Marketing to Younger Millennials – the Misunderstood Consumers

By 1stFive Archives
Cover image for  article: Marketing to Younger Millennials – the Misunderstood Consumers

Here is Chapter 23 of Jack Myers' book Hooked Up: A New Generation's Surprising Take on Sex, Politics and Saving the World focuses on the value of the emerging younger Millennial consumer market, known as the Hooked Up Generation -- born 1991-96 and the first generation to grow up with the Internet . Hooked Up was published in 2012 and is winner of the International Book Award for Youth Issues and finalist for the USA Book Award for Pop Culture.

Advertising is shifting its focus from mass media to the individual; it is interactive and needs to be engaging; it connects consumers directly to additional information and purchase; it is being tracked on a micro-second by micro-second basis with patterns of behavior and marketing results far better understood and utilized; it is mobile, social and online; advertising is global and hyper-local.

Rather than sending coupons en masse to millions of consumers through Sunday newspaper inserts or mailed coupon packets, marketers will integrate special offers into online consumer conversations that are relevant to the product being marketed. In addition to inserting commercials intrusively into mass-distributed television programs, marketers will shift budgets into curated content that relates to their product category and that engages consumers in an interactive relationship.

The shifts away from traditional advertising and marketing will be profound. Most marketers are struggling to adjust to these radical and challenging shifts, but to the Hooked Up generation of 18 to 24 year olds, they are obvious realities.

New Perspectives on Digital Marketing

The Internet and connected mobile devices will be the most important marketing tools for communicating with these "Internet Pioneers" and the generations of Internet Natives that follow them. As Internet speeds accelerate exponentially over the next few years, online and mobile video viewing will become the norm, although traditional television network programming will continue to dominate the viewing experience. All media will require applications and interactive two-way options for social interaction, commerce, and content enhancements.

Second-screen content synchronized with television and videos is tailor-made for an already active online audience that's primed to jump in if the content is worthwhile and the technology is simple. This technology already exists, and every leading television network is producing for multiple screen interplay. As all content is becoming more social, mobile and interactive, the underlying principles that have guided media for the past five to six decades are being restructured.

Back in the 1950s, the introduction of the credit card dramatically changed marketing and retailing. New technologies are making it even easier: for example, credit card-linked deals that let consumers embed coupons and special offers directly on their credit cards to be applied at the point of purchase. Discounts are automatically applied when the consumer buys the specified product or service. But the credit card itself will disappear, displaced by mobile devices with embedded RFID chips and visual scanning. These radio frequency chips will have the capacity to connect directly with responsive chips attached to products, billboards, kiosks, and products. Discounts will be offered and accepted on mobile devices. WiFi technology will link consumers' mobile and other devices directly to television, radio and online commercials. Looking further ahead, similar chips might be embedded in the body for communication or other applications––similar to embedded identification chips already in use. As chips and mobile devices become the primary distribution vehicle for coupons and special offers, print media will become increasingly moot except as specialized upscale vehicles for enhanced content presentation and as parts of memorabilia collections.

New Strategies for Marketers

Marketers will require strategists, creative teams and media experts who are truly immersed in the digital world and who understand the challenges of digital marketing. Marketers will retain experts in traditional marketing as they transform their operations to emphasize digital strategies, but the two distinct practices of legacy and digital marketing will be progressively intertwined and interdependent.

In the United States, digital marketing communications investments will increase from $52 billion (9 percent of marketers' total communications budgets) in 2011 to a projected $170 billion in 2020 (30 percent of total budgets).

By 2030, when Internet Pioneers and Internet Natives are dominating the corporate world, digital marketing will capture 60 to 70 percent of all spending. That does not mean traditional media companies or agencies will disappear, although many will. Companies that thrive will be those that embrace digital media and hire Internet Natives. Legacy media companies that make a quick and intelligent transition to socializing their content will thrive.

Yet for the most part, the advertising business remains entrenched in models and practices that are unchanged since television was introduced in the 1950s. The industry still relies on systems that have been in place since the beginning of the newspaper business in the 19th century. The industry is responding to digital expansion, but not quickly enough.

An Adweek study of marketers finds that 77 percent believe the days of traditional media channels are numbered; 68 percent say they need to shift their reliance on broad-based media to more of a one-to-one focus; and 73 percent believe the days of strategic consistency are over and that future marketing campaigns will need to emphasize inspiration and engagement. Nevertheless, their actual spending patterns are just beginning to reflect this strategic shift.

Venture Capital has Built the Marketing Infrastructure

Companies like Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook have a decided advantage in marketing their products and services because of their brand equity, which will continue to serve them well for years unless they suffer a colossal failure.

Investments in building the infrastructure required for digital capabilities and marketing today also are distinctly different from the digital investments required even a decade ago. Billions of dollars have been invested by venture capitalists in building out the infrastructure required for digital conversion. Unlike any technological revolution that has come before, the Internet Revolution is being funded through venture capital and is focused on supporting––not dismantling––traditional corporations and their assets.

Established companies, rather than needing to take the risk of building digital assets from scratch, now have access to thousands of small companies that are ready, willing and able to make infrastructure investments for them. Digital bridges, tunnels, and roads are built. Advanced digital tools and capabilities have been imagined, created and developed, mostly through venture investment, and are available for low-cost installation and implementation. It's now an issue of whether corporate organizations can manage their own legacy hierarchies and the natural resistance of an inbred corporate culture, and if they will act to embrace and adopt digital conversion and upgrades.

There are thousands of VC-funded companies that have fully developed Internet-based capabilities and tools available to traditional companies for the asking.

Marketing to Internet Pioneers

Companies that market products geared toward young adults have always understood the importance of looking beyond traditional print and broadcast media campaigns to reach young consumers. According to promotions firm Re:Fuel, college students spent about $36 billion on items like clothing, computers, cell phones and food in the 2010–2011 school year. But gaining share of this market is the tip of the iceberg for marketers who establish and build brand loyalty that may last for decades. According to a USA Today article, companies target young adult consumers because of their disposable income and the hopes of establishing them as lifelong customers whose income will grow over time.

Over the past few years, marketers have ramped up their efforts, but they may not realize just how different the Hooked Up Generation is from earlier generations, or how important understanding this emerging base of young consumers will be to their future. While many companies are using digital media and shifting their creative marketing focus to target an Internet-savvy audience, their strategies are often Internet-enhanced 20th century campaigns that remain rooted in traditional advertising models.

Why They Love Brands and Advertising

Members of the Hooked Up Gen are the most brand-aware consumers in history––advertising is a distinctive form of content that's always been a part of their lives.

Advertising has had an enormous influence on Internet Pioneers. They grew up watching commercials on Nickelodeon and accept commercials as content. They're accustomed to cable television and websites dedicated to their interests and ads specifically targeted to them. Nevertheless, they pay little active attention to advertising messages and tend to fast-forward through commercials or occupy the time by texting friends. A minority claims to like advertising, while others regard it as a necessary evil that pays for free content.

A non-stop wave of new products and aggressive advertising has left the Hooked Up Gen somewhat immune to their impact and relevance. It's estimated that more than three thousand brand message exposures bombard the average college student every day. Most marketing communications simply disappear into the whitewash of irrelevant content.

Unlike past generations whose brand loyalty started with the family's product choices, Internet Pioneers are more open to trying something new. They have their own set of brand loyalties, biases and perceptions. Their brand preferences are transient; but once committed, they're quick to become not only brand loyalists but brand activists.

Fashion Hauls

Brand activists will actively "like" a brand on Facebook, evangelize a brand through blogs, and share comments on consumer websites. Many brand activists make YouTube videos of themselves testing and seamlessly promoting new products (usually without payment). Fans follow and watch for the latest video. One of the biggest trends in the worlds of fashion, social media and advertising is "fashion hauling," a practice referred to by NPR commentator Viet Le as "PG porn" for the young fashionista crowd. In this game of show-and-tell 2.0, shoppers set up web cams in their bedrooms in order to proudly display their purchases for the masses. Drawing items from their shopping bags one by one, they offer commentary on their favorite details of the clothes and accessories, along with their plans for wearing these pieces. Some fashion haulers are big into designer outfits but many others do their shopping at discount stores such as Forever 21, J. C. Penney, Target, American Eagle and Urban Outfitters. When displaying hauls from these stores, the goal is to teach viewers how to look fashionable on a budget. Fashion Hauls are at the foundation of a new trend that disintermediates traditional advertising models by directly connecting brands, brand evangelists and consumers through YouTube video blogs (although YouTube is not itself monetizing these videos).

Although fashion hauls began popping up as soon as YouTube was released, they burst more prominently on the scene in late 2008. Of course, the economic recession also came into full force at the same time. One common explanation for the explosion of haul videos is that, unable to go on big shopping trips themselves, users were able to live vicariously through their favorite fashion vloggers. Time magazine went so far as to say that " millions of girls were watching the videos the same way that they watched Justin Bieber videos." Even more importantly, retailers have seen sales increase when a product is highlighted in a haul video. A Forbes article reported that a Guess watch that was featured in a haul video sold out in record time.

Balir+Fowler

JCPenney has used haul videos as a cornerstone promotion for teen back-to-school shopping the past two years. In 2011, the retailer encouraged customers to create their own haul videos of the store's products by hosting an online vote for the best video with prizes such as a trip to New York and an iPad. "We're inspired by the confidence and influence of today's teens. They are true evangelists, sharing their individual style and encouraging others to take the latest trends and make them their own," Bill Gentner, interim chief marketing officer of JCPenney said. The retailer's Haul Nation campaign has been a leader in the use of haul videos and sparked many individuals to create their own on YouTube.

High school and college students were the first to jump on the fashion hauling trend. Sisters Elle and Blair Fowler led the way with their YouTube channels, both of which attracted millions of views from fashion-forward teens. Self-professed as ordinary girls with a love for fashion, the two began sharing tips on finding the trendiest looks without breaking the bank. As their videos grew in popularity, the girls began receiving free products from a wide range of beauty and fashion companies, all with the simple request of having their items appear on Elle and Blair's channels. While the two girls' lives have changed, they continue making affordable fashion a priority.Blair has more than 1.6 million subscribers and Elle has over 1.2 million subscribers to their respective YouTube channels. A video of Blair's, in which she described her favorite television shows and shampoo in painstaking detail, generated over 692,000 views in a few weeks.

Similar "unboxing videos" share the process of opening, configuring, and activating high-tech gadgets.

Making Emotional Connections

More than any other generation, the Hooked Up Gen understands the value of their advocacy, and they are very sophisticated in the understanding and knowledge of the nuances of product marketing.

Internet Pioneers do take notice of effective advertising, but they're highly selective in their choices. They value and reward advertising that connects emotionally, shares valuable insights and that informs them about new products and services targeted to their interests. But they're just as likely to respond in a deeply negative way to advertising that strikes the wrong chord.

Marketers and agencies are trying to find the right chord by using non-traditional marketing strategies to gain market share. Unfortunately, marketers and agencies are not yet up to the task. But they are trying.

The New Challenges for College Marketers

Hundreds of companies are battling it out with non-traditional marketing strategies to gain market share and share of mind with Internet Pioneers. To reach Internet Pioneers on college campuses and beyond, companies must be innovative in finding new ways to integrate their products into the Internet Pioneer lifestyle and culture. Among other things, offline experiential and event programs, smartphone apps, online videos, interactive and two-screen television will be increasingly important marketing tools.

"Traditional marketing techniques––like national advertising campaigns on MTV or in Rolling Stone––don't resonate with college students the way they used to. Nowadays, companies need student ambassadors to create marketing events, like mural painting or video contests that are relevant to their particular schools…Students who participate tend to promulgate brand messages ."
Matt Britton, Chief Executive
Mr. Youth Marketing Agency
New York Times

According to the New York Times article, marketers are hiring an estimated ten thousand American college students to represent them on campus. Red Bull, Hewlett-Packard PCs, Nike, Microsoft, Ford, American Eagle, Target, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Ben & Jerry's all have sophisticated on-campus marketing efforts. Apple has dedicated stores on large campuses and has space in many college bookstores.

A Wall St. Journal article (April 4, 2012) headlined "Big Marketers on Campus" reports that tech start-ups are enlisting college students to engage their social networks and campus relationships on behalf of the brands. "For start-ups," writes reporter Katherine Rosman, "college students are marketing gold. They love web products and tell friends, real and virtual, about everything they do, see and buy. They will work, free, at a time when even non-paying internships are harder to land."

Vending machines remain ubiquitous on campus, but fast food chains are acquiring rights to open within student centers. As the Times' Natasha Singer commented, "Corporations have been pitching college students for decades on products from cars to credit cards. But what is happening on campuses today is without rival, in terms of commercializing everyday college life."

Redefining Creative Success

Soon, ad agency creative teams will wake up to the shift of commercials from intrusive forced-feeding of messages. Instead of simply creating awareness and retention, commercials will motivate consumers to opt in, both to viewing and to take some form of action. Every commercial will have a Facebook "like" and "dislike" icon, and creative success will be defined by viral distribution and consumer feedback. Traditional 30-second intrusive commercials with little viral interest will fade into oblivion. Independent and documentary filmmakers whose messages resonate with consumers will be funded by corporations that want to be associated with those messages, and who will benefit as viewers pass along those videos with their feedback.

Case Study: Unilever Dove for Women Campaign

Unilever has been at the forefront of the digital marketing trend, bringing its message to the college market through provocative YouTube videos, product placement in video games and Apple's iAd marketing platform. The company integrates product promotions with college sports and other events of interest to Internet Pioneers.

Unilever's Dove brand, both the men's and women's product lines, has enjoyed particular marketing success with Internet Pioneers. Unilever's most successful campaign ever, the Dove Real Beauty campaign, was launched in 2004. Unilever describes the campaign as "promoting the idea that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and ages." In addition to promoting the brand and products, the campaign made a positive impact on the public by offering alternative ways of thinking about beauty and helping parents to discuss ideas about beauty with their daughters. The campaign included a 75-second online video (Evolution) that demonstrates how professional stylists and computer photo-editing are used to transform ordinary-looking women into fashion models.Dove

The video cost the company almost nothing to produce, but the payoff was huge. The video gained tremendous online exposure. The result was over 3.5 million YouTube views and prominent play on mainstream television news shows including The View and CNN.

Marketing Vox estimated that the company's initial exposure in the weeks after the video was triple that of a Super Bowl ad for the same product line. Unilever followed up on the success of Evolution by releasing additional online videos,Onslaught and Amy.

According to Unilever research, the Dove campaign was among the most successful in history––affecting not only brand perception but also affecting consumers' perceptions of themselves (and their friends).

Why did the campaign succeed? When the campaign was introduced, Internet Pioneers were in their early to mid-teens, the most formative years for bodily self-perception. In a culture that had positioned inhumanly thin models as the pinnacle of beauty, the Dove message may have been the most influential in the lives of these young women.

While models remain tall and thin and television series like America's Next Top Model glamorize traditional symbols of beauty, Internet Pioneers are more likely than previous generations to embrace beauty in all shapes and sizes. It's a lesson they learned while watching Nickelodeon.

"Kids in Nick shows like 'All That' were not skinny Hannah Montana look-alikes; they were all shapes, sizes and looks and not so gorgeous."
Geraldine Laybourne
Former Nickelodeon Chairman

Internet Pioneers form a small generation whose members, while fashion-savvy and into make-up, are less likely to fall into unhealthy eating habits, emotional disorders, and anti-social behavior patterns based on their own appearance or the appearance of others. While Nickelodeon and Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign cannot claim all of the credit, they played an important part in communicating a message to young women that can influence their long-term health.

Case Study: Dove for Men Campaign

The Dove for Men product line has also developed several innovative marketing campaigns.

During the March 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship, Unilever launched an iAD campaign for the Dove for Men linewith advertising delivered through iPad. By integrating the campaign with a sporting event important to college students with the innovative technology of the iPad, Unilever was able to deliver its message successfully to the audience.

In 2011, Unilever combined a high-profile sports event with innovative technology to launch the Dove for Men line. In a variation of the Real Beauty message, the campaign focused on supporting young men .as they establish their identity and gain self-esteem. Or, in Dove's words: helping young men to be "comfortable in their own skin."

The Dove video series presents former football player and ESPN commentator Kirk Herbstreit, known as "Herbie" to fans, sharing personal experiences that have helped him become comfortable in his own skin. The Dove Men+Care Journey to Comfortuses the online video series to share stories from respected men whom young men can "relate to on their journey to becoming comfortable with themselves." The stories were shown throughout the college football season, including the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), ESPN's "Year of the Quarterback", and at dovemencare.com as part of a season-long Unilever sponsorship.

Unilever's Axe product line has also successfully pushed the envelope in creating intriguing campaigns that have helped to create the top-selling male personal care product line. A Business Insider article describes how Unilever decided to target a specific type of male and designed ads that would send the message to the "Insecure Novice" that Axe products would help him attract the attention of attractive women.

Axe Body Spray used this strategy in a highly successful campaign aimed at teens and college males. Introduced in 2007, the campaign was primarily web and video based. It featured the Bom Chicka WahAxeWahs, a fictional female rock band. Andrew Adam Newman (New York Times, Oct 2007) described the appeal: girls in lingerie and stilettos singing the promise "If you have that aroma on, you can have our whole band." The campaign was a success with its emphasis on sexuality and appeal to the male desire to be more attractive to women. The campaign helped to establish brand identity and drove up the sales of the product.

In summary, Unilever's marketing toward college students has been successful in both profit and exposure. By using media that's already integrated into the daily lives of students and keeping the content provocative, Unilever has tapped into the buying power and probable product loyalty of Internet Pioneers. And by staying on the cutting edge of delivery and content, Unilever has set a benchmark for other marketers.

Case Study: Coke vs. Pepsi

The longest war ever waged hasn't been fought on battlefields. Rather, it's been conducted between Coca Cola and Pepsi, two iconic brands with a similar anchor product; cola, the beverage that has defined America since the beginning of the 20th century. Established respectively in 1886 and 1903, Coke and Pepsi have historically competed for consumers and shelf space. Today, they have almost equal shares of the beverage market.

In the first half of 2011, Coca Cola garnered 35 percent of beverage consumers, a slightly larger share than Pepsi's 32.9 percent. This was largely the result of aggressive marketing campaigns, many of them aimed at young consumers who have yet to establish brand loyalty.

These consumers include the 21.2 million Internet Pioneers and the 15 million college students who have especially high demand for the high-energy caffeine beverages that are the forte of both Coca Cola and Pepsi.

The idea that Pepsi and Coke are brands with different appeal has roots in the Pepsi Generation, a themed advertising campaign that began in 1963. Rather than claiming that Pepsi was just as good as Coke, the campaign set out to convince consumers that Pepsi drinkers were different––and more forward-thinking––than the older, more traditional folks who bought Coke. For a long time, the image of Pepsi drinkers being younger at heart prevailed in the media, from the revitalization of the Pepsi Generation campaign in the 1980s, to the commercials starring Michael Jackson and Madonna in the 1990s. In the mid-2000s, Britney Spears resuscitated the phrase "For Those Who Think Young" in her retro commercials for Pepsi.

Both Coca Cola and Pepsi have significantly altered their marketing strategies to target young consumers, focusing on creating inexpensive content to be disseminated via social media rather than on traditional advertising campaigns. In many ways, these campaigns provide marketing lessons for the future––successful tactics that will be copied and unsuccessful strategies that marketers will avoid.

Coca Cola's digital strategies for college students aim toward a global market while remaining locally relevant. Pepsi's campaigns have shifted heavily toward celebrity endorsements and music campaigns. In the last four years, Coke has amassed nearly three times as many media mentions as Pepsi.

Coke's success in the digital realm is due in large part to "The Happiness Machine," a viral video initiative. Coca Cola representatives travel to college campuses around the world and install CokeCoca+Colavending machines that are far more than beverage dispensers. Rather than ejecting the expected––a single Coke bottle––these machines dispense multiple sodas, pizzas, and in some cases, 20-foot subs. (Hidden compartments are custom-built into the machine.)

Recipients react with shock and amazement, giggling and calling out to friends as hands appear in the slot, bearing unlikely (and magical) gifts. A hidden camera records their reactions which are then used in creating videos. The first video, (recorded at St. John's University, New York City) was released on YouTube on January 1, 2010. It went wildly viral, getting over 700 thousand hits in the next five days. Within a week, it had one million views, taking it to the top of the viral video chart. Several more videos have been distributed and their success has contributed to the corporation's ability to cut back on marketing expenditures by almost $45 million.

The success of Coca Cola's "Happiness" campaign among Internet Pioneers lies in the simplicity of its core concept. Rather than being about consumerism, the videos are simple, feel-good productions that echo Coke's traditionally wholesome, Norman-Rockwell-esque ads of jolly Santas, nuclear families, polar bears and dew-faced youths. They associate the brand not with fame or unobtainable goals, but rather with an emotion that anyone––despite their religious affiliation, language capabilities, ethnicity, or belief system—can relate to on a visceral level.

"What Coke really gave away was a sense of happiness that created an emotional connection with the brand," explained Paul Iannacchino, the creative director of Definition 6, the agency that conceived of the "Happiness Machine" campaign. "Students involved in this video were caught up in their everyday lives, and this little moment touched them. We used free stuff to surprise people, but what we gave away was happiness and a smile. The key is engagement, whether you were there or just watching; free stuff was just the catalyst."

Coke also engages in more traditional forms of marketing to Internet Pioneers, signaling the importance of the generation to the brand, including Coca Cola Music, which promotes emerging artists by recording them singing Coke's advertising jingle, "Can You Feel It." In 2010, the brand launched Expedition 206, a program that sponsored three 20-something adventurers' travels around the world, reporting on Coke and its effect on people in 206 countries. The company also resorts to less tasteful forms of sponsorship, which include the "Coca Cola Beach," a party spot for Spring Break on South Padre Island in Texas. Free trips to the event are given away through a college campus "Text-To-Win" campaign, which offers other prizes such as gift cards from Target and Visa.

Pepsi and Social Responsibility

While Coke has actively targeted college students, Pepsi has staged campaigns that target a socially engaged audience in general. These campaigns included Pepsi Refresh, the company's main marketing initiative introduced in 2010. The campaign invites people to submit ideas that they think will change the world. These include fundraising campaigns to buy uniforms for Special Olympics contenders and raising money to purchase books for local libraries, to name just two. An Internet audience then votes on which idea they like best. Whoever wins the vote gets funding from Pepsi to bring their ideas to life.

When Pepsi went digital, they shifted their focus to being a socially responsible brand. Then, backpedaling, they aggressively veered back toward being a lifestyle brand by focusing on music. Pepsi's campaigns include Pepsi Pulse, a real-time visualization of social media conversations going on about Pepsi initiatives; Pepsi X-Factor, a sponsorship website in collaboration withX-Factor, Simon Cowell's popular Fox program that competes with the Coke-sponsored American Idol;and Pepsi SoundOff, a program that aims to create a virtual community based on social standing. Together, these disparate campaigns form a message that is difficult to discern.

In 2011, the marketing team "made a conscious decision to go aggressively back into music," says Frank Cooper, chief global consumer engagement officer at PepsiCo Beverages. "We have a rightful place in music."

Internet Pioneers live in a digital world where they are constantly inundated with lifestyle marketing guised as creative content. Being introduced to more of the same from a brand like Pepsi makes the brand's marketing efforts less memorable and engaging.

Both brands share well-established scholarship programs that award millions of dollars every year to worthy candidates. The Coca Cola Scholars Foundation, which gives annually to 1,400 College students, also has a Coca Cola Community College Academic Team, signaling their commitment to enable students of different backgrounds to succeed in the post-college world. Pepsi partners with institutions such as UNC, City College in New York, and Penn State to offer $10,000 scholarships to deserving students.

What is rare for Internet Pioneers and Internet Natives is having an experience that evokes innocent, unadulterated emotions, the best of which is happiness. With its "Happiness Machine," Coke manages to harness joy in their advertisements, while at the same time speaking intimately with a very diverse audience. The brand's focus on core values, along with Pepsi's inability to stay on course with a coherent brand identity, gives Coke the upper hand in the campus cola war. The lessons offer guidance for all marketers seeking to communicate with Internet Pioneers today and into the future, arguing for more emotionally-based campaigns and fewer traditional lifestyle marketing programs.

Hazards of College Marketing

One of the hazards of being a large company with many brands and a different marketing strategy for each product is the potential for values and messages in one campaign to contradict the messages of a sister brand's marketing.

In 2007, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) denounced Unilever's Axe Campaign and pointed out the mixed messages that Unilever was sending to teens and young adults through the creatively conflicted Dove Real Beauty and Axe campaigns.

"Even as Unilever basks in praise for its Dove Real Beauty campaign, they are profiting from Axe marketing that blatantly objectifies and degrades young women."
Dr. Susan Linn
Director and Co-founder, CCFC

Unilever spokesperson Anita Larson defended the company in a New York Times article by saying that each marketing campaign is geared toward the specific brand and said that the Axe campaign was a spoof. "Unilever is a large global company with many brands in our portfolio," she said. "Each brand effort is tailored to reflect the unique interests and needs of its audience."

While the Axe campaign has been criticized, the outcome was successful. The campaign effectively captured the psyche of the target audience, and it communicated a positive message of enhanced self-esteem and confidence to young men.

With social media pervasive, marketers must be sensitive to new challenges created by social media and instant global communications. Coca Cola's successes have not been without setbacks, many of which have stemmed from social media campaigns questioning Coke's business dealings in countries where the company produces its products. College students across America have become involved in a campaign called "Killer Coke," which protests the corporation's actions. Launched on campuses in 2007, the campaign petitioned Smith, Oxford, Oberlin, Bard, Michigan State, and over 25 other colleges to terminate major contracts with Coke, in favor of introducing Pepsi onto campuses. On a few of the campuses, Coke products were banned entirely. The victory was especially sweet for Pepsi, which had been engaged in campus pouring wars since the early 1990s. In 2000, they had even filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Coca Cola for monopolizing the market for fountain-dispensed drinks in the United States. A federal judge dismissed the case.

In the highly politicized environment of early 2012, social media campaigns led Coca Cola, Pepsi, Kraft and other corporations to withdraw funding from the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), which finances right-wing political organizations and initiatives. Social media will increasingly be a weapon used by Internet Pioneers to clearly communicate––and make purchase decisions based on––their political, moral and ethical beliefs. Marketers will need to be aware that their actions and policies domestically and around the world are an integral part of their brand messaging.

The Future: Internet Pioneers as Marketers

The single greatest threat to the traditional advertising business will be a failure to attract Internet Pioneers into the ad business. [Members of the MyersBizNet industry cooperative underwrite Women in Media Mentoring Initiative and Media Village, both of which focus on improving the diversity of the business, attracting Internet Pioneers to the media and advertising community, supporting them in their career development, and establishing a dual mentoring model to capitalize on their knowledge and experience.

The advertising and marketing business needs a radical overhaul, and the Hooked Up Gen can provide the necessary leadership. Internet Pioneers will be the first generation to enter the media and advertising businesses with the Internet in their DNA, and with an inherent understanding of how to reach consumers and communicate effectively via online, mobile and socially connected programs. Over the next two decades, new innovative tactics that truly exploit the potential of the Internet will evolve as Internet Pioneers gain control over the marketing of major corporations, ad agencies and media companies.

These tactics will move the ad business in a different direction. They will focus on creative strategies tuned to online and mobile communications and Internet-based technologies rather than strategies designed for traditional media and especially for mass television.

It's a direction that will be more social and interactive, more engaging, more emotional, and more focused on building connections between the advertising messages and the content environment in which they appear. Marketing campaigns will depend on data and databases to target the right messages to the most receptive and potentially responsive audiences.

Advertising will travel from friend to friend as a part of recommendation engines, and advertising will be organized, curated and shared in the same way YouTube videos are today.TED.com has created the Ads Worth Sharing global initiative to identify and distribute messages that the curators at TED believe are worthy of attention for their creativity, message, relevance, controversy, etc.

Advertising will have direct commerce options embedded and activated instantly or when the consumer appears at a point of sale where the offer can be redeemed. Advertising will translate smoothly across multiple communications platforms.

Advertising will become more global as marketers recognize the potential of Internet communications, yet it will also serve consumers where they live, shop and travel. New digital strategies will displace local pennysavers and Val-Pak coupon mailers. Local blog sites that serve their communities will expand and consolidate. These sites and apps will eventually dominate the market for consumer access to local information, services, merchant and restaurant recommendations and special offers.

As marketers begin to focus more on the Internet Native audiences and hire Internet Pioneers to manage advertising and marketing programs, completely new and unimagined relationships between marketers and consumers will evolve, altering the fundamental nature of advertising and communications.

Chapter 24:The Future of the World as We Don’t Know It

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