Mobilizing The ‘Cool’ Kids

September 2013
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Technology has significantly changed the way young consumers behave. It has added new possibilities for them to consume content, plus added a new level of complexity—and challenge—for marketers wanting to reach them. What hasn’t changed is that kids are still attracted by what’s new, interesting, and genuine—and cool kids are still the ones who discover these things and spread the word.

TIM beta, a prepaid phone plan designed for the millennial, was inspired by that simple insight. It measures kids’ phone and social media activity, and the more connected they are, the less they pay for the plan. If they reach a certain level of activity, they get exclusive benefits, including extra SIM cards to distribute to friends through social networks.

The plan’s popularity grew in no time. Today there are millions of kids waiting in line to be invited, and TIM went from being the least to the most preferred telecom brand among young consumers in Brazil. Maybe even more important, the plan became a test lab for innovative services and communication.

After a few years working on this, here’s my advice to marketers trying to reach millennials:

Stop saying and start doing. Give people something to use, play, and share, be it an app, an exclusive concert, or a recording studio—. It will be more meaningful and, in most cases, more cost effective than an advertising campaign.

Be honest. Don’t be afraid to fail, and be truthful when you do. Kids will sniff out a fraud and ignore your brand faster than their parents will if they smell a phony. This has always been true, but it has become more critical in the information/social media era.

Be quick. There is very little control over what young consumers will do or say about your brand. The only thing you can do is be quick enough to react, either by turning the conversation around when things go sour or by taking advantage when things go well. If you have to go through layers of approval before you react, you will be too late.

Be brave. Your brand should be the kid other kids want to hang out with. The different, the passionate, the interesting guy. You are not going to get better results if you’re doing what everybody else is doing. To work with young people, marketers need to accept that they are always running a risk of either being wrong or being ignored.

Author: Paulo MelchioriVP, Executive Creative Director, Visual Design, São Paulo

R/GA São Paulo’s work with TIM beta was recently profiled in the book, ‘The Stuff You Can’t Bottle: Advertising For The Global Youth Market.