Five Keys To Marketing To Generation Y

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There is a massive generation growing up today who have a radar that the rest of us don’t have.  They have very sensitive bullsh*t radar. They can spot a phony a mile away.

This is the first generation experiencing a new relationship with brands… a direct connection and an expectation of honesty.  While the generations before grew up on mass media advertising, today’s youth doesn’t believe that hype.  They demand that their brands communicate with them honestly, even in mass media.

So how do you get into the heads of the incredibly large and lucrative generation that is coming-of-age?  Lady Gaga has one answer.


Her epic 9 minute music video for “Telephone” features no fewer than nine product placements.  Virgin Mobile, Diet Coke, Miracle Whip, Heartbeats headphones, Wonder bread, Polaroid,, HP laptops, and Chevrolet all appear in the music video, each integrated into the content.

The director says it wasn’t part of the creative vision, but rather a neccesary step to finance the expensive project.

Does it work?

The dating website reports a 15% increase in visits.  And they did this once before, integrating into a Flo Rida video.

Miracle Whip seems pleased as well.   Their brand manager told that they have been reaching out to 18-35 year old consumers for the first time, and find that integrating into projects like this engage young consumers in ways traditional advertising doesn’t.

Does Lady Gaga actually use all of the products placed in her video?  Well, Virgin Mobile did sponsor her recent tour, and the headphones and laptop displayed in the video reflect her long standing relationship with Monster.  She’s previously incorporated the HP laptop and Monster Heartbeat headphones into her “Bad Romance” video.

You don’t have to be part of a multi-million dollar celebrity endorsement to integrate your product into the lives and hearts of today’s young consumers.  You just need to remember some key things about how to build brands with them.

1. Speak honestly. Don’t hype things up.  Be real.  Use words and phrases that real people use.  Skip the BS.

2. Engage in active discussion. Monitor what is being said about your brand on-line via message boards and forums, and reach out to those who hate you and those who love you.  Take part in the discussion.

3. Contribute to causes they support.  What matters to your young customers?  Find out, and become a real and honest part of the causes that matter to them.

4. Know where they are. Are they at extreme sports events?  Concerts?  Clubs?  Coffee shops?  Find out where they are, and market to them on their turf.

5. Give something away, and it doesn’t need to be your product that you give away. Start a blog that gives advice relevant to your consumers.  If you have a juice bar, your blog or newsletter might give away free workout tips or healthy advice.  If you have a bike store, your blog might be about great places nearby to take your bike off road.

Here’s Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” video, featuring Beyonce… and nine products you love.

Lady GaGa 2,245 Comments

The Opposite of Love

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Today a Justin Bieber song came on the radio, and before I could even identify it both of my kids had told me how much they hate him.


I’m not sure if they hate his music or if they hate the fact that girls go crazy over him or if they just hate his image, but they express a serious dislike for Justin Bieber. That feeling seems to be shared amongst a lot of 15 year old boys.

Yet Justin Bieber draws fanatical crowds everywhere he goes. He ignites full on hysteria. There is no star quite like him on earth right now.

Nickelback. Another act everyone loves to hate. Try find a guy to admit he’s a Nickelback fan. It ain’t easy. Yet their concerts sell out, thier albums sell millions, and their music is everywhere.

It makes you wonder how Nickelback and Justin Bieber can be SO popular when it seems everyone hates them.

The secret is that they inspire emotions.

The opposite of love isn’t hate. It is indifference.

My kids aren’t indifferent about Bieber. They know who he his, his back story, and his music.

Any brand that stirs up attention is bound to have detractors. Perfect. If certain people hate you because of what you stand for, you’ve done your job. They are aware of you. They understand your brand. As long as you have an equal (or greater) number of people who love you, you’ll be fine.

On the other hand, if the world expresses a general indifference about your brand, you’re dead. If people don’t care, it means they don’t really get it and you haven’t inspired passion or emotion on any level.

And even though Bieber and Nickelback are Canadian, I don’t think that has anything to do with the hatred. You can’t hate Canadians… we’re too damn polite.

Justin Bieber, Nickelback 1,462 Comments

Life After Death

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When I heard that Sony Music was paying $250 million to the estate of Michael Jackson for the rights to his past music and 10 projects to be released over the next 7 years, my first thought was that they are completely nuts.  I mean, they just signed a dead artist who hasn’t had a legitimate hit song since 1995 to the biggest record deal in history!  He was nearly bankrupt prior to his death and his last album struggled to reach the break even point.  What were they thinking?!?

But when you stop and think about,  there are two reason that Sony might actually be quite shrewd paying this much for Jackson’s music past and future.

1. It is no longer about CD’s and downloads.  It is about movie soundtracks, TV shows, commercials, computer games, and platforms we haven’t even considered yet.  In the old world of CD sales this deal would be nuts, but maybe not so much anymore.

2. Michael Jackson is now a rarity.  Like Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Bob Marley, we sadly won’t be blessed with any new music from him.  That makes his brand infinitely more valuable.  In death, Elvis made $55 million last year.  John Lennon’s estate claimed over $15 million in 2009.  Bob Marley’s estate still earns close to $10 million annually… that’s $892,500,000 in Jamaican dollars.

Michael was already far more wealthy in death than he was in life.  His estate earned $90 million in the seven months following his death.  And the years to come with obviously be much more profitable.


What can your business learn from this morbid story?

1. The law of supply and demand is impossible to refute.  If demand is high and supply is low, the value goes sky high.  Examples?  Nintendo’s Wii machine was impossible to find two years ago at Christmas.  The supply was low, but everybody wanted one.  That’s why they fetched over $1000 on e-bay.  Michael Jackson is in demand (because he’s dead) and he’s in low supply (also thanks to death), so once again his value is very high.   How does your brand control supply and demand?  Remember that “supply” could easily be “exposure”.  Are you controlling your brand from overexposure?

2. If you have something cool (like, say, unreleased Michael Jackson material) it pays off to tell people that it is coming.  Create some advance interest.  By telling us that there are 10 Michael Jackson projects coming in the next 7 years, Sony has teased us with what could come.  Rumor is that there are three albums worth of new and unreleased MJ material in the vaults.  Another rumor is that Michael was planning to re-release a new version of  “Off The Wall”.   Apple has done this brilliantly… things like the iPad were the topic of much discussion and anticipation long before they came out.  What does your brand do to generate interest in what you are about to do?

Now Sony couldbe crazy.  But if Elvis Presley is any example, Michael Jackson’s music will endure for years to come in any number of forms and platforms, and Sony will more than recoup their $250 million.

Apple, Bob Marley, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Nintendo, The Beatles 1,734 Comments

Changing Times Need Changing Messages

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More than any other time since the disco invasion of the late 70′s, music today is dominated by dance beats.

David Guetta, a French DJ, has gone from anonymous mixer to the man behind some of the biggest hits.  His work with The Black Eyed Peas resulted in the most memorable hit of 2009, “I Gotta Feeling”, which is still on the charts 20 weeks after peaking at #1 last summer.

The past two years have given rise to Lady Gaga, Jason Derulo, and Cascada.  We’ve seen hip-hop gradually adopt more European beats and evolve into an entirely new sound that has more in common with disco than it does with Eminem.

One of the theories behind the rise of dance music is the tough economic times.  After a few years of depressing economic news and a decade at war, North Americans are looking for an escape and finding it in dance music.  As a result, trendspotters like Guetta,, and Timbaland are making millions.

What effect is the current economic climate having on your customer’s state-of-mind?  Your message needs to reflect the times to resonate with your customer.

1. Honesty works today.  Hype is out, honesty is in.  Communicate with your customer in an honest and real manner, and you’ll have a much better chance of cutting through.

2. Remember that nobody cares about you or your product.  They care about themselves.  So in order to reach them, you need to position the benefit of your product in their world.  Stop talking about you, and start talking about your customer.

3. Today’s marketing is dialogue.  The communication is now a two-way street, so you had better be prepared to talk to your customers… for better or for worse.  No comment is the kiss of death today.

One company that has done a fantastic job on all counts is Dove.  Their “real beauty” campaign taps into all of the above, and then some.  Powerful stuff…

Black Eyed Peas, David Guetta, Jason Derulo, Lady GaGa, Timbaland 2,262 Comments

Don’t Get In The Way

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Sometimes, the best thing a brand can do is get the hell out of the way.

Today’s raving fans have access to legions of followers and friends who can make the uncool cool and make the successful fail.  Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool when one tweet or Facebook post can influence thousands of people simultaneously.  No longer can a bad move survive long enough at the box office to recoup its costs.  Today’s wildfire word-of-mouth means word about a dud movie spreads the moment the first showing lets out.  By day two, the studio knows they have a bomb on their hands and there is nothing they can do about it.

Perenially uncool 80′s pop duo Hall & Oates are riding a word-of-mouth resurgence, and one of the wisest moves they made was getting out of the way and letting their fans loose.

Their manager, Jonathon Wolfson, told billboard magazine that “some bands get in the way of themselves”.  They try too hard to manage the exposure of their brand, only allowing themselves to play hip venues and only granting interviews with vogue writers for underground publications.

Wolfson has taken the opposite approach to Hall & Oates, bringing their soulful pop to films, animations, on-line projects, commercials, and tribute albums.  They’ve been featured in everything from trendsetting movies to the home shopping channel.  Fans are fans.  Some appreciate the artistry of Hall & Oates and some soak up the kitschy nostalgia.  Whatever. It all works for Daryl and John.

As a result, the band can play “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart and at the same do “The Rachael Ray Show“.  They’ve even done Howard Stern’s radio show on Sirius and revealed dirt about their 80′s heyday and sexual exploits with groupies.

Kids who grew up with Hall & Oates have now come of age, and now their influence is being felt all over again. Gym Class Heros, The Killers, Fall Out Boy, and country singer Jimmy Wayne have all named Hall & Oates as musical influences, adding to their growing street credibility… a street cred they never had, even in the 80′s.

How can you “get out of the way” and let your brand’s buzz grow?

1. Use a tool like Google to alert you to mentions of your brand.  Watch the trending.  When you see forums or blogs mention you, read them.  Understand them.  Take part in the conversation.  It is going to happen anyway, with or without you.

2. Recognize who your audience is.  Kids who were weaned on Hall & Oates are now making today’s hit songs.  Even though music critics might think Hall & Oates are uncool and over the hill, there is a hidden generation of 30-somethings who loved them.  What the critics think is cool and what true tastemakers find cool can be vastly different.

3. Tap into Twitter.  Do regular searches of your brand’s name to see what people are saying about you.  Look for ways to tap into the buzz.  If you notice your brand is popping up with a specific group of people, acknowledge them and feed them.  For example, if you see that your brand is popular with Trekkies, consider showing up at their next convention or sponsoring something they do.

4. Mine your database.  Invite early trendsetters into your club, pull back the curtain, and get to know them.  Make them feel special, because they are.  They’ll help spread your brand’s virus for you.

5. Be honest.  Be real.  Nothing else works today.  By going on Howard Stern to talk about having sex with groupies in the same room as each other, Hall & Oates revealed a real side of them that you never saw back in their day.  That real human revelation might have been dangerous at one time, but today honesty earns you valuable points with a generation who has a bullshit meter on high alert.

daily show, fall out boy, gym class heroes, hall and oates, howard stern, jimmy wayne, jon stewart, rachael ray 103 Comments

The Power of What You Leave Out

One of rock’s greatest albums.  Nothing written on the front of it.  No band name.  No album name.

Would Zeppelin IV have been a bigger success if they would have written “Led Zeppelin” across the front?  Not likely.

One of the very cool aspects of this classic album is the mystery behind the strange cover.

How about this album?

It didn’t have a name either.

Would it have been bigger if they would have called it “A Doll’s House” as originally planned?  Nope.  Part of the mystique of  “the white album” is that it wasn’t called officially ”the white album”.  It wasn’t called anything at all.

The lack of anything on the front, other than the text “The BEATLES” and a serial number, is part of the legacy of the album.

The Beatles and Led Zeppelin tapped into the power of the incomplete.
Leondardo Davinci called it “sfumato“, which loosely translated means “smoky”.  He made the lines on the Mona Lisa’s face intentionally smoky, blurred, and almost incomplete in order to engage the mind.
Michaelangleo called it “non-finito” or “unfinished”.  He left sculptures partially entombed in stone and intentionally left many things looking unfinished in order to capture your attention.
In-N-Out Burger calls it the “secret menu“.  Actually, they don’t.  Their customers do.  In-N-Out Burger only has four food items (besides drinks) on their menu.
Yet there are literally dozens of “secret” menu items you can order.  The menu never acknowledges them.  Their staff never talk about them.  Yet you can walk into any In-N-Out Burger and ask for “The Flying Dutchman” or a “3 By Meat, Animal Style” and you’ll get exactly what you asked for.
Part of the allure of In-N-Out Burger is the secret menu.  And thanks to the internet, the secret menu is hardly secret anymore.  In-N-Out has attempted to address that by denying a secret menu exists.  They offer an explanation here.
Why does this work?

The human mind hates loose ends.  We watch bad movies right to the end because we would rather put up with a crappy movie rather than deal with not knowing what happened.   When we see the Mona Lisa, we see a truly human face because our mind completes the picture beneath the smoky lines.  We are engaged.

What does your brand intentionally leave out?
Do your customers have a secret menu to order from?

Have you had the guts to release an album without your name on it?

Creating a little mystery around your brand will go a long way toward engaging the mind of your customers.
Davinci, In-N-Out Burger, Led Zeppelin, Michaelangelo, The Beatles 306 Comments