Occupy Teens: A How-to For Marketers

by , Jan 5, 2012, 8:16 AM
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The idea of group occupation has been around for a long time, dating back to protests in the form of takeovers and sit-ins throughout modern history, all in the name of social progress. Invigorated recently by Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and all of its offshoots, the idea of “occupy” is a word that has new relevance to teens and those who want to connect with them.

When it comes to teens, the act of occupying is not a resistance movement but one of sentiment and connection that drives people together for a common cause. To speak to teens today, marketers must occupy their mind-space. They must organize a symbolic sit-in in the brains of their teen audience. Nothing replaces being there—physically, imposingly in front of someone in order to get attention and understanding.

Occupy Teens, or OT, in the acronym of the moment, requires strategies and tactics that place brands, products, ideas and causes directly in front of teens, in the spaces and places where they spend their time. Teens, when not in school hitting the books, are reading what some would say is the most important book in their life—Facebook. And, those who say they are not active users of Facebook are definitely passive users … social surfing over the shoulder of a friend on their account, going on invisible mode and seeing what friends of friends are doing and talking about. And, like the Playboy joke of decades past in which men claimed they only bought the magazine for the articles, the teens today who say they are only on Facebook for the social games and apps are also guaranteed to be looking at the pictures.

Since Facebook is a place where teens live, brands need to occupy Facebook in a teen-relevant way—in the way that OWS taught today’s youth what occupation can accomplish. There are critics that call OWS a failure because it stood for nothing and too much, all at the same time. It seemed to lack a message while standing for many messages around the topic of corporate greed. But the point not to be missed is the occupation itself—the 24/7 camped out solidarity of a dedicated group of believers in the middle of a city park, all there to create a passionate, undeniable presence. The occupation is the point.

Today, many media experts talk about home page or high impression take-overs, which mean occupying all the ad space on a web page. With all the hype over media occupation, comes an even greater need for content, creativity and opportunities for connectivity that let brands not just take over in terms of media, but in terms of engaging teens. I’m not talking mind control. I am talking about integrative ideas that combine an interruptive presence with teen relevant creativity and content.

As brands spend a lot of time, energy, coordination and money on media occupation, here are some thoughts on how to make sure your media efforts connect with an Occupy Teen mindset:

Be Helpful. Teens like to be “in the know” so make sure you provide updates and news on your products, partnerships, events and all things cool about your brand. Be all about news and newness. Teens like first dibs on new products and discounts. This is 101.

Share Compassion. We all know that humor sells and gets passed round the web at the speed of light but so does compassionate content. Teens are more altruistic than ever, devoting much of their free time to causes they believe in. Provide them with opportunities to showcase their involvement with causes as well as their personal achievements.

Play Games. A great way to engage teens is to set up a competition with a prize at the end. An interactive social, gaming or creative competition lets teens participate for a reward that they can feel good about. More meaningful than a sweepstakes. More satisfying than a promotion.

Don’t Help Them Connect. Teens already know how to connect and they don’t want brands as friends.

Don’t Be “Corporate.” Dial up your friendly voice when communicating with teens. They already don’t like that Mom is writing on their wall, so be a friend, not another parent.

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