Smart brands are using content and credibility to engage with Generation Y

Originally featured on Brand Republic’s WallBlog:


If you’ve heard the phrase once, you’ve heard it thousands of times. ‘Content is king’ is a concept that permeates digital marketing.

We’ve seen the rise of YouTube viral ads, and ‘adult’ brands like Paddy Power, Hubspot and Mr Porter turning into journalism houses with the added extra of another core revenue generator.

For marketers who focus on targeting a younger audience though, the overused content adage is certainly applicable too.

American soft drink brand Mountain Dew announced this week that it’s pumped funds into creating a new ‘online magazine covering youth culture‘. Dubbed ‘Green Label’ the site will attempt to become a youth destination, and bid to develop, curate and syndicate the latest stories and emerging trends across art, music, action sports/sports and style. To ensure the magazine’s voice is a little more believable, Mountain Dew have also partnered with Complex, a powerful urban culture site.

This is only one example of a recurring similar strategy. Entities like Red Bull, whose ‘Red Bulletin’ magazine and general brand persona works to build a relationship with Gen. Y, and also Virgin Mobile, who have partnered with hot site Buzzfeed to create the prefect procrastination hub for teens, fully understand the market they’re catering towards.

Meanwhile, Old Spice and Intel have used gamification to capture eyeballs and engage younger fans.

Of course, great content is only one part of a savvy ‘youth marketing strategy’, which can now be defined as the intersection of content, credibility (often earned via strategic partnerships) and continuous motion (a nimble, dispersed strategy).

There have never been more opportunities to reach young people, though consequently, there’s never been more noise in the market to contend with. From new tools like Vine and Instagram, to established social outlets like Facebook and Twitter and smartphone and tablet apps, potential channels are mushrooming.

Many brands are turning to a more disseminated strategy, developing numerous smaller ideas that scale and spread, rather than one campaign message. Witness Coca Cola’s recent ‘Ahhh’ campaign, whereby the soft drink brand bought over 50 domains, placing shareable games and content on each, for a good example. Coke’s willingness to test the waters is also a lesson; trial and error is key when focusing on the shape shifting teen market.

Elsewhere, niche outlets like Snapchat (which Facebook tried and failed to copy), Ask.FM (an anonymous ‘social question’ site that recently caused controversy due to bullying) and, importantly, Tumblr (a seriously undervalued outlet for youth interaction by marketers) are growing.

Many teens change their prime social outlet regularly, meaning a full focus on Facebook, for example, would be a mistake. Brands need to take a 360 degree view of how 13-18 year olds are really using the web and, similar to the ‘Moneyball’ concept in sports, finding the right asset (marketing channel) at the right time can lead to huge (media) value.

Authenticity is also key when talking to the somewhat cynical, hyper stimulated youth demographic; teens can sniff a 40 year old wolf in sheep’s clothing from a mile away, so don’t even attempt it.

In decades gone by, mass marketing to youths has been simple; buy a T.V. ad around a favourite show, or place a print ad in a favourite magazine.

Now though, brands have to be far more tuned in to future trends to decode the younger audience, as the pace of youth culture goes into overdrive.

Credible interactions, providing value with content and sticking your finger into many diverse pies seems to be a solid strategy to live by, for those marketers seeking to capture a younger audience.

And if all else fails, take a ‘selfsie’ and post it on Instagram. I hear that’s what all the cool kids are doing.

Shane O’Leary is a strategic brand planner at an Irish agency. He blogs at shaneoleary.meand you can follow him on Twitter @shaneoleary1.