One Direction Has Many Lessons For Youth Marketers

One Direction, a little band you might have heard of, just released its latest video for the single “Kiss You,” and it contains a few lessons for marketers trying to reach a teen audience, from how to dominate social media to feeding the need for nostalgia to building an emotional bond with fans. If you haven’t seen the video yet, check it out here

The video is a throwback, borrowing looks from Elvis’s “Jailhouse Rock,” ’40s sailors, campy ’60s surf movies, and more. It’s no secret that Millennials are already nostalgic for the good old days (even if they never experienced them), but they don’t want to live entirely in the past. They like to blend the best of bygone eras with the current digital age. Teens are at the stage of exploring where pop culture comes from; finding ways to bring the past into their present lives allows them to feel a part of their favorite eras when things were simpler. Even though they’re the most modern generation around, they like a touch of the traditional. 



The video is also packed with inside jokes — only the most in-the-know fans will spot them all. It’s a game for Directioners, who love to one-up each other with their knowledge of the guys. Within minutes of the video being released, fans were tweeting about Zayn wearing floaties in the surfing scenes (he can’t swim) and Harry covering his “extra nipples” (he has two moles on his chest and jokes that he has four nipples). The video is one giant puzzle, challenging the fans to find the hidden references and encouraging them to watch it over and over to pick up more every time. These might seem like obsessive, minor details, but they’re on par with the level of knowledge that their fans have about the band members. The guys have no secrets from their fans — they’re open books, and teens expect the same level of honesty and openness from the brands they love.

Perhaps the greatest lesson marketers can take from 1D is not to take themselves too seriously. There have been plenty of rumors about Louis and Harry’s relationship, with fans jokingly dubbing the “couple” Larry Stylinson. Rather than worry about what such rumors could do to their image among their teen girl fan base (brands and marketers would never get too concerned about image, would they??), the guys take part in the joke. During a scene in the video, Harry sings the chorus, “Let me kiss you,” to Louis with their band mates making hilarious faces behind them. It’s a fleeting moment and if you aren’t aware of the joke, you might not even notice, but the fans love it and have been sharing screen caps and tweeting about it. The result is a deeper emotional connection for fans because they’re in on the joke with the band. 

Not only does the video break through the clutter and sustain the attention of fans, it’s also inherently sharable, helping it reach a wider audience as it spread online like wildfire. Fans were clamoring to be the first among their friends to post about the jokes and references. One mom of a teen girl told me about kids finding ways to slip out of class to watch the video when it debuted in the middle of the day and immediately reporting all the details to friends who missed it. With that kind of dedication, it’s no surprise the video instantly became the top trending topic on Twitter worldwide

But a brand doesn’t have to be a band to achieve such legions of fans. Take a few tips from One Direction and maybe teens will be screaming for your brand, too.

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