How Do Brands Win In Messaging? Be A Buddy, Not A Burden

What if we hired 10,000 people to run through malls and city streets, screaming our brand names in teenagers’ faces?

It would be killer for brand awareness, our earned media coverage would be massive, and our buzz metrics would be off the charts. But teens would hate us – and rightly so. Sadly, this pretty much sums up the state of mobile advertising today. We’ve been spending all our time screaming in Gen Z faces and forgetting that a favorable emotional connection is more important than simple awareness. 

While most mobile ads act as a barrier between consumers and content, messaging provides an opportunity for brands to establish friendly relationships with teens. 

Messaging is different than social. Instead of newsfeeds, there are chat threads. Instead of large groups of loosely associated “friends,” there are tight groups of trusted peers with which to chat. For a brand to excel in this context, it’s important to recognize messaging as a venue for meaningful engagement. The consumer gets to choose who to talk to, and who gets the privilege of staying in their circle of trust. 



How can brands adapt to this new world with teens? Here are three simple tips.

1. Develop a personality

As a brand, your new goal shouldn’t be to attract eyeballs but to develop a personality that allows you to find your way into the buddy list. You have to think of your brand as a friend: someone teens want to hear from; someone who knows what the friend cares about; someone who makes their lives better, more fun. 

For example, Burger King recently complemented its TV campaign for Chicken Fries by bringing the chicken characters to life with stickers, emoji keyboards, and a bot that extended the characters’ personalities. People kept chatting to the bot even after the campaign had run its course, resulting in a 300% increase in brand awareness. 

Likewise, Paramount introduced a bot that allowed kids and others to chat with characters from the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, complete with gifs, links to the trailer, and pizza-eating advice. 

2. Be a friend 

Can you imagine your brand as someone to be friends with? Teens want brands to improve their lives, not just shovel content at them. For instance, Sephora has built relationships with chatters by encouraging users to take part in quizzes for a chance to win prizes, judiciously using push notifications to alert them to amazing deals, and always being available to provide makeup advice whenever a user feels like chatting. For brands looking to forge relationships in which they are a welcome addition to teens’ digital lives, now is the time to join their buddy list.

3. Appeal to a community and its culture

On messaging apps, teens connect with each other even when they may not be friends IRL. Communities form around common causes, and brands can take advantage of these group audiences by tapping into what’s important to their cause. For example, when Dove wanted to promote Dove Quench, its products for women with curly hair, it launched an emoji keyboard for iOS and Android, offering the first curly-hair emoji in existence. These emoji offered curly haired girls everywhere a way to celebrate their uniqueness, while providing a means to connect them to each other. As a result, Dove saw a 278% increase in purchase intent and built a stronger brand affinity with some of their most valued customers.

The industry at large likes to say marketing is a conversation. Now, like it or not, consumers – teens and adults alike -- can actually talk back to brands. If we’re smart, we’ll embrace this as a chance to have real conversations. Conversational marketing lets our consumers guide us to what information they want and need, at a time of their choosing. More importantly, it puts teens on equal footing, creating a foundation for enduring relationships. 

All you have to do is treat teens like you treat your friends.

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