The 24/7 Marketing Department

Marketing departments as we know them will never be the same. At least, that’s what I’ve learned from analyzing thousands of responses from kids across the globe. Together with the global market research agency Millward Brown, I conducted a study on kids’ relationships with brands for my new book, “BRANDchild.” This new generation of kids (aged 8-12) expects everything in their world to be interactive. Including their brands.

A marketing manager from Kellogg’s told me about a hugely successful marketing campaign it just ran. Kids across one local market were asked to send text messages to Kellogg’s with a vote for their favorite song. Hundreds of SMS messages arrived during the day. But what took Kellogg’s by total surprise was peak response time was logged at 3 a.m. Yes, that’s right, 3 in the morning.

This indicates a truly 24/7 generation. It’s a generation that expects brands to be as active as they are — 24/7. Gone are the days when working life began at 9 and ended at 5. At least, they’re gone for the marketing departments relevant to this new generation. Bear in mind the BRANDchild research overwhelmingly supports this is a generation that exercises an enormous influence on their parents’ brand choices, too.

Remember the eight-week campaign when President Clinton ran for reelection? A team followed his nationwide tour. There wasn’t much sleeping on the bus. A close eye was kept on each state. As soon a state seemed nearly lost, the bus turned around and headed over. It stayed until votes were secured. The campaign not only knew what was happening at a grass-roots level, it established close contacts within the communities, learned their language, and, most important, learned the competitors’ weaknesses.

Marketing to kids is a mercurial business. Trends come and go virtually overnight. You need the flexibility to adjust and optimize your message at will. In short, you need a campaign bus. The Web is an ideal vehicle for 24/7 access and tweaking on a dime. Yoo-hoo flavored milks and Jones Soda are two brands that claim to have become established by actively monitoring kids locally. Their teams are on the ground. They live and breathe a kid’s life.

The days when a marketing strategy was planned years in advance are over. The market changes too fast. Instead, plan milestones and goals. Build in the necessary flexibility to change tack to accommodate feedback from your team in the field, which monitors chat rooms, text messages, and local communities around the clock.

Kids don’t see much of a difference between on- and offline. To communicate with the future, marketing departments must mirror what’s happening out there. They must be available 24/7, be responsive enough to accommodate momentary trends, and be prepared to change — most likely forever.

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