Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What the Folk?

Can a single YouTube visit help you understand where entire generation is coming from?

"Don't you feel it growin, day by day, people gettin ready for the news" ...

The hero of our story today is a 24-year old, Gen Y son who directs his social media dinosaur of a Baby Boomer father to an Internet video featuring, Grammy Award winners, Flight of the Conchords.

There are few born in the 50's or 60's who would own any of their CD's or caught their series on HBO but, their brand of brilliance has generated global notoriety and international acclaim. New Zealanders Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement bill themselves as "Formerly New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo".

It has been said that to understand a generation, you need to understand its music. The musical roots of the boomers can be traced to Elvis, The Beatles and The Stones. Swivelling hips, moptops and mod clothing scandalized nations of fuddy-duddy parents who screamed outrage while clinging to their crew cuts and Bing Crosby records.

Today if you're a Boomer parent or business owner, it might help if you could "get" where musicians like Bret and Jermaine are coming from and why your sons and daughters (and their text friends) are buying what F.O.T.C. is putting down when it comes to "Business Time".

Bret and Jemaine were flatmates at Victoria University of Wellington, where they were studying film and theatre before forming F.O.T.C. in 1998. Originally they attempted to write "serious" songs, but when their music was misinterpreted as parodies they read the market and switched to the comedy genre. Does it surprise you to learn that some F.O.T.C. videos have generated in excess of 12 million YouTube hits? And what do you think the implications are with respect to reaching an audience and developing a brand?

“Out of my hundreds of friends, only ONE does not use Facebook or MySpace.”

The 24-year old Gen Y son is part of a group that is more than 3 times the size of Generation X, and almost as big as the Baby Boomers at 72 million. Gen Y has estimated annual incomes totaling $211 Billion Dollars. They spend about $172 Billion while saving the other $39 Billion. Many large and established brands, Pepsi, Levi’s, Nike and others are in a desperate struggle to try and stay cool with this on-line generation that has witnessed corporate collapses, dot com busts and more than their share of family life disrupted by the devastation of divorce. As kids they were encouraged to speak up and as such are used to questioning parents and challenging the status quo.

“I only use email to get a hold of old people like you”

Marketers and Employers share a similar challenge. It doesn't matter whether you are trying to sell to Gen Y or get them to work for you this bunch is more jaded, irreverent and virtually bulletproof when it comes to being persuaded by traditional marketing gimmicks or bullshit corporate speak. They see right through any advertising that shrouded in mouldy, cheesy hype and they have grown up knowing that there is more to life than just work - and life comes first.

They want it real. Warts and all. In real time.

Are you ready to accept the inevitable? Do you see how traditional foundations such as the standard work week are being replaced by a new set of rules based on productivity, not hours at a desk?

What are you doing to plug in to a generation that is less than impressed by your "seniority" and judging you instead on "quality?" How many Gen Y's are you actually listening to these days and have you taken time to study their heroes? Learn what inspires them?

And tune in to the messages in their music?

"What the people need is a way to make em smile, ain't too hard to do if you know how. Gotta get a message, get it on through, oh now, mama, don't you ask me why"THE DOOBIE BROTHERS

P.S. ...Is it just me or do you find it remarkably clever that Bret and Jermaine's video offered nothing in the way of foul language? Is it just a coincidence that "Business Time" happens on a Wednesday, universally known as "Hump Day"? Hmmm ...

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