5 Youth YouTube Takeaways

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Sep 24, 2012 @ 01:15 PM

In mid-July, Korean rapper Psy’s management made a move that changed his world. The simple act: they posted his video for the now ubiquitous romp, “Gangman Style,” on a little site called YouTube.  Like Justin Bieber before him, this star circumvented traditional channels and took to the same outlet that countless moms and dads, kids, tweens an27989 top 10 psys gangnam style parody videosd teens have used to post their slightly less polished and possibly less entertaining performances. Carly Rae Jaepson may have had a platform on Canadian Idol, but she didn’t hit the big time until Justin Bieber and a few of his pals (including Selena Gomez and Ashley Tisdale) created their own YouTube video for “Call Me Maybe” (triggering a trend that led to viral spoofs by everyone from Barack Obama to the Harvard baseball team). It’s no surprise that some of our most talked about cultural phenoms come from YouTube – not the newest network, but a surprisingly powerful one. According to YouthBeat, YouTube has been rated the favorite site among kids and tweens, and only second to Facebook for Teens, for a few years running. Its youth appeal is evident: it’s constantly new, easily sharable, focused on fun, and a novel boredom buster.  But what does it mean for brands seeking stardom?

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of the people. For this cohort of youth, getting a say, and knowing that someone was discovered by youth like them, goes a long way towards affirming brand/star authenticity.
  2. At the same time, don’t assume that the best videos rise to the top…You could have a great ad or idea, but the YouTube ocean is vast. While we believe that getting your brand on YouTube is a great idea, it’s also important to promote your video across other platforms. If you’re not friends with a celeb with a seriously loyal Twitter following, make sure that you’re using your other assets to draw attention to your YouTube presence.  
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you’re a brand that wants to use YouTube to appeal to youth, make sure you check your ego at the door. The best and most popular videos on YouTube stay salient by taking on a second (and third, and…you get it…) life of their own. The parody might be more powerful than the first post on this site. Think of it as an endorsement that takes your message to the extreme (see what happened to Psy’s Gangman Style – and wonder if he’s offended).
  4. Don’t oversimplify “participation.” If we evaluated the appeal of YouTube by counting the kids, tweens and teens who actually post videos to it, we would have taken a pass. 91% of online 6-10 year olds have never posted a video online. Only 32% of teens have gotten in the game. But watching, sharing and voting constitute real participation for youth. Don’t build your promotions on the false notion that youth love to share their own videos. Instead, leverage the way they look and pass-along to make your brand famous.
  5. Finally, know the rules. While many brands (including one of our favorites, Old Spice) simply post their TV campaigns on YouTube, the ones that work best have learned the rituals and rules of making a YouTube hit. Humor and irreverence are always paths to consider when promoting an idea to youth, but for YouTube, they’re essentials. Most great YouTube videos are one part provocative. For your brand to sing on this space, consider the messages that might not work on traditional TV, but that may promote lunchroom patter.

Tags: internet, music, culture, youth media

Miley Cyrus’ Haircut and What it Says about Youth Right Now

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Sep 14, 2012 @ 01:39 PM

56386418When it comes to trend spotting, sometimes it makes sense to head right to the top…of the head. When we say “80’s” music, shoulder pads, or neon jelly bracelets may come to mind, but almost undoubtedly you think about hair. Big bangs, tight curls, macho Mohawks, creative colors. They all serve a more symbolic purpose than it may seem. It’s not uncommon to hear a cohort characterized by the way they wore their locks – bobs, pompadours, bee hives, feathered locks, afros, and “poofs” – or a star to transcend because of their hair – Farrah, Dorothy Hamil, Mr. T, “Rachel,” Vanilla Ice, Snooki, and, of course, the Bieb.

And, if you want to understand a cohort’s connection to convention or to read into their beliefs and values, you may want to pay attention to the changing look and length of youth’s locks!

Like Samson, girls know that hair holds power. So, what does it say that Miley Cyrus just got rid of hers? Is she too young to remember what happened when Felicity lost her trademark tresses? Is Miley’s bright blonde shade and punked-up style a personal statement, PR move, or, possibly, a ploy to just fit in? We think it could be all three.

Of course, Miley might be engaged in a very age-appropriate search for identity, and she just happens to be doing it under the spotlight (see our blog post about the first time Miley started to explore). It’s possible that she’s trying to shock us to ensure that she stays on our minds. But, could it also be that Miley’s look is part of a bigger statement being made by many youths right now?

It was just a few months ago that Katniss’ feminine braids – which created an intriguing contrast with her powerful persona – dominated fashion. Taylor Swift, with her twirly tresses, dominated our list of top musicians. Stars stopped hiding their use of extensions and started showing off the ways they made their hair longer with ease.

Now it seems hair has flipped with even Willow Smith foregoing whipping her hair back and forth for a shorter look.  Miley’s move may be more about asserting her independence from the haters who question why this 19-year-old needs to get engaged to finance Liam Hemsworth, who, ironically, shared the screen with Katniss’ braids in The Hunger Games. Rihanna recently donned a daringly short do as she courted controversy by embracing her ex, Chris Brown. Perhaps, like getting over an ex, getting a haircut just helps you get over hurtful words and the scrutiny of the public and the press.

Or perhaps this look is about a bigger trend? It seems that 2012 is the year of girls empowerment: from the Fab 5 of Olympics fame and survivalist stars like Katniss, to the empowered sounds of Selena Gomez, Pink, Beyonce and Rihanna. Girl power isn’t new but what may be new is what it looks like right now. It’s a trend we’ll be watching, but right now it seems most characterized by:

  • Substance over style. Power gained through ideas or talents, not through press.
  • Physical strength, along with feminine fortitude.
  • Savvy over sass. Think less sassy sayings on their backsides and more smarts about managing their career, image or relationships with authenticity.
And focus over frolic. We don’t see Lindsay on this list. We don’t see scandalous celebs making their presence known. Instead, girls’ re-empowered might be a reclaiming of girl power by real girls – even if they are still famous ones.

Tags: Social Issues, girls, kids tweens teens, Miley Cyrus, olympics

Google Promotes “Play” in New and Old Ways

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Sep 10, 2012 @ 10:40 AM

149283248In the TV campaign for the new Nexus 7 tablet, Google suggests that classic play and app-based entertainment can occupy a common space. One spot shows a father and son indulging in all the adventures that come along with camping…Getting lost in the woods, exploring the dark and sharing a story by the campfire. What makes this spot modern? A compass app, a glowing phone and an eBook serve as essential equipment. With the tagline, “The playground is open,” the brand suggests that screens are not in competition with play, or even bounded by a digital definition, but rather, this technology can serve as a tool to enhance offline play.   

Of course, Google’s backyard camping scenario is of the most romantic kind…Even when rain threatens to dampen their day, the daring duo endure - simply retreating to their tent to watch a movie. Dad doesn’t use his devices to check email or to text in this idyllic campground. Here, technology is all about adding to father/son engagement. Even the games they play are of the “acceptable” sort – chess!

But underlying this aspirational scene is a sharp insight about a problem facing the parents of this cohort of digital natives which Google wisely seeks to resolve…Play is more political than ever for today’s parents (a subject we addressed in a blog from November of last year). Experts emphasize the importance of offline play. They bemoan the loss of free time in which kids can self-direct their play, and they suggest that media and digital technology threaten the ability to imagine. At the same time, schools are seeking to incorporate technology into their classrooms, both to help them acquire and employ up to date content in effective and efficient ways, but also to ensure that they are preparing their students with the digital literacy they need to operate in the “real” world. Our data shows that parents believe that technology is an important (and inevitable) aspect of their children’s lives, even as some feel conflicted over the role it plays.

Google makes their message stand out in the increasingly cluttered tablet marketplace by joining to seemingly contradictory ideas…Outdoor play, and sustained imaginative play (as shown in another spot in the campaign) aren’t the enemies of technology, they’re playmates on the same playground. Digital devices don’t divide families, they bring them together. And apps and tablets haven’t made exploring obsolete, but rather, they’ve made it more vibrant and energizing. Whether parents will see themselves in this vision of arcadia remains to be seen, but we think Google’s strategy smartly suggests a middle road through the tricky terrain of play today.

Tags: Gaming, play, digital drugs, Youth, free time, youth media, parenting