In a panel at Tribeca Cinemas themed "The New Breed of Super-Influencer," the discussion was about how to reach consumers like Jeremiah, a 25-year-old car enthusiast who buys a new cellphone every three to six months to keep up with the "new hotness" and invites 1,500 friends on MySpace to his latest party.
Jeremiah was one of six consumers Starcom and CNET selected from a group of 30 videotaped and polled in a national survey about media accessibility among youth. CNET gave digital cameras to its six team leaders, or "brand sirens," to record their spending habits and post them in their online journals each day for one week. The "brand sirens" then spread the word on their favorite brands to six more friends, employing the most successful marketing tool for the youth market: word of mouth.
The concept of brand loyalty is not lost on the age group. In one interview, a woman copped to being so devoted to Coke products she had an entire garage full of empty cans.
"Youth do want to care about brands; we're just not presenting them properly," said CNET VP-Marketing Pip Marquez de la Plata.
However, the target group does not respond well to advertisers who claim to be generally "the best" in their field. "These consumers are ready for advertisers to tell them what they're good at, making sure it's relevant for 'me' and 'my needs,'" said Kate Siskin, senior VP-global director of research at Starcom.
Another point of surprise for the panelists was the media sirens' desire to make purchases toward good causes such as breast-cancer awareness. CNET and Starcom underscored this by ending their presentation with the announcement that attendees could vote for the recipient of a $15,000 charitable donation. Voters had their choice between Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Oprah's Angel Network, with $2,500 given to each of the runners-up.