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Thoughts on advertising, branding, design, and technology.

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Are you cool?

Increasingly, consumer expectations are more demanding, specifically with tweens and teens. Attention and time to decipher boring, glossy reiterations of company brochures deployed on the Web will likely be more than unsuccessful. Kids are apposed to a hard sell, are more tech savvy, and allot smarter than adults typically give them credit for. The failure to not relate, ignore their sophistication, and not "lead by example" could quickly have your brand and its efforts mocked. Successful brands are not pushing a cool factor, but rather promoting their values through relevant interaction on the Web. When you were a young boy or girl, didn't you always want to be older than you actually were? Weren't you always seeking to hang out with your older brother or sister? Of course, and kids today are no different. Tweens and teens look-up and aspire to be respected with those in their later 20's. This is something to think about, especially if you are a marketer trying to reach an audience that wants and needs to feel as if they are understood. Posing your brand and its products by just strictly selling will most definitely hinder your brand's marketing efforts.

To actively engage young and restless consumers, brands are evaluating and embracing the landscape this generation is active in. As with any successful communication, the key audience must be understood. Not just statistically, but personally. The sub-cultures and interests greatly differ within this and any generation. This age group has always collectively known computers and the Internet though. Gen Y, or the demographic tweens and teens make up, use and interact with the Web much differently than Boomers or others. It's a much bigger staple in their day-to-day lives. Instead of simply just browsing for information, teens and tweens generally use the Web more for entertainment and membership. This desire to be entertained and affiliated makes for a fine line, that if not careful, can be quickly regarded by young people as dull and of little importance. If brands promote their sites and involve the audience through relevant content, original creativity, and soft prompts they begin to become active in the Web experience. In turn, the brand becomes a definitive and regular source for inspiration and connectivity.

Another component of this key interaction for the brand's Web presence, viral marketing, is a huge part of communication within this demographic. With appealing content that entertains while spotlighting the product, kids are more likely to forward and share with there friends. This could mean a variety of things, such as site visitors participating in interactive questionnaires to help them select a product that best suits them, or allowing the upload of movie clips and brief bio's to show others how they use the product.

The Keds Mischa Barton site really does a great job of subtly shifting the brand as a stylistic choice for fun footwear to Gen Y'ers. Using Barton, tween and teen girls can become familiar with the popular actress and see videos with behind-the-scenes footage of the Keds photo shoots. Minimal text and more visual aspects (video, imagery, etc.), help visitors to the site relate better to Barton as an everyday girl. Though the site officially targets 19-25 year olds, it also gives inspiration to 13-18 year olds who wish they were older.

Another great example of effective tween and teen marketing would be the Nike 6.0 site. Heavy with videos, downloads and music, this web site forgets about lengthy product descriptions (in its benefit) and utilizes fun in its promotion. The site features slick looking screen savers for your desktop and videos that visitors can download and put onto their iPods for viral exposure. Also, this site design promotes a vibrant edge with various sub-cultures (bmx, skate, snow, surf) to round-out the brands appeal for the audience.

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