Interesting article in a recent issue of Brandweek. "Call It Back to School 2.0" highlights a shift in back to school marketing by JC Penney, OfficeMax and Staples. These three major retailers for kids' back to school needs have allocated heavily into social media campaigns, according to the article, by "reasoning that's where their target customer is."

Reasoning? Working from the gut? Hmmmm. The article makes the following points:

  • The medium if unproven.

  • Teens often view marketing messages as "intrusions" on social networks.

  • There's evidence that teens express skepticism about ads on social media.

  • SM outlets like Facebook are less appealing to teens now due to the fact so many adults have joined and continue to sign up.

  • Rob Callender, trends director at TRU, a research company that focuses on youth demographics, cites that teens are 'generally unreceptive to marketing messages via social media.'

Apparently, there isn't much ROI data vis-à-vis online campaigns... Regardless, JC Penney is planning a web site where kids can browse for clothing. The site links to a Facebook page where kids can talk about the outfits and connect with skateboarder Ryan Sheckler.
OfficeMax is bringing its You Tube "Penny Pranks" videos back, which help to promote the company's one cent sales items. OfficeMax is also planning on hosting events for parental bloggers on Twitter aimed at keeping them organized; it's also an outlet for the discussion of school related issues.
Staples plans a social media program where teens can fill a virtual backpack from around Facebook with school supplies. There's also an Adopt a Pack page on Facebook that ties in to a charitable organization called Do Something.
Regardless of the potential intrusion factor, there's no denying that for teens, the Internet and social media are a way of life. Add to that fact, teens have enormous influence over their parents' purchases, and well, marketers simply can't launch campaigns minus this component. So says Marshall Cohen, chief retail analyst for the NPD Group. He feels that SM represents "a much more effective use of advertising dollars to reach that particular segment of the market."
Just one question: can we please get some data to support or disprove the latter statement?

  • Do you think there's a way to engage teens in 2.0 environments without blatantly trying to sell them? What kinds of effective SM campaigns have you seen?

  • Do you think Facebook is the way to go since so many teens are on it? Or are there other social media sites that might be better for teen-focused marketing campaigns?

  • Since teens still watch a lot of TV, what do you think about using a healthy dose of traditional media as well as new media?

I'd love to hear from you.

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Ted Mininni is president and creative director of Design Force, a leading brand-design consultancy.

LinkedIn: Ted Mininni