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Beyond Branding is written by members of The Medinge Group

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November 26, 2003

Marketing, or just manipulation?  

Chris Lawer has pointed me to this rather creepy story from Business 2.0 about how Nokia is targeting a phone at teenage girls by identifying their social leaders. Yuk.
Led by DVCX, a division of DVC Worldwide, the monthlong campaign aims to turn trial and awareness into legitimate teenage buzz. So DVCX sought out teen girls in seven U.S. markets: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. The goal in each market was to identify the "social leaders" of each group, who told DVCX marketers how, and where, to pitch the product. Armed with this powerful inside info, the marketers hit the right restaurants, malls, and, of course, high school parties to introduce and demonstrate the new camera phones. "We try to find the right places, the right times, the right fit," says John Palumbo, president of DVCX. "You merge the brand into their lives." Along the way the company worked closely with these teen brand advocates, who through their shining example gave Nokia's camera phone the necessary cachet. (To secure this teen loyalty, Nokia gives alpha teens free phones and three months of free service.) To keep the initial buzz alive, and to exploit additional viral marketing effects, DVCX also handed out $50 rebates to people who voluntarily e-mailed camera photos to their friends. "You create an experience that's brand- and target-relevant," Palumbo explains. "They say, 'I've gotta use that.'"
Chris says
At face value, one would expect Nokia to be getting close to the values we espouse, yet this activity seems to be as far removed from the Beyond Branding agenda as is possible...would you agree or is the practice as stated here of "fitting the brand into people's lives" appropriate? - I mean "targeting" at "alpha teens", what the hell is that??!! Is this a classic case of agency bullshit?
It's hard to know whether to laugh at the agency's smugness or worry at the sheer ghastliness of the strategy. There's a glut of this "cool hunting" being touted these days. To me, it seems like the latest desperate wringing of the dried out flannel of promotional, hyped marketing. I don't know if this agency is successfully manipulating the teens or just trying to manipulate the client.
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