Textually Active

17 10 2010

This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, but teens are texting more, and talking less, than ever. Anyone who has kids already knows this. And anyone who has reason to interact with teens knows that our youth are connected in ways that we could never begin to imagine possible when we were growing up.

It just seems so disconnected, though. But who am I to judge? After all, I once told my parents their music sucked. And that after listening to Steppenwolf’s Greatest Hits.

Yeah, get your motor running.

Truth be known, this little nugget of trendwatching actually speaks volumes about how marketers need to be reaching young people. The methods with which we grew up simply are not going to work. And it maters not that we may disagree with the text me/dont’t call me MO kids these days use. It’s their gig, and they get to make the rules.

And it is our job as marketers to pay attention, because those same kids probably are not going to respond if we keep shoveling out the same drivel we’ve been using our entire lives.

If anything, communicating with young people is easier, not harder. All we have to do is win their friendship and get them to opt in to outbound text messaging. Then we wait for the cash register to start singing.

Which is another way of saying that marketing and advertising activities could actually be getting cheaper rather than more expensive. And it’s another way of saying that creativity may be headed south, because apparently all that our nation’s youth respond to is droll text messages.

Also trending is the fact that kids are consuming far more data per month than they did a year ago…up from 14MB to 62MB. Still, this is a mere drop in the giga-bucket, because carriers like ATT have a threshold of 200MB per month for tiered data pricing. Leave it to a 9 y/o to tell it like it is. According to Bailee, me weekend shaving boycott “feels like a cat’s tongue.” OK, I get the message. Still, the primary reason kids want a cell phone, though, is for texting. That is their chosen form of communication And it is up to marketers to figure out how to leverage this preference.

Savvy businesses have already hopped on this train with opt-in text message programs for patrons. But these have seldom if ever been targeted specifically at teens, the mother lode of the texting marketplace (averaging 3339 texts per month). If anything, the few using outbound texts are just shotgunning messages, hoping a few bullets might hit a customer now and then. But targeted texts aimed squarely at teens could produce real sales, not just that familiar 4-tone chirp.

Take, for example, a coffee shop aiming college students. Armed with the knowledge that classes get out at 2:15, a carefully crafted text campaign could lure those students to the store with the promise of a sales promo only available until 2:45. And that outbound text would have to go out at about 1:55…right about the time students are unconsciously thinking about packing up and getting ready to head out.

Nothing beats a good price on a picker-upper right about the time you’re about to nod off.

Of course, the mandatory factory is teen participation. They must choose to receive these texts, because anything and everything else is just unwanted marketing propaganda. It’s over the top and they’re not going to take it.

If anything, marketers should be turning handstands in the mall parking lot, because this greatly simplifies the marketing communications task. I can only begin to imagine the ad dollars, both creative and media buys, that could be saved by substituting well-targeted outbound text messages for prime time TV.

I just hope that those marketing minutes don’t get lost amid the clutter of 3339 other text messages.

Dr “R U Listening?” Gerlich

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