Tribes a trap, says expert

Marketers who think they can capture a greater share of the youth market by segmenting it into "tribes" are just fooling themselves, says a youth marketing expert....

Marketers who think they can capture a greater share of the youth market by segmenting it into "tribes" are just fooling themselves, says a youth marketing expert.

Max Valiquette, strategic innovation architect at The NRG Group, a Toronto-based Internet business "incubator" and youth marketing advisory service, says it makes a lot more sense to focus on the commonalities among young people, rather than their differences.

Valiquette, speaking at Strategy’s Understanding Youth conference, held earlier this month in Toronto, defines youth tribes as splinter groups distinguished by a specific behaviour or lifestyle. Hip hoppers, ravers, rockers, anarchists, skaters and retro girls comprise the main camps, he says, adding the tribe concept dates back to the birth of punk.

The problem with marketing to tribes, warns Valiquette, is that it can become a trap.

"If you keep marketing to a particular tribe or group, you go down one of two roads," he says. "Either you are over-identified with that group and it’s difficult to gain any kind of market share beyond that group, or you end up doing too much preaching to that group and therefore defining them – which is the surest way to be a turnoff."

Cameron Smith, senior research manager at Vancouver-based research firm Angus Reid Group, agrees, saying the lines between tribes aren’t as clear-cut as they sometimes appear.

"Young people borrow from so many different influences," he says. "They can be whacked on ecstasy one day, and be a responsible school-goer the next. It’s much harder today to tell what camp people are in."

Patrick Thoburn, director of research and Internet strategy with Toronto-based Youth Culture, publisher of teen-targeted Watch Magazine and Bang, says young people have incredibly diverse interests, but that doesn’t mean they don’t share values.

Marketers who understand this are turning more to psychographic profiling, Thoburn says, targeting young people on the basis of attitudes that span several lifestyles.

"The teen market in Canada is pretty small. So when you tell someone they should focus only on ravers – about 10% of the teen market – that’s a total of probably 240,000 kids in Canada. It’s not that many."

Doug Martin, publisher of Winnipeg-based What! A Magazine, dismisses the whole concept of tribes, saying it’s a classic example of the marketing industry creating yet another buzzword to look important.

"Is Coca-Cola going to create a different campaign because they know there’s such a thing as ravers? Bullshit. They all brush their teeth. That’s what mass marketers look at – what they all have in common. Do they really care that they have individualistic interests? No way."

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.
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The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.