I’m sure there’s a meme or an inspirational quote that answers this, but in any event I’d say it’s a loaded question, which most businesses, marketers, parents and politicians would love an answer to.
In order to take on a question of such magnitude, you have to consider two things: the fundamental principles of what it means to make people ‘feel and think’ and secondly the environment young people find themselves growing up in.
The way we feel often dictates how we think, because emotional responses derive from the most primitive part of our brain. Where logical decisions should prevail, history has taught us they don’t. I can’t count the number of emails I’ve had to rewrite after my inner monkey had his say first. I firmly believe all marketers should be spending their time figuring out how to make people feel something. There are a lot of ways to evoke a feeling in someone but I want to focus on one of the most powerful ones, that is the feeling of happiness.
Defining what makes us happy, is again a question for the ages, but hundreds of studies into the subject all seem to suggest happiness can be found in some form of purpose, passion and, or pleasure.
If you dig a little deeper, I believe happiness is routed in something much simpler than the grand venture of finding your purpose in life or seeking hedonistic pleasure monkey needs. For me, happiness is all about managing expectation.
My expectations dictate my mood. In its simplest form, if I expect to wake up tomorrow to 20 degree heat and its not, I’m going to feel a small sense of unhappiness – however mild it is. If I go one step further and expect a pay rise, because I deserve it and I don’t, I’ll likely be a little more unhappy.
To flip this, in both scenarios if the opposite happens, and it’s pleasantly warm when I was expecting it to rain, or I get a pay rise when I wasn’t expecting one, then it’s safe to assume I’ll be pretty happy.
The outcome is exactly the same but my own expectations have dictated how happy or unhappy I was with the result.
For brands, the idea of making people happy should be a top priority. The challenge is people expect a lot more today. It's not good enough to produce a cinematic ad that shows off your enormous budget. As a consumer, I expect my brands to give me much more value than I give them. I expect an amazing product at a price I feel is valuable; a product that fits in my life, which is communicated to me on my terms and when I want it, on the platforms I deem acceptable to be advertised to. To be clear, in the middle of a show that I love probably isn’t that place.
As you may have gathered I’m using the word ‘expect’ a lot, but the reality is, as marketers, you not only have to meet expectations today, you have to exceed it. If you don’t then you’re probably not going to win in 2018, especially when there’s so much competition for your consumer’s attention.
The world in 2018 is very noisy, and for a young person growing up in this environment, this has a profound effect on what they think and feel. To illustrate this, think about how much information the average young person takes in every single day, compared with just 20 years ago? The average teen checks their phone 100+ times a day – that alone is a lot of data. I’m not a neuroscientist, but this leads me to believe the dwindling attention span, shorter than goldfish is simply a result of the volume of choices we have to make every day.
I can choose to watch that video you’ve made about your ‘cool’ product, but I have lots of other choices to make, so if I give you more than two seconds I expect you to be worth it. If you’re not, I’ll be disappointed. This choice is one young people have to make, consciously or subconsciously, every single time they scroll past something on their news feed. As a result, young people have to filter most of what they see or hear so this makes this youth marketing stuff really hard.
In March I’ll be illustrating the marketing philosophies and techniques Social Chain use to defy expectation and win over the hearts and minds of young people all across the world.
Remember, at our core, Social Chain is a business that has exceeded expectation. Founded by two college dropouts, Steven Bartlett & Dominic McGregor have started something special. In just three short years Social Chain went from nothing to an army of 170+ young social media specialists. The agency has become a global social media powerhouse, with offices in Manchester, London, New York and Berlin, and a client portfolio that includes the world’s biggest brands. The Times said we’re “one of Britain’s most influential companies”, The Guardian called us “the meme factory” and The Huffington Post described us as “the social media illuminati”. I like to think our success is predicated on yet another simple question - who would be better to communicate authentically to young people than other young people?