YPulse Youth Marketing Mashup

YPulse EventsLast week, we joined YPulse’s Youth Marketing Mashup 2-day conference in San Francisco. A wealth of market research, success stories, intriguing discussions and even heated debates, the conference was highly informative and entertaining.

The conference kicked off with a vibrant keynote speech by self-proclaimed “Advice Slinger” Josh Shipp (HeyJosh.com). Shipp shared insight into his experience as a motivational speaker for youth audiences – an extremely challenging and also deeply rewarding profession. He advised the audience of marketers, brand managers and advertisers on tactics that enable him to connect with the teen audience. Shipp emphasized the importance of telling stories through campaigns and remembering to ask yourself while developing the campaign “Does your brand have a story worth telling?” If the story is worth telling, teens will tell your story to their friends and family, and the story (i.e. your marketing campaign) will grow virally.

Doug Sweeney, Vice President Levi’s Brand America’s for Levi Strauss, presented a case study on the success of their “Foster Levi’s Love” campaign, which was executed through a series of viral videos. Levi’s launched 10 films in 6 months, each video lasted 10-15 minutes, and was produced for under $75,000 per film. Originally, the films launched on YouTube without Levi’s branding, and eventually branding was incorporated and the films were edited into short TV commercial spots. Out of the 10 films launched on YouTube, about 3 or 4 were wildly successful in driving viral growth, and were subsequently edited into shorter versions for advertising spots on TV. The films that were successful had the following characteristics: authentic, truthful, and relevant, and carried Levi’s brand values of empathy and respect. From the video clips Sweeney shared at the conference, it was evident that they were also funny and entertaining, which likely also contributed to their viral growth. See one of the videos here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pShf2VuAu_Q

Likewise, the folks at Disney Online have increased their usage of video to engage youth audiences. Jason Davis, Vice President of Disney.com, Kelly Hugunin, Executive Director of Marketing for Walk Disney Records, and Paul Yanover, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Disney Online, shared their experiences driving the “U Rock” marketing campaign based on user-generated content. The team at Disney discussed how they were able to design a program that enabled kids to create and share their own videos while also ensuring that parents were involved in the safety of their children. During the panel, the Disney team announced the next edition of the campaign called “U Rock 2” and you can learn more about the campaign here: http://urock.disney.go.com/?int_cmp=dcom_UR2_home_tower_0601__Intl

In addition to case studies presented by leading brands, several researchers provided insight into the habits, trends and mindsets of youth audiences. Bill Carter, Partner at Fuse, shared some interesting statistics about youth’s response to different types of advertising. 75% of teens prefer TV ads and think it’s appropriate to market to them through this medium. 10% of teens approve of advertising via text ads, so most teens generally don’t want to be solicited on their mobile phones. Traditional print magazine advertising was ranked by teens as the second most effective medium to reach them. Paul Metz, Senior Vice President of C&R Research, stated that 95% of teens are interested in social causes based on youth issues such as child abuse, education and school violence. Donna Fenn, Author and Contributing Editor for Inc. Magazine, discussed how this generation has been affected by the recession. Two-thirds of teens graduate from college with significant personal debt in addition to student loans; however, they are optimistic, they don’t have any fears of saving money and utilize their parents as a financial safety net.

One of the best ways to learn about teens is to hear directly from teens, so the conference also featured two youth panels. The panels were very interesting and revealed a great amount about the interests and passions of what Don Tapscott, Author and Chairman of nGenera Insight, calls the “Net Generation.” Tapscott characterized this group as the echo of the baby boomers. There are 80 million people included in this echo, and ranging in age from 13-31. He also calls this group “digital natives” and stated that it’s the first generation to be an authority on something over the previous generation (ex. internet technology).

On the first youth panel, the panelists ranging in age from 15-20 years old shared their hobbies and interests. Popular interests included: being involved in causes, listening to music, reading books and magazines, and gaming. Each panelist was heavily involved in a different type of cause including support for the environment and organic products, breast cancer awareness, youth activism, and music programs for youth. During the session, the panelists were asked to compare different advertising campaigns in a battle of the brands (Coca Cola vs. Pepsi and Mac vs. PC) and weigh in on the advertisements that resonated with them. While the panelists were very critical and often sarcastic in their commentary about most of the ads, they provided some insight into the types of ads that would be interesting to them and recommended that the ads be real and authentic, funny and entertaining, imaginative and inspiring.

In the final session, teens took the center stage once more for a panel about young entrepreneurs. Guy Kawasaki, Managing Director of Garage Technology Ventures, led the discussion with challenging questions for the panelists about how they started their business – touching on topics from inspiration for their ideas to scaling and fundraising. The common theme among all the young entrepreneurs was their eagerness and fearlessness to build companies that realized their dreams. And, the panelists were quick to advise the audience on how to realize their own dreams by dismissing inhibitions, and simply getting out there and building it.

Overall, the YPulse conference was a big hit with marketers and brand managers. If youth audiences are a core target for your business, spend some time checking out the YPulse online publication for insights into engaging this demographic. Also, stay tuned for more information about additional upcoming Ypulse events on their website.

For those interested in checking out presentations from this event, YPulse posted many of them here: http://mashup.ypulse.com/2009-ypulse-youth-marketing-mashup-presos/