To advertisers and marketers it’s important to realize that kids and young teens are extremely media/computer savvy and the best way to engage them is to be authentic and to always converse with them on their terms. What may be surprising for parents and teachers is what were once thought to be effective and efficient methods for teaching and providing guidance may now no longer be as relevant or meaningful for todays kids.
For kids born after 1998, “known as “Generation Z”, they know of no life without Internet, ubiquitous cell phones, iPods, iPads, social media or 24/7 entertainment.” They’re also much more brand and fashion conscious at these younger ages.
This axiom holds true when considering how kids are learning and how they are choosing to get involved in activities both online and off.
The Power of Agency
What shouldn’t be surprising are the things kids can do – and are doing – when empowered to do so. As Melissa Clark-Reynolds, CEO of Minimonos, stated at the Sustainable Brands ’11 conference, “kids need to be given agency”, that is “they need to be given the capacity to make powerful choices and affect the world.”
Minimonos (Spanish for little monkeys) is an online game that challenges kids to think in sustainable terms by rewarding them for doing the right thing. The purpose of Minimonos is “to have a place that embodies core values like sustainability and generosity, without turning those values into a boring lecture.” What’s more, these kids are looking for authenticity and something that will inspire them – but it has to be on their terms and level of interest.
More than most parents may be willing to admit, a large percentage of today’s kids are extremely media savvy (they totally get it!) and they can detect the insincerity of a website, a social media platform, or any game or program that may be purportedly “designed for kids” but clearly doesn’t understand what motivates and engages them. If any of the content feels like it’s being imposed or is just irrelevant, then it’s summarily rejected. However, if the content has real value where the kids feel empowered to make decisions, are able to connect with other like-minded kids and can realize social status through rewards (gamification) – and it’s fun – then there is a good chance the website/game or social media platform may be a success.
What’s also important is when kids are given this ”agency” it is not to diminish or negate the need for providing safety, structure and supervision while they’re spending time online. “The very nature of their constantly connected culture means kids must understand the concept of privacy so that what they post and create won’t hurt them or embarrass them at some point down the line.” However, as Emily Bazelon writes the The New York Times, “parents and lawmakers are [at times] so worried about protecting our children that they can fail to distinguish between real threats and phantom ones.” The point is to strike a balance between protecting and monitoring kids while also allowing them to find their space online where they can flourish.
A Different Way of Learning
For older kids a shining example of turning a subject that’s often perceived to be boring into something that is engaging are the YouTube learning videos created by Salman Khan. (Now collectively known as The Khan Academy.)
In part by using gaming and rewards systems as motivation, students can learn from a variety of topics at their own pace and often find that the system works – especially when so many are achieving positive results. What started as pre-college mathematics video tutorials for Khan’s niece and nephews is now, as Khan states, “the world’s first free, world-class virtual school where anyone can learn anything.” He adds that the system isn’t a replacement for the traditional classroom; rather it’s an adjunct for learning where students are encouraged to explore and make mistakes as they learn to master each topic.
Have you ever heard of GoPro HD video cameras? Chances are if you’re a thrill seeker who’s into extreme sports then, well of course you have. GoPro makes a range of waterproof, shock-resistant digital HD cameras that can be mounted on everything from helmets to surfboards and more. They initially carved out a niche for the extreme sports pro athlete but in the last year have been offering their Hero brand to consumers. The mountable mini cameras started back in 1987 with Mark Schulze who is credited with the first helmet cam for a mountain bike video, but it wasn’t until 2002 when an Australian named Nick Woodman came up with the idea of a wearable camera while on a surfing adventure.
Today these cameras are the preferred choice for extreme sport pros and enthusiasts and the video GoPro has on its website clearly shows that marketing the experience is what makes the difference. The mechanics of how to mount or strap on the camera and its technical attributes are irrelevant when compared to what the experience shows. Similar to RedBull’s approach to marketing the experience rather than the product itself, the video is all about being up close and personal with the action.
Here’s a sad and unfortunate example of an advertiser who was caught in the trap of thinking that more is better. This billboard has too many words, too many elements and uses a type size that is way too small. There is a word to describe this kind of bad advertising – Tragic!
Less is Better
Remember, outdoor advertising can be a great and profitable way to showcase your product, service or location.
When using outdoor, keep it simple and definitely under 7 words. The less the better – seriously.
Why is it when we’re in the midst of a “crisis” we tend to think this event is somehow unique in human history? At first there is a tendency to panic and then, after way too much hand wringing, the vast majority of people eventually pick themselves up and move on. It’s only months (or years) later with the benefit of hindsight that historians are able to clearly see who the innovators were based on their courage and ultimate success while the rest flailed about in fear of change.
This scenario could easily be about politics, war or business since a “crisis” is often the result of a human endeavor that involves similar emotions, reactions and ultimately – solutions. In this case the subject matter isn’t about the auto or banking industry or even the manufacturing sector that’s under siege, instead it’s about the advertising industry. At this very moment, while many insiders are worrying about their agencies, a few brave souls are charting new paths to success while also employing basic principles that still work.
Shift in Advertising Industry
A recent Fast Company article about the future of advertising did a clever job of evaluating and assessing the current state of the business. Clearly, the old business model is on the way out and that sentiment can be summed up well with these two gems: “In the ad business, the relatively good life of 2007 is as remote as the whiskey highs of 1962.” And as Brian Collins, a former Ogilvy exec, stated, “People who [still] think that way are supremely well equipped to work in a world that no longer exists.”
Okay, so we’re all aware that the advertising industry and consumer behavior is facing a huge tidal wave of change with all kinds of new technology and two-way customer conversations – all of which were practically non-existent a few years ago. However, there seems to be too much shouting and noise about what’s wrong in advertising and for that matter, with life in general. Change happens to all industries and therefore it should be no surprise that the ad agency business is having its turn.
With all the innovation in play and complexity around us in today’s world, it may appear almost counter intuitive to suggest that the fundamentals continue to be the engine of progress while we (the willing and able) adapt and adjust to new media, a new consumer/audience landscape, new competition and the access to fewer marketing dollars to invest. Yet, this is the proven principle, age old or not.
While the advertising business model is facing much chaos and change – with that burden comes both panic and opportunity. Therefore one can whine on and on about everything that is wrong or just go about the business of finding solutions. Getting back to basics is evident all around us – it’s a matter of how we deliver the message and converse and engage with our customers that has altered the playing field so quickly. Just think if someone were to ask you what an App was in early 2007? A what?
The FC article details the dismantling and obliteration of the traditional ad agency model but also shares pertinent examples of how some enterprising industry vets are finding new ways to accommodate the vast and unpredictable changes currently happening.