Connecting with youth in the modern mediascape: part two

In this strategy magazine media feature, writer Jonathan Paul takes a look at how Xbox and Oreo Cakesters are breaking through the clutter to connect with kids on all fronts.

In the second of a two-part strategy magazine feature adapted for Media in Canada, writer Jonathan Paul looks at the new ways in which brands are connecting with kids via value targeting. Read part one here.

Trial was the name of the game for Xbox when it was promoting the launch of Kinect, its hands-free gaming platform. In September, working with Toronto-based Mosaic, Xbox set up a pop-up Kinect hub across from the Eaton Centre in Toronto and encouraged passersby to step inside and try it out.

The launch was celebrated with an event at Yonge-Dundas Square, which featured a hanging glass living room showcasing Kinect games and an exclusive performance by electro DJ duo Christian Rich. Periodic visits to the hub from other teen-friendly celebrity brand ambassadors, like the band Alexisonfire, Blake McGrath of So You Think You Can Dance Canada and stars of Canadian teen drama Degrassi, helped to build buzz, drawing autograph-hungry youngsters to the site.

‘That really pushed up our trials,’ says Eric Charles, marketing lead, Xbox Canada. ‘Sure, you’re meeting a celebrity, but you also get to try the Kinect experience. It was a really good way of integrating something as simple as an autograph signing with trial in a manner that wasn’t forced.’

Thanks to Kinect and its games with wide-range appeal (like Dance Central), it also helped attract a demo new to Xbox – hyper-social teenage girls, whose social networks Xbox was able to leverage to further promote the Kinect experience, Charles says.

Charles and his team knew that trial would be key to promoting the launch of Kinect based on their first experience with it early on during the product cycle.

‘It wasn’t until we were able to try it ourselves that we became advocates and believers,’ he says. ‘When we saw that insight, just within our own marketing team, without doing any research, it clicked with us that experiential was going to be key to this.’

To take the experiential quotient wider, a giant billboard at Yonge-Dundas Square live-streamed hub visitors as they played new games on the Kinect. Massive posters also took over Yonge-Dundas Square, with a domination at Dundas station. The Kinect experience was touted by wild postings, flyers and on MySpace. A similar Kinect experience was launched in Montreal in October.

Xbox also pushed the Kinect launch through partnerships with MTV and MusiquePlus. MTV created an hour-long show called Dance Bang, a spinoff of sorts, of So You Think You Can Dance Canada, where people could audition for the chance to be crowned the best dancer playing Dance Central as well as win $10,000. Over 7,000 entered, and Kinect also bought all of the commercial breaks during the broadcast.

The partnership with MusiquePlus saw its hosts competing against each other on the same game.

In addition to the targeted and experiential path, Xbox also executed a robust, TV-heavy traditional media spend, but did something a little different with its buy, targeting conventional channels, mostly CTV and Global, rather than its usual specialty choices, in order to achieve a broader range of shows to capitalize on co-viewing. TV creative was picked up from Xbox’s US-based global messaging, and the Canadian buy was handled by MacLaren McCann.

‘Going conventional, although it cost us more money, our share of voice at the time of the buy was 70% compared to our competition, so it actually really worked when it came to segmenting against our target audience,’ says Charles.

Another dual-demo brand that augments mass with digital friend-gatherings to reach youth is Oreo. Knowing that Kinect is a place where its target demo would play, Kraft’s Oreo Cakesters brands decided to get in the game and tag along for the Xbox platform’s launch.

Working with Toronto-based Armstrong Partnership, Cakesters created its own branded section of the Kinect hub and allowed visitors to demo Kinect Sports and refuel with some Cakesters samples. The Oreo brand also integrated itself into Kinect games, being featured on billboards in various gaming worlds. It also ran a contest over Xbox Live, where members could download wacky Cakesters wallpapers for opportunities to win Xbox points, which could be redeemed for things like games and equipment. The brand gave out 50,000 Xbox points a week and a grand prize of an ultimate Kinect station including an Xbox and a flat-screen TV.

‘We were trying to, in a relatively efficient way, get our message out to the teen and tween groups [which are] becoming increasingly fragmented,’ says Chris Bell, VP of snacks, Kraft Canada. ‘So, we tried to go where we thought they would be and spend our money there. We felt with Xbox – and Kinect is a new technology – we would be partnering with a solid brand that has a cool factor and is bringing news to the marketplace.’

The effort, says Bell, is one of Cakesters’ first forays into the space, but is an area that it is hoping to explore further following declining success with TV advertising after the brand’s first year (it was introduced in 2008).

‘In the second and third year it really became apparent that we needed to be a little more specific with our targeting and that’s how we got into the program with Xbox,’ says Bell. ‘As we go forward our media choices are leaning more towards digital.’

As these brands show, media mashups, social media friendly initiatives and experiential are a few of the ways top youth marketers are reaching out in more psychographic-specific programs. Targeting values through passion points may add layers of complexity to programs, but are key to getting youths’ attention in a very fragmented media and ultra-niche-interest world.