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April 11, 2008

CRACKING THE YOUTH MARKET: Nokia goes experiential

Engaging with young people has never been easy for brands, but in today’s crowded marketplace where more companies than ever are vying for their attention it’s a major challenge. However, the 16 to 24-year-old demographic is a sector worth the effort, especially if your brand has longevity, as once you’ve cracked the market there’s a good chance these people will be with you for life.

That’s the situation for mobile phone operators, and a key way of reaching this market is through a medium that it’s members are more in touch with than any other age group – music. The problem is that hundreds of brands have the same idea, using music as a platform to promote their products and services. What’s more, many fail, because their methods are gratuitous rather than credible, and young adults today are more likely to view brands that appear to be exploiting their passions purely for commercial ends in a negative rather than positive light.

This means that a lot of the money thrown at marketing to this age group is not only wasted, but can also damage brands if not handled in the right way. It also means that if companies that have no direct link to an activity like music want to make a credible connection with an audience through the medium, their marketing activity has to give something back. This is why experiential activity has proved an invaluable tool in helping brands crack the 16 to 24-year-old audience.

Nokia makes the connection

A great example of this is Nokia’s Rock up & Play campaign, created by Haygarth. Although music was seen as a key route to engaging with young adults, building a credible point of engagement was vital, while also standing out against the other players in the mobile phone marketplace, which are as desperate to reach this audience as Nokia. The mobile giant was also keen to raise its profile in the highly competitive, but very lucrative mobile music player market, as well as boost its brand in general as it was losing ground in the youth sector.

Stars in the making: Nokia's Rock Up and Play campaign puts festivalgoers in the spotlight

The aim was to develop a grassroots, experientially focused marketing campaign, which would help to engage ‘music immersed’ 16 to 24-years-olds in the Nokia brand and drive consideration and preference for Nokia music devices.

“The creation of an interactive and ‘emotional’ brand experience that brought the best out of the brand essence of ‘Connecting People’ was key to tapping into our target audience’s hearts and minds,” says Haygarth associate director Nilam Patel. “The summer’s top music festivals and events were identified as core touch points where reach was substantial.”

Kicking off the campaign
The solution was an interactive on and offline brand experience where people could showcase, share and connect in their passion for music. The experience was called Nokia Rock Up & Play, which celebrated musical talent by giving bands, individuals and air guitarists the opportunity to simply turn up and perform on stage at pubs, music venues or at the summer’s top festivals. The target audience was also encouraged to upload performances online, put questions to artists pre-festival, win tickets to perform or just view other talent.

Nokia’s sponsorship of Download festival (Donnington Park on 8-10 June) and The Carling Weekend: Reading and Leeds (Bramham Park) Festivals (24-26 August) was used to activate Nokia Rock Up & Play in 2007. In 2005 and 2006, the experience was activated at credible music venues and as stunts in music retail shop windows.

“Festivalgoers were given the chance to play live on stage through improvised jam sessions, with or without our house band,” explains Patel. “Those signing up to take part included bands and individuals. Those who weren’t able to sing or play were invited to enter a Rock Up & Play ‘air guitar’ competition, creating a real sense of fun and spontaneity to the campaign.”

Building in the products

The activity was also integrated into Nokia products, including the ability to load edited highlights of artist question-and-answer sessions onto N95 handsets, and participate in guitar tutorials with artists, which were compressed onto an N95, then fed onto a TV screen. Festivalgoers were then invited to pick up a guitar and go through the tutorial while hearing what they were playing on a headset. There was also a free photo printing service available in the Rock Up & Play tent where festivalgoers could send photos via Bluetooth and collect prints in a branded festival photo wallet as a momento.

Other activity included special chill-out areas, mobile phone demonstrations and a trailer where people could recharge their phones free, which helped drive traffic to the main Rock Up & Play tent. There was also a free bespoke festival guide created for mobile phones and festival update texts, which users could register online to receive.

Beyond the festival
“We extended the reach of the Rock Up & Play campaign outside of the festival environment by recreating the experience online: www.nokia.co.uk/rockupandplay,” explains Patel. “The website, online advertising campaign and online editorial content increased awareness of Rock Up & Play in the run up to the festivals. The website was a highly interactive forum for the target audience to take part in and share with others at any time.”

Participants could register and ‘rock up and play’ on the virtual music stages by uploading a video or audio clip, giving them the chance to win VIP tickets and play live on the Rock Up & Play stage at the festival. Viewers on the site could also rate clips and add them to their MySpace page, contact performers and take part in festival artist question-and-answer sessions through submitting queries before the festival. Meanwhile, after the festival, the live footage was uploaded to the site, with emails informing artists their clips were live online, which could then be downloaded and forwarded onto friends.

Online advertising consisted of expandable banners providing content as if on a microsite. These banners streamed Rock up & Play video clips from the festival, promoted the tickets competition with a data capture form and encouraged users to upload a clip for the chance to play live at the festival, which drove users through to the website.

Facts and figures
To assess the success of the campaign, qualitative and quantitative research was carried out. Awareness was found to among 28% of 16 to 24-year-olds, and 56% among the music-immersed in this group. This was certainly an impressive reach, but were the key messages put across effectively?

“Definitely,” answers Patel. “The campaign specifically made those 16 to 24-year-olds aware of Rock Up & Play feel more highly disposed to the Nokia brand, while driving its association with music and demonstrating that the brand understands them and knows how to communicate with them.”

What’s more, at festivals the campaign was considered “fun, cool, innovative, unique and relevant”. It also delivered against key brand metrics, such as 87% of those surveyed agreeing that Nokia has products that allow me to listen to music, 80% agreeing “Nokia is a leader in mobile technology”.

The campaign also had a positive impact on product purchase consideration, with 77% of non-Nokia users saying they would consider buying a Nokia next time they purchased a mobile phone – a 7% increase from the 2006 campaign.

“This is a great example of a grassroots youth marketing initiative that really helped Nokia to connect with a disengaged audience in a truly engaging and credible way,” sums up Patel. “We reached 56% awareness of the concept among our target audience, and over 1,000,000 people directly interacted with Nokia Rock Up & Play through on and offline means.

But let’s leave the last word to Nokia UK’s senior marketing manager Nicola Smith, who was naturally delighted with the results. “The experience delivered cut-through and excitement in the over-crowded music arena,” she says, “but most importantly, provided a more exciting platform to educate on the brand offering.”

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