Austin Carter Mahone might be the next big thing. The seventeen year-old singer was discovered on YouTube at the ripe age of 15. His floppy bangs endearingly cover his eyes, causing him to flip them away in interviews. He was raised by a single mom who he seems to adore. And his fans identify themselves as “Mahonies.”
Sound familiar? If you’re not convinced of Mahone’s striking similarities to one Justin Bieber, take a look at their uncanny likeness in Mahone’s video for “What About Love”.
Austin Mahone certainly seems like a Bieber flashback. He even reminds us that Taylor Swift used to like JB! While Taylor Swift has been seen expressing her distaste for her BFF Selena Gomez’s sometime boyfriend, Swift selected Mahone as one of her opening acts for her Red Tour.
But beyond giving us hope that Taylor and Bieber will iron out their differences, the close resemblance between Mahone and Bieber made us ask a question important to brands, marketers and content creators. When it comes to kids and tweens, can the same old formula work for the next big thing?
While authentic innovation seems like an aspirational goal, kid and tween culture is crowded with examples of “me toos” – that have actually made their mark. In fact, the surefire formula of a kid/tween hit might just be the do-over!
Being the “first-mover” might be an advantage in some categories, for some consumers. But when it comes to kids and tweens, copy-catting isn’t always such a bad thing. Brands and celebrities with a foot in the familiar make exploring a bit safer and a lot more satisfying for kids. It might be why sequels have more staying power among kids and tweens than with adults. It could be why series stay on top of kids’ reading lists (think Harry Potter, Twilight or Percy Jackson). And it might be why kids TV shows seem to tap into the same themes over and over again. Kids and tweens can anticipate the star, brand or show’s next move, which makes them feel in-the-know and in control.
And for “properties” like Mahone, the mistakes of the past can offer a blueprint for getting it right this time around. It might be hard for Austin to avoid the inevitable adolescent implosion, but at least he’ll have a model to follow (or avoid) in Bieber.
For brands looking for a “refresh,” reviewing your youth history is just as valuable as seeking out the undiscovered.