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Generation Brand

Here’s a fun word: tween. Tweens are 8- to 14-year-olds. And according to Martin Lindstrom, author of “BRANDchild: Insights into the minds of Today’s Global Kids: Understanding Their relationship with Brands,” they comprise a new type of audience. They are apparently an increasingly powerful and smart “consumer group;” they spent $300 billion, but influenced an astounding $1.88 trillion spent across the globe last year. They are different from previous generations in every way. They are more likely to have a friend on the other side of the world than in their own street, they think the TV remote is broken when they can’t find the cursor on the screen, they drop from existence when the battery in their cell phone is flat, and they know current brand images better than any advertising expert.

Alissa Quart apparently feels the same way. Author of “Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers,” she believes that Generation Y has grown up in the age of the brand, bombarded and defined by name products. ‘Branded’ “tracks the ways that American business is reducing teens to their lowest common denominator, threatening to sap them of individuality and imagination.”

And now we have “kid nabbing.” In the recent issue of Forbes, the magazine reports that Procter & Gamble has assembled a stealth sales force of teenagers—280,000 strong—to push products on friends and family. Roughly 1% of American teens are involved in this effort, aged 13-19, and according to the article, “all of them are enlisted by an arm of Procter & Gamble called Tremor. Their mission is to help companies plant information about their brands in living rooms, schools and other crevices that are difficult for corporate America to infiltrate. These kids deliver endorsements in school cafeterias, at sleepovers, by cell phone and by e-mail. They are being tapped to talk up just about everything, from movies to milk and motor oil—and they do it for free. What makes kids want to discuss company products? “It’s cool to know about stuff before other people,” says one of the kids involved. Oh, and they also get a lot of stuff for free.

For whatever reason P&G has kept many details about Tremor, created in 2001, under wraps until now. The article goes on to report that this “effort grows out of a profound dissatisfaction among advertisers with conventional media, particularly network TV. Audiences are fragmented, and ever more viewers are using devices like TiVo to zap commercials. Teens, in particular, are maddeningly difficult to reach and influence through advertising, even though they are a consumer powerhouse that will spend billions on products this year. When they do catch TV commercials or print ads, these jaded consumers often ignore the marketing message. Hence the emphasis on friendly chatter among peers to deliver targeted messages. “The mass-marketing model is dead,” says James Stengel, P&G’s global marketing officer. “This is the future.”

So what do you think? Is P&G being manipulative or clever (or both)? Is Alissa Quart a pessimist or an opportunist? Is this evil or brilliant or just plain fun? Should this bother us? And lastly, if you were asked to do something like this, would you?

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ARCHIVE ID 1786 FILED UNDER Branding and Identity
PUBLISHED ON Jan.27.2004 BY debbie millman
Andrew’s comment is:

tween isn't an odd word, we've been using it for years. thanks to macromedia. anyway..

well, this is interesting. I signed up for tremor a long time back (2001 i believe). don't remember why exactly. I'm not marketing this to my friends. not pushing this on my family. every once in a while they send me a CD with music, i burh the songs i like and throw out the CD (forgetting the bands that made the songs in the process) or they sent me coupons for pizza once and a bunch of coupons for friends. I got a free pizza out of the deal (first and last time I have ever eaten that brand.) interesting approach. but they forgot a few things.

"tweens" (or college students on my case) are lazy. many of the tremor bits require a lot of work: go tell friends, deliever this to your friends, fil out this survey. etc. with a demographic like tweens, commands are not the best way to get them to market for you.

and if the growth of p2p services has taught us anything it's that teens (notice the lack of the "w") have a distaste for so openly being used by a comapany. yes, they wear abercrombie and eat at Mcdonalds, but if Mcdonalds asked them to tell 10 friends about their new McCattle and hand out coupons it would be a tough sell.

and reason 3. most of the tremor stuff sucks. biker boyz? Doesn't matter that it's marked at tweens, it looked like it would suck anyway.

On Jan.27.2004 at 02:36 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Andrew said: well, this is interesting. I signed up for tremor a long time back (2001 i believe). don't remember why exactly.

That's interesting, Andrew. Try and remember. Did they come and find you and invite you in? Did you find them on your own? How did you hear about Tremor?

On Jan.27.2004 at 02:50 PM
Armin’s comment is:

This kid nabbing sounds a lot like what Naomi Klein mentions in her No Logo book. Where Nike, looking to infiltrate crevices that are difficult for corporate America, would give away their new shoes to — what's the politically correct term here? — inner-city kids. This way Nike could get the word out on the streetz about their latest basketball shoes. Kids would just go out in the street and play with them, no need to say they were advertising. It makes total sense, because they are using the people with the most credibility to build some hype. Of course this led to all those lawsuits for Nike of kids shooting other kids to steal the Nikes, but I guess that's another thread altogether.

On the one hand it is manipulative and deceptive, but on the other it's very smart marketing. Not that the end justifies the means, but…

On Jan.27.2004 at 02:56 PM
mrTIM’s comment is:

I like the approach that Nike took a little better. It wasn't quite as manipulative, and it probably helped out the kids that couldn't spend the $169.oo for their newest basketball shoes. You could even go so far as to look at it as charity.

The other approach is interesting, and could work. But I think Andrew is onto something when he says that depending on teens to take direct orders is probably not the best thing to be doing. Unless you paid them. Then you'd get results... although enough free pizza...

On Jan.27.2004 at 03:34 PM
Sao_Bento’s comment is:

I think the bottom line here is that an ad agency filled with 40+ white people don't have any idea how to make a product appear credible to black kids. White kids look to black culture to see what is cool (notice recent things like the Billboard top 10 being entirely composed of black artists for the first time in it's history, and the evolution of nearly all ROCK bands to now include rapping or a DJ, most newer model cars come stock with 17"+ chrome rims, etc.).

In their inability to appear credible to this key audience, the marketers are willing to try anything - except actually investing the time it takes to really understand them. Lots of companies are successful in reaching this audience, but the difference between Phat Farm and P&G isn't secret amway programs. Phat Farm, (before the sale) and companies like it tend to be composed of the very people who ARE this illusive target market.

On Jan.27.2004 at 03:37 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> And lastly, if you were asked to do something like this, would you?

I don't know… if I got free fonts, lots of chocolate, Apple products, an intern to handle uploading Word Its, unlimited black T-shirts from American Apparel, not to mention unlimited Starbucks coffee and plane tickets I would think about it. And if somebody at Tremors has a product that can stop the latest e-mail virus (30 e-mails in the last hour) I'll go around the country selling whatever they give me!

Seriously though, if I were a teenager with little cash I'd go for it. Are there certain obligations that need to be met? Can you be fired off the program?

On Jan.27.2004 at 04:52 PM
surts’s comment is:

I can't say with any authority if Jennifer Government is good read cause I'm only a few chapters in, but the discussion above seemed relevant letting people know about it. It's all about evil marketing assassination style.

On Jan.27.2004 at 05:44 PM
Steven’s comment is:

This issue was also the focus of a recent Frontline (PBS) program.

It is both manipulative and clever, and it bothers me. But then there's lots of things that bother me (like the Patriot Act, the Govenator, etc.).

Though, as Andrew mentions, I wonder how ultimately successful Tremor is? And if the products being pushed are lame, many kids will see the ulterior motives behind this ploy. So overall I'm not sure how completely effective this marketing tactic will be. And as Andrew admits, the motivations of the kids may just be to get free stuff, without having to do anything. In effect, they're subversively exploiting the Tremor system, itself, which is actually kinda cool.

Now the angle that Frontline took (I'm brain-fading on the name of that particular show) was a little more disturbing to me, in that it showed a much larger interconnection between the music/entertainment industry and the network of products that are a part of these multifaceted corporations. I think that kids are more vulnerable when it comes to music and the need to be "cool." I think tweens and teens are very interested in being grown up and having an "identity" of some sort, and therefore can be exploited in this manner.

In the end, I hope that kids will be able to see through this as well, and find their own way. But then maybe I'm just putting on my own iconoclastic rose-tinted glasses.

On Jan.27.2004 at 06:50 PM
surts’s comment is:

Steven, was the frontline titled the Merchants of Cool?

On Jan.27.2004 at 11:28 PM
Andrew’s comment is:

debbie millman: it was via an ign.com banner ad i believe. i know i know...never click. :p but it looked pretty slick at the time and it ws the best of the banner ad bunch.

Steven: oh yeah. forgot to mention, not only did i throw the cd away...but when i found a song i liked i downloaded a few other songs by the artist. yeah it's evil, but i was just playing their game as i see it. heh.

On Jan.28.2004 at 12:43 AM
Jason’s comment is:

Speaking of evil . . .

Fast food industries target the tweens. Research has shown that by age 8, children have great brand awareness that will continue into their teens and adult livelihood. Coke and Pepsi battle it out for tweens every hour, every day.

There's a word for this phenomenon: marketing. Is it evil? That depends on the product. While in Europe, I witnessed beautiful young women milling through dance clubs and cafes giving away new Camel cigarettes. They talk up the new Menthols or 100s to recruit new consumers. When I asked one girl how old she was, she replied 12. Now that's evil.

On the other hand, I'm with Armin. If I was asked to do it for Apple... sure why not. Even here in Seattle, there are similar campaigns launched by Amazon. They ask you to surf the web, test the site, and then tell your friends through email recuitments. You get a gift certificate each time your friend uses the site's new purchasing features and buys something.

On Jan.28.2004 at 01:08 AM
Sao Bento’s comment is:

>>Research has shown that by age 8, children have great brand awareness that will continue into their teens and adult livelihood.

On Jan.28.2004 at 10:20 AM
nancy mazzei’s comment is:

"I like the approach that Nike took a little better. It wasn't quite as manipulative, and it probably helped out the kids that couldn't spend the $169.oo for their newest basketball shoes. You could even go so far as to look at it as charity."

charity in advertising? not manipulative? hmmmm.

On Jan.28.2004 at 12:26 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Finally have some time to get back to this. I think I know the genesis of Tremors.

I attended an AMA talk a while back where the speaker was Peter Van Stolk, the founder and CEO of Jones Soda. Very charismatic and smart guy.

Peter said that the success of Jones Soda can be attributed to their unique way of reaching their audience -- through guerilla marketing tactics and making attempts to permeate the lifestyle and culture of the 13-24 yr.old market. He believes that success lies in establishing a personal, individual connection with each customer, rather than broadcasting a mass marketing message. He pointed out two keys ways which has proven effective for them.

First, instead of traditional, common labels, Jones prints thousands of different versions of labels that are taken from submitted photos from the public. It makes the product feel more "real" -- and the photos establish an immediate, direct connection to their audience. People will send in photos of their dog or kid, believing that there's a real chance of making a label. Each bottle becomes individualized.

Second, instead of competing w/ Coke and Pepsi in grocery stores, Jones placed vending machines in odd places such as skateboard, snowboard, and bike shops; record stores, urban clothing stores, etc. They did this in order to introduce themselves in a setting that would lend legitimacy to a marketing-jaded audience. They also bought an RV, painted it cool, and drove it around the country giving aways sodas at skateparks, snowboarding competitions, and alternative music events -- places where the 13-24 culture is real and unmollested.

They do all this because Van Stolk believes that today's kids only believe what they're told from their friends -- not what they're told directly from media or adults. It's not just about trying to be cool by association -- it's a whole new technique of marketing to individual consumers.

To end his talk, Peter showed us an article in Forbes -- interviewing the VP of marketing of P&G, Frank Bifulco. In the first paragraph, Bifulco points to a six-pack of Jones Soda sitting on a shelf in his office -- saying, "Now that is a brilliant way of making a personal connection with your audience." The article goes on about the challenges of reaching the 13-24 audience, and the new tactics required to succeed.

Clearly, Tremors is the result of this effort and influence.

But P&G is not Jones either. It will be interesting to see if this old dog can learn such sly new tricks. Maybe P&G should buy an RV too....

On Feb.08.2004 at 01:58 PM
Cassie’s comment is:

I joined Tremor a little over a year ago, I remember I saw a banner ad on Kazaa that said something about free stuff so I thought, "Why not?"

It works out pretty well for me...I get some free stuff every once in awhile (although a lot of it is stupid, like Bikerboyz crap). I just throw the stupid stuff away and keep the cool stuff. I delete all the emails they send me without ever reading them, and I never tell my friends about the stuff I get because I'm not into being their little marketing slave.

I suspect most of the other Tremor "members" do somewhat the same thing.

On Apr.16.2004 at 06:35 PM
Deborah’s comment is:

they shouldn't call it generation brand because not many people have it an people cant even afford it

On Sep.10.2004 at 07:19 AM