Mobile Youth: Cigarettes, Cell Phones and Cars

I first came across Graham Brown many years ago when I was working in youth marketing. I loved the way that he applied serious, insight driven analysis to the fast moving youth markets. And I loved the way that he understood and articulated the tribal nature of youth culture.

In this video introduction to his new book The Mobile Youth, Graham reveals an astonishing connection between the reduction in smoking in young people and the rise of smartphones. Despite widespread public health advertising, it was not until the social value of cigarette smoking (ie not the product but the social by-product of the act of smoking) was able to be released towards another social tool of similar or greater value, that young people began to shift their behaviour.

And this – for me – is the important lesson. So much advertising and marketing is directed towards product with very little focus on the desired behaviour. It’s like we are constantly pushing a “message” without any regard for the “context” in which our audiences live and work. This applies not only to youth segments but to any and all. Until we start to address what Graham calls “the social meaning” we will continue to see advertising and marketing failing to do its job.

You can start to remedy this situation by asking two important questions. Where do you customers belong. And what is the significance of that (to them)? The answers you find will tell you a whole lot about your marketing. You’ve just got to be sure to listen for the answer – even when it’s not what you want to hear.

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