging us. Certainly there can be key periods that spike engagement but you can’t just float in and out of our lives whenever it’s convenient.
3.       To reiterate Graham Brown’s point, “Help us belong and help us feel significant.”
 
What’s the most important piece of advice you give clients you work with when they come to you looking to use social media platforms as part of their marketing mix?
Social media can’t just be part of your marketing mix. It will and very much should, shift your organization at its core. R&D, customer service, CSR… what’s happening in the space is fundamentally changing our lives as consumers and it will fundamentally change your business as well. 
 
What do brands need to know about you and your friends in terms of wanting to have a conversation with you?
Don’t talk down to us. Don’t assume that you immediately have the right to be included in our conversation. You have to earn that. Don’t, don’t assume that you naturally *get* us. There’s nothing worse than that. Be honest. Expect us to respectfully disagree or point out when something’s not right. Understand that pushback from us isn’t definitive, necessarily negative or final. It’s a dare.. a dare to listen to what we’re telling you, good or bad, and honestly use it to make your brand better.
 
Also, I love this tweet from @leeclowsbeard. “Most people don’t have enough time to interact with their kids, let alone your brand. Respect that.” The same goes for us.
 
Your favorite blogs or brands and why?
Ahhh that’s a long list. But here are a few that I love because the writers are brilliant and I can always trust these sites for regular inspiration in my work:
·         PSFK
·         Three Billion
·         AfriGadget
·         Ruby Pseudo
·         Enovate
·         Mobile Youth
·         Kitsune Noir
·         NeochaEDGE
·         Design Mind
·         Jonathan Harris’ Today
·         The Selby
·         Wooster Collective
·         Alain de Botton on Twitter
·         Future Perfect
·         Dazed Digital

10 Youth marketing themes in 2010

I’ve been kicking around some ideas on what I believe will be the dominant youth marketing themes in 2010.  Some of these themes have been evident in youth marketing efforts in 2009, but I believe they’ll become even more pronounced in 2010.

Of course there are many more key themes, but these are just a few that came to me last night when writing this post.

Here are my 10 key themes for youth marketing in 2010:

1. Social Creative

Unless your idea is social by nature, you’re pretty much dead in 2010. Brands need to stop thinking about ‘big ideas’ and think more about being socially creative in how they engage young people. As always, youth are attracted to ideas where they see a new reality or a truth, but now it’s about connecting members of the tribe in new and interesting ways.

2. Influence

Influence will be a key buzzword for youth marketing in 2010. Marketers now understand that everyone online has a platform/amplifier to create his or her own wave on influence. Brands which make members of their communities more influential by way of exclusive content, special rewards etc, will gain traction with young people. It’s all about giving youth status within their tribe.

3.   Culture Mashing

The best ideas always mash together two unexpected cultural elements to create a new reality for people. I’m a big believer that ‘culture mashing’ taps into Gen C’s need for surprising spontaneous experiences that occur when they least expect it. Earlier this year we created ‘Cabbieoke’ for Telstra, where we turned the most painful part of a young persons night (the expensive cab ride home) into the best part, by mashing a free cab ride with a random karaoke performance.

4.   Experimental

Being experimental and taking a few calculated risks every year has to be part of your brand behaviour. Red Bull are the kings of being experimental in how they push the limits of human performance. Their latest idea, Red Bull Stratos is a collaboration with Felix Baumgartner to break the sound barrier while free falling from 120,000 feet. Both Red Bull and Nike both know that not every initiative they put into the market will be successful, but they have a Fail Forward approach and continue to innovate.  Try bouncing two different cultural elements together and build off your brand truth.

5. Intrigue

Young people a huge appetite for intriguing new ideas. Being interesting is important, but being intriguing is critical. Your litmus test for youth is them saying ‘Gees, I’d never thought of that’. Doritos in the US, are continually intriguing American youth through their Hotel 626 and Asylum 626 ideas as part of ‘Snack Strong productions’.

6.   Blurred realities

Whether we like it or not, Alternate reality experiences like Nike True City which use mixed reality to provide customer utility are here to stay. Whether it’s actual utility or purely entertainment value like Adidas’ Originals game, we’ll see brands creating mixed reality ideas exponentially in 2010.

7. Empowerment to Generosity

The ‘you can make a difference’ brand bandwagon has been around for over 18 months and it will continue in 2010 as brands look to empower young people through social media platforms. Already this year, we’ve seen One Young World in London and Pepsi’s Hit Refresh campaign, which is off brand, but interesting nonetheless.  I believe we’ll see youth brands shift gears to a brand behaviour which is more about ‘generosity’ within the community at a more micro level eg: how you can help out your close friends with the help of a brand.

8.   NOW-ism

Young people are the Real Time Generation, living at 100 miles an hour and demanding real time access to information and creativity everywhere they go. Immediacy is a must, they are über connected to everything so demand ideas they can play with and put their own spin on. If it’s not live, it’s pretty much forgotten the next time the Facebook status feed rolls over.

9. Collaboration

The brands who engage young people in ideas which create mutual value will win in 2010. As I said in one of my conversations with Graham Brown from Mobile Youth, marketers need to stop treating people as the bullseye or target destination for their messages, instead it’s all about treating them as partners in production and modulation of ideas. Youth WANT to be the media, make it easy for them to share your message/brand experience.  Collaboration isn’t new, but it will become more mainstream as brands understand the need for youth involvement in all facets of the brand.

10. Agitation

Agitation is my personal wish for youth brand behaviour in 2010. Too often in 2009, brands just went with the status quo and didn’t create culture. Apart from BK’s Whopper Sacrifice and Diesel’s Be Stupid, there weren’t too many brands that really agitated culture. Agitation is about starting something, lighting a fire in culture that gets a fresh conversation going. It’s about taking a look at cultures set of rules, and seeing how you can agitate the status quo. The boys at Crispin are masters of agitation.