On the eve of this week's PTTOW! Youth Media Conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif., MediaDailyNews caught the ear of skateboarding star, actor and youth marketing expert Tony Hawk about the ups and downs of reaching today’s youth amid the twists and turns of digital media.
MDN: What is the biggest change you have seen in the youth market and culture during your career?
Hawk: The biggest change I have witnessed throughout my career is relative to technology -- and the influence this has on the speed of change. Technology is the driving force for decision-making within our organization. How we create and connect with community has an entirely different meaning.
MDN: How has today's youth shaped your business and personal decisions as an athlete and idol?
Hawk: I am definitely inspired by the younger generation’s adaption to social media -- their speed and truth has shaped my own approach to being present and engaged online. I am more nimble, and I embrace social networking in ways that I never considered -- mostly when it comes to just sharing who I am, or about my companies and projects. What I have learned is that being relevant means more than simply being good at a sport or business -- it means being able to connect in bigger and broader platforms, both openly and in direct conversation with people who value similar things as I do.
MDN: How has the evolution of social networking transformed your views on marketing to a younger generation?
Hawk: The biggest transformation is that we have an engaged audience via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. -- that are always willing and excited to share feedback on our programs. Focus Groups are entirely irrelevant for our needs -- we instead pulse our community and get firsthand input on what we love (or don’t). We connect with our fans on projects, promotions, new ideas. It’s our best tool for immediate and unfiltered information.
MDN: What do you see as one of the biggest marketing obstacles when connecting with today's youth, and how do you overcome it?
Hawk: Staying relevant after having had a wave of success is tricky. Today’s youth can love something one day and hate it the next. You have to be adaptive and “walk the walk.”
MDN: You are involved in so many business ventures and projects that focus on young
people -- how do you continue to stay connected to your skating roots while building so many brands and causes?
Hawk: I skate regularly. Sometimes I have to plan my skating time way in advance, but I never lose touch with what got me here.
MDN: What advice would you give a brand trying to connect with young people today?
Hawk: Hire people that are as passionate about your brand/movement as you are. Keep an ear to the ground by engaging the people that matter to your brand culture. And keep control of your brand -- nobody else will see your vision through properly.