How To Be Cool

DSC06854.JPGAdvertising-types and media-types met up with extreme-sports-types this week in San Diego for a roundtable discussion titled, “What Youth Brands Can Learn From The Action Sports World.” The discussion was hosted by Y-Pulse and moderated by Y-Pulse publisher Anastasia Goodstein.

We usually recoil from these types of things, but Gregg Witt, managing partner for Premise, a San Diego based “immersive marketing agency” is a nice guy — nice enough to answer a few of our dumb questions about youth, media and marketing. So here goes:

Q: Isn’t the trick behind attracting youth buyers simply having good products that aren’t prohibitively expensive?

A: Not exactly. Price is always a driving factor and good product essential, but the power of a relevant brand experience that consumers subscribe to on a personal level still holds the utmost importance with today’s youth. Good product design and a brand that immerses itself in the hearts and minds of their loyalists can be priced high or low. It is their positioning and story that attracts the buyer. As an example American Apparel is definitely on the “cool” list among young adults and the product is quite affordable, while many of the higher priced “boutique” apparel line prices such as Modern Amusement or Insight are still priced at a premium their limited edition/artistic appeal continues to sell product. And of course there are also distinct differences between male and female “young adults.” Price becomes much less of a factor with young women who find a piece of clothing that “fits: and the iPod is not cheap either.

Q: How should advertisers deal with the fact that kids can see through ads directed at them?

A: Start from the inside-out when developing ad or other promotional campaigns. Kids see through advertising because of its lack of authenticity and their 24/7 media consumption overload provides them with relevant alternatives. We all need to step out of our bubble and stay engaged. Take the time to really know and listen to the influentials who drive demand for the product, and really involve them in your campaigns. This generation widely accepts media and see right through brands or products that are not true to their core audience and cultures. But honest, direct approaches have the highest success rates. While focus groups can be effective, there is no substitute for sustained brand immersion.

Q: Musicians are sometimes reluctant to endorse products for fear they’ll be seen as having “sold out.” Why isn’t the same true for athletes?

A: Actually for many athletes the same is true. But I do agree, musicians do tend to limit or focus endorsements on items they use or like to wear and they tend to be more subtle, not wanting to be perceived as a “stage banner.” And yes, obviously many athletes are known to seek shameless brand endorsements to fulfill their dreams and fatten their bank accounts. Yet it also differs significantly between each sport and the culture surrounding it. Ultimately I think a key defining difference is between the art of (musicians) and game of (traditional sports) but in a lot of cases the two are totally intertwined. For example more individual oriented action sports athletes are equal to or even more concerned about being perceived as a “sell out” for they might be let go from their endemic product sponsors. I’m pretty sure Fender won’t stop providing guitars to the front man of a popular band if he or she chooses to endorse Target. But many of the most prestigious action sports athletes face the possibility of getting fired the next day if they do.