Marketing to a new generation – but choice of media can be confusing

Once it was a straight choice between TV, radio and print. Now the marketing options seem limitless


In a secondary school business studies class many moons ago, this reporter took part in a marketing project to figure out which media to use for advertising campaigns targeting various different age groups.

Our little group of 13-year-olds divided the population into three camps: old, kind of old and young.

For elderly people, we decided that TV, radio and pamphlets – distributed outside churches – would be best for getting their attention.

For the middle-aged it was ads on bus stops, in newspapers and on TV. For young people, posters in schools, in football grounds and TV were considered the most effective media.

Naïve doesn’t even begin to describe our choices, especially if one were to ask the same question of a class of first years now. The list of possible media to choose from has increased 10fold since then.

Cinema, TV, radio, newspapers, blogs, social media, digital media, search engines, websites, email, cold calling – not to mention pamphleteering – are mere vessels for your content.

It is not enough to simply get your brand out there, you have to prove why it is relevant in today’s market.

“There are so many ways to influence people now in terms of communication spaces, especially on the social media side,” says Orlaith Blaney, chief executive of McCann Blue.

“Not only that, but the consumer, particularly the younger generation, have taken back a lot of the control. In the past, people saw ads and had to just accept what they saw,” Blaney says.

“Now they can comment and give feedback. The power base has shifted in a big way.”

Compelling content

The bottom line for Blaney and others in the business is that you have to create compelling content around your brand that people think is relevant. “That’s the currency were all trading in,” she says.

It is an important point as so many people look at overnight YouTube sensations and assume it is the medium that made their success possible so quickly – but there’s more to it than that.

“Done correctly, you can create a buzz around a brand totally through online channels, which can reach millions of people in minutes,” says Blaney, “but with social media it can also go nowhere because if it’s not good, people will reject it.”

Think inside the box

We tend to overstate the significance of digital media to modern communications. More people still watch TV or listen to the radio to get their info. (We got one thing right in our first-year marketing project.)

“The largest advertiser in the world is Procter & Gamble,” says Damien McLoughlin, professor of marketing at the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.

“In 2014 globally, they expect to spend 30 per cent of their total advertising spend on digital media. What’s shocking is not the 30 per cent figure, but that 70 per cent will still be spent on normal TV, radio and print communications. This is how many people still consume media.”

McLoughlin believes this applies to younger demographics, too. “The average student spends 16-20 hours a week engaging with digital media, but they’re still spending lots of time watching TV.

“I’m not for a second denying its importance in the modern marketplace, but digital media marketing must be properly targeted or else it’s a waste of money.

“Without a sophisticated strategy, you’ll have no idea who’s viewed it, or how they’ve engaged with it.”


A more discerning consumer

The consumer’s ability to react to brands in a way they never could before is somewhat of a headache for advertisers.

“It has made some of our clients’ lives very hard,” says Kelly. “Advertising is expected to be so much more than in the past. Take the PR world, for example. In the past, managing your reputation used to be a matter of sending out a press release to journalists and that was that.

“But nowadays, the reputation of an individual or organisation can be investigated by a simple Google search. So agencies have to be able to decide – given all the channels available – where their brand should be positioned in order to provide the most influence. It’s not what you know, it’s what you can do with what you know.”

‘Older younger’?

It isn’t just the empowerment afforded the consumer by digital media which has changed the playing field. Anyone selling wares which would appeal to a younger market must be wary of the new reality: kids are getting older younger.

Heather Kennedy is digital business strategist with CDO Consultancy, but she has also recently developed a new start-up. GoLolly is an online cash gifting service whereby one person, who might have a birthday or some other celebration coming up, can set up a GoLolly account and ask friends and family to lodge a cash sum into the account. That seems perfectly normal. The catch is, her target market are tweens (see panel).

“Tweens are the biggest growing demographic globally,” says Kennedy. “According to US statistics, they have approximately $2,000 a year in disposable income, which by and large comes out of their parent’s pockets.

“People are having fewer children and having them later in life when they’re more comfortable financially. In addition, kids have become more tech savvy, are getting older younger and, therefore, have more say in household spending.

“Instead of everybody turning up to a kid’s 10th birthday party with a load of junk as gifts, you can ask guests to donate to a GoLolly gift fund which would be spent on one big item. This empowers the child to not only learn about saving but also buy their own big ticket item.”

Native advertising

Whether you’re targeting tweens or 20-somethings, another useful approach is through a method known as Native advertising. This is where you place your story/brand/service along with something tapered with the zeitgeist, so people pick up on it being cool, says Kennedy. “That’s the way stories are being disseminated now. Brands are becoming publishers.”

Plurals phase: Disney looks beyond the Millennials

Disney Channel has a history of serving up programming that defines pop culture for pre-teenage girls: Lizzie McGuire, Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, High School Musical.

However the cable network has not found a new live-action juggernaut in years and its overall ratings are declining. Is a new family sitcom called Girl Meets World the answer?

Girl Meets World (left) carries the burden of demonstrating that Disney Channel has figured out a new generation of tweens, a YouTube-obsessed group that researchers call Plurals, a nod to today’s fragmented or pluralistic society.

While other entertainment companies continue to obsess over how to reach the millennial audience, Disney Channel is already deep into the Plurals, which analysts at Frank N Magid Associates consider to be anyone born after 1996.

Research indicates that this group, the oldest of whom are now 17, have different tastes and perspectives than the millennials – they value happiness over success, for instance, and want to spend even more time with their parents.

The rise of short-form video on sites such as YouTube and Vine is adding pressure on children’s television executives. – (New York Times service)

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