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Direct Response Marketing

Welcome to the New Millenials

1 May, 2008 By: Sarah Littman Response

The generation born between 1982 and 2002 — also known as Generation Y — exerts its spending power and drives marketers to rethink different avenues to gain a direct response to their campaigns.

Word-of-Mouth Gains Traction

Although advertisers have flocked to the social networking sites with banner ads and video content, word-of-mouth is a prime motivator for Generation Y. According to the recent Grunwald Associates Kids Social Networking study, 27 percent of students surveyed are heavy users of social networking sites. Of these heavy users, 66 percent recruit their peers to visit their favorite sites and 37 percent recommend products to their peers.

Mr. Youth LLC spin-off RepNation has capitalized on this peer influence, creating successful word-of-mouth programs for companies like MTV, JetBlue, Neutrogena and Victoria's Secret. Young people sign up as "brand ambassadors" with the potential to earn money and rep rewards like iTunes gift cards.

RepNation's patent-pending RepWare software system gives clients "a highly trackable, measurable ROI," according to Mr. Youth's Britton. "When reps are active online, blogging or putting content on YouTube or their MySpace or Facebook profiles, all of this is tracked," he adds.

The program has been so successful for JetBlue that it's now in its third year according to Tracy Sandford, the airline's director of regional marketing and promotions. "It's cost-effective marketing: all semester long we have lots of bodies on the ground to push out additional information."

This year, JetBlue expanded the brand ambassador college program from the Boston area to upstate New York, New York City, Northern California and the mid-Atlantic region. Each year, the company has a "Blue Day" promotion where each rep gets 10 round-trip flights to give away. Reps come up with creative ideas on how to give them away. "We give them a lot of discretion," Sandford explains, "because they know their campus. They know how people are receptive to hearing messages. They know that everyone is going to be at this football game or this club event or that everyone is going to be talking on Facebook about this."

RepNation subjects brand ambassadors to a careful screening process, but ultimately, Sandford advises, "You have to be okay with letting someone else take the brand in his or her own hands. For example, our corporate marketing wouldn't necessarily want to see a JetBlue sheet cake with the logo in icing presented during a study break. You have to be able to give up a bit of control but we think the return is very much worth it."

Stand Up for Your Cause

For marketers willing to genuinely walk the walk, cause marketing is another effective way to reach a generation for whom education, poverty, the environment and health are major concerns. According to Julia Hobbs Kistivik of Boston-based Cone Inc., "There's a feeling of part of who I am is what I stand for."

Cone's 2006 Millennial Cause Branding Study found that 89 percent of those surveyed were likely or very likely to switch from one brand to another (price and quality being equal) if the second brand were associated with a good cause. Seventy-four percent were more likely to pay attention to a company's message if the company had a deep commitment to a cause.

In August 2005, the company launched the Aldo Fights AIDS campaign in conjunction with YouthAIDS. The target audience of 15-24 year olds was not just a significant part of Aldo's customer base — it was also a group at high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

On the campaign's Web site,, kids can learn about AIDS, send E-cards to friends encouraging them to get involved, upload campaign banners to their Web sites, and "Make a difference for only $5" by buying a tote bag or dog tags, with 100 percent of the net sales proceeds going to YouthAIDS.

Aldo's arresting cause marketing campaign has not only raised more than $2.8 million to date, it's also increased brand visibility and shoe sales with young customers. Sales increased 40 percent during the campaign and Aldo opened 200 new stores worldwide.

The Aldo Fights AIDS campaign embodies what Kistivik considers key attributes for cause branding success: authenticity, commitment and communication. "You've got to say: This is what we're doing and here's how it's relevant to you. You can't just market at kids because it won't translate," she contends.

That's because having grown up with a World Wide Web of information at their fingertips, today's young people are savvier than previous generations — and they can spot a huckster. "If you don't understand what you're marketing, they'll see through it right away," said Iconoculture's Robinson. "The Millennials are one of the first generations to be targeted by advertisers since they were in Pampers; their parents have made them aware that they've been targeted, and have given them media education."

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