On Digital Natives, Analog Marketing and Branding

Engage:Teens on Word of Mouth via WordleBy Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Executive Optimist, Digital Book World

“It’s true that teens are twice as likely, compared to the general public, to hold brand conversations online. Still, just 13% of teens’ brand discussions take place online (including email, texting/IM and social networking), versus 7% of the general public’s.”

85% Of Teen Brand Word-Of-Mouth Occurs Offline

The MediaPost blog, Engage:Teens has some interesting data on the latest findings from TalkTrack, an ongoing study conducted by market research firm Keller Fay Group, which specializes in word-of-mouth (WOM), and counters some of the conventional wisdom regarding teens, word-of-mouth, and analog vs. digital marketing.

Besides noting that the vast majority of teenagers’ word-of-mouth recommendations occur offline as opposed to only “3% through social networking sites,” the results were also surprisingly similar to that of consumers overall, with one notable exception: “the school environment is a close second (28%), whereas for the general public, the work environment is a distant second (12%).”

While several publishers are investing heavily in building teen-centric social networking sites, it would seem a more integrated approach that includes a healthy analog component will be critical to their long-term success.

In the article, Keller Fay Group CEO Ed Keller observes that “visual cues” are important word-of-mouth triggers, and those cues are primarily analog:

He cites recent research from Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger confirming that the products that tend to have the most sustained WOM over time are ones for which we most frequently see visual cues in our daily lives – frequently in the form of actual product usage, as well as advertising and marketing. This, says Keller, underlines the importance of taking a holistic, sustained approach to WOM that includes product usage, advertising, point-of-sale activity and promotional strategies. For marketers looking to engage teens, in particular, a key value in teen versus general public brand WOM behavior comparisons may lie in using them as a jumping-off point to analyze what controllable factors tend to drive WOM among teens — specifically, whether the channels and messages being employed by their brands facilitate sparking conversations about them, Keller says.

Keller’s point also raises some interesting questions about print books vs. ereaders:

  • If books are “social objects” and book covers are effective word-of-mouth triggers, what happens when ereaders take the spotlight away from individual books and instead become the center of attention themselves?
  • In light of ebook sales steadily increasing, and reports that they might now be cannibalizing print sales in science fiction and romance, how might that affect word-of-mouth, arguably one of the most valuable forms of marketing for any book, regardless of format or sales channel?
  • Does a publishers’ brand and the communities they’re engaged with become even more critical areas of focus when ebooks are the dominant format?

What do you think?

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez is the Director of Programming & Business Development for Digital Book World, and a published poet, writer, and active blogger since 2003. An old and new media pragmatist, social media realist, and marketing strategist, he views publishing as a community service, and is optimistic about its future.

7 thoughts on “On Digital Natives, Analog Marketing and Branding

  1. Erik

    I think the whole focus on a sole purpose device, such as an eReader is not good. In the world of publishing, any market for that matter we need to look at getting things out there the best we can. Now readers will be developed and sold, some like them, one them for one purpose and fits their needs. However, to focus solely on that device or a devices as is the case, you spend your time that could be used for developing your brand, community or other viable avenue for the company into trying to make sure it looks good on a reader.

    Part of this stems from not using a common format or tying it up with drm and other restrictions. By doing so you limit what people will do, some won’t develop for a platform or eReader because it’s time consuming, the costs or they don’t see it being around for a while. Kindle’s done well because it’s been around a lot longer but what it has to be is the content read anywhere on any device no matter what, not 15 different flavors of drm or restictions. Now google says that’s their aim with editions, but it’s google, who knows if that’ll play out that way or stray off the path. Apple or other tablets are better purposed I think, yes I have apple products, but I’m also an all in one type of person, an iPad to me is something i like, read an eBook on the plane, type up some emails, listen to music and interact with twitter and other areas. However, they have nice ribbon of drm on it, that hampers it’s full uses, but you could add kindle app, nook, etc, more open and covers more platforms.

    Not to keep going on, but the publishers need to actually band together on this, don’t think just pocket book, stock or who gets the credit, work on a solution, because right now you are part of the problem. I know that last part will get me some heat, but you know what, it’s accurate. There are so many people passionate about publishing, me included; I want to see it thrive, but it needs to change and act more like a flexible piece of rubber, not solid steel that you have to destroy and rebuild each time. All of us passionate people could make a difference and could help the pubs, but too many times I think they are stuck in their ways, attitudes and images of what they believe. The eReaders answer the needs right now, but shortly down the road, we’ll see piles of them like the rocketbook and others, I’d rather not go down that path and hear that eBooks caused the demise or some other crap.


  2. Christian K

    Why can’t I rate a book directly from my kindle, or kindle app? Why can’t I import my amazon purchaces into a social site? Why can’t I “like” or tweet about a book from the application? Why can’t I set my “screen saver” to be book covers?

    We just aren’t there yet. I expect most of these to come in the future.

    1. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Post author

      When it comes to features like those, the technology is still relatively new and evolving; what’s not there today will arrive soon enough. (Except for jetpacks, apparently.) Until we live completely sedentary lives a la Wall-E, though, analog marketing and IRL visual cues will remain an integral part of leveraging word-of-mouth.

  3. stephen Bateman

    This is an interesting question and the focus needs in the debate needs to focus first on the reader group.

    The issue relates to some work I was doing around digital natives for a client in the international tertiary education sector. The challenge was how to better engage these 18-20 year olds (Millennials) to increase audience marketing amongst past, present and future students.

    The obvious thing was this group love social media applications like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube which all have frictionless sharing built in.

    Second, the group rarely use traditional email or make phone calls any more.

    Third, their core social currency is humour, news, pictures, tips. Sharing defines them, not ownership.

    So, taking these behaviours into consideration, publishers, regardless of their chosen publishing format, could do worse than adapt their social model and provide some currency for this audience.

    Whilst I can’t be specific, recommendations for my client included the integration of social bling in the form of virtual badges (tagged) and buttons about participation to share on Facebook, student blogs, Twitter feeds and other forums. We made the opportunity to shape and change attitude and drive advocacy for causes central to the content marketing too because these young folk want to make a difference in the world. Haven’t you noticed how books that support a niche cause (like Red Nose Day in the UK) get great social traction and spread on all social media interfaces, blogs and microblogs. So perhaps publishers could put more social purpose into their output?

    Another problem with book content is that it tends to be static. Yet these kids are in the here-and-now. There an opportunity with apps to integrate content aggregation and curation; this would have the advantage of extending the relevance of that content and offering new opportunities to share. Let’s face it, we like to share what’s new. The nostalgia movement is working so well because digital is enabling its renewal.

    Just some thoughts

    1. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Post author

      The point this study makes, and with which I agree, is that you need analog visual cues to support digital initiatives in order to maximize word-of-mouth opportunities. Virtual badges have some impact, but IRL visual cues are what really drive word-of-mouth, and too many marketers ignore that. Others get it, though; eg: GetGlue sends out physical stickers of their virtual badges; Foursquare and Facebook send business decals and signs to promote check-ins and likes.

      As for ebooks, if/when ereaders become predominant, publishers lose one of the most valuable visual cues they have: book covers. That’s a serious issue that I haven’t seen addressed much, and I think I kind of buried the lede in this post!

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