Nineteen-year-old Brian Wong became one of the youngest people ever to take venture capital money when he accepted $200,000 last month from True Ventures. The budding Canadian entrepreneur is investing the cash in his mobile advertising platform startup Kiip.me (pronounced "keep me").
Wong - who skipped four grades to finish college by the age of 18 - has also founded Followformation, an automated Twitter search tool, and has worked for social news site Digg. Indeed, some 30-year-olds in marketing would trade their resumes for his.
And Wong is definitely not alone, as tech-savvy adolescents around the globe appear to be more in tune with the idea of marketing than any preceding generation. So who better to ask about what works in digital teen marketing?
"Everyone seems to be targeting teens these days," said Wong. "One of the things that I think has been very effective is experimenting with new projects that have nothing to do with a brand's current course in marketing."
He later commented about the challenge of holding the attention of online teens: "Sometimes, these things are very fleeting. That's the nature of the business, though, right?"
Such elusiveness is why ClickZ reached out to Wong and two other teen marketing prodigies. We asked them to detail their favorite recent or ongoing digital marketing campaign that targeted teens, while addressing why they think it was effective.
Ray-Ban Wins for Augmented Reality App
Wong chose Ray-Ban's two-year-old - but repeatedly upgraded - "Virtual Mirror" application. He said the brand's use of so-called augmented reality was the best teen marketing display he's seen.
The app requires visitors to have a webcam and uses 3D imaging to let them "try on" various Ray-Ban frames. Users see themselves in a real-time video presentation and can save images of themselves to share via Facebook or e-mail, gathering opinions before completing a purchase.
"While this might not appear on the surface to be targeted exactly at the teen demographic, the people who are going to care about it most are teens," Wong explained. "They are the ones who are going to react most positively to an augmented reality feature."
He added, "A lot of my friends have used it. People actually have been finding it useful. And I think people will continue to use it over the next few months going into the holidays."
"Double Rainbow" Songsters Hit the Right Notes
Nineteen-year-old Chloe Spencer has been blogging at her proprietary NeopetsFanatic.com for five years, and she's used Google's AdSense program to monetize the site. What's more, the Madison, WI-based entrepreneur is in the process of launching two more sites, QuizFanatic.com and IHeartCute.com.
Spencer told ClickZ, "The best type of marketing when you are targeting a teen audience…[it] has to be creative and, of course, original. New, weird, wacky, cool, unique, and memorable stuff is what gets our attention. And if you're at a loss at how to hit that just right, ride on the coattails of others who've done it successfully."
On that last note, her favorite marketing effort is a true piggybacking hit: The Gregory Brothers' "Double Rainbow Song" that capitalized on the YouTube sensation, "Yosemitebear Mountain Giant Double Rainbow." While that video went wildly viral in July and has accrued 14 million YouTube views, the intentionally humorous song has garnered 10 million views on the site.
Even better, "Double Rainbow Song" climbed as high as No. 74 on iTunes top 100 sellers in July. While the volume of purchased downloads hasn't been made available, downloads of the tune are priced at $1.29 per unit.
"Now ['Double Rainbow Song'] has been raking in the fame and cash," Spencer said. "Their idea was funny, creative, catchy, and a take on something else that was popular and everybody knew and loved. This is a perfect example of successful digital teen-targeted marketing."
Best Buy's Teen-Focused Cause Marketing
Two years ago, Daniel Brusilovsky founded Teens In Tech at the age of 15. While blogging for TechCruch ultimately ended with his controversial resignation earlier this year, the 17-year-old has endured the setback and continued to build his startup. It has become a notable online destination for tech-minded teens and has spawned an events franchise.
When asked to name his favorite teen-based digital campaign, the San Francisco-based Brusilovsky picked Best Buy's cause marketing "@15" initiative. The Minneapolis-based retailer has been giving away millions of dollars while encouraging teen participation at a dedicated micro-site. Teens accrue points by getting friends to sign up and by voting for causes of interest such as educational, environmental, or political efforts. For example, Best Buy has given $1 million in college scholarships in 2010 to high school graduates from around the country.
"It's empowering youth to make changes in their community," Brusilovsky said. "They have an incentive, and they receive the resources to do it, so there shouldn't be any excuses on why they can't help the world. It's very similar to the Pepsi Refresh campaign, which I'm also a very big fan of. But it's putting the power into the teens themselves, so they can make changes, and not just Best Buy."
Photo of Brusilovsky on the ClickZ homepage was taken by Paul Stamatiou and originally published on his blog.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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