Brands Need To Go Where The Wind Blows

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“Young people don’t care about news.”

Because it’s all fake news anyways, right? It’s such a blanket statement. We hear this rhetoric all of the time. Blanket statements like, “young people don’t care about the news” and that sort of stuff. Young people don’t watch ads. You people don’t want ads. Young people don’t drive cars anymore. Young people don’t want to buy homes. It goes on and on. There’s a reason to be taken by the article, Teens Are Debating the News on Instagram, in The Atlantic yesterday. Who would have thought? Plus, if you’ve never heard of flop accounts, it’s time to wise up (I had not).

If you’re a brand, and you want to target the younger news audience demographic, what’s the Instagram play?

That statement above… I don’t think it is a marketing and content strategy that I would have ever offered up to a client. It seems silly for a brand to play in a channel that they’re not serious about, speaking to a group that they may not really understand, on a platform that is different from how they’re used to advertising, but consider this… for a moment… 

“Teenagers who are looking to talk about big issues… they’ve turned to Instagram. Specifically, they’ve turned to ‘flop’ accounts–pages that are collectively managed by several teens, many of them devoted to discussions of hot-button topics: gun control, abortion, immigration, President Donald Trump, LGBTQ issues, YouTubers, breaking news, viral memes… as flop accounts grow by the thousands as teens seek refuge from the wider web, many of the internet’s worst dynamics have begun to duplicate themselves on Instagram. Some flop accounts are rife with polarization, drama, and misinformation. All the while, an increasing number of teens are turning to these types of accounts for news, seeing them as more reliable and trustworthy than traditional media.”

And, like that, a new form of news becomes a trend and (potentially) the norm for our future adults?

Brands can easily make the wrong play here. Brands can put their noses in this and get burned (it has happened before). The idea of how to advertise to this audience is less interesting, then how this demographic has chosen, engaged and pushed a media format (that many considered dead and gone) back to life. It’s unique. It’s different. It probably looks nothing like how previous generations got their news and debated it, but here we are.

Instagram is the new newsstand?

It’s not really the news, though. It’s a meme, an interpretation, an attack, a moment of making mainstream ideas more woke (as the kids call it). With that, brands should go ahead and dig deep. Find these flop accounts, follow them, and see what the triggers are. There are countless lessons about marketing, communications, advertising and the social commentary that goes along with this news format. In a word: fascinating. Watching young people pick apart the news with raw discourse (and, make no mistake about it, it is very, very raw) is terrifying at first blush, then evolves into a moment that we can all hope for: awareness. Young people are paying attention to the news… they’re discussing it… and, yes, they’re tearing it apart (seems like good news, doesn’t it?). With that, the bigger brand lesson is that advertising can stay where it is (like it has always done). The other option is to (at least) embrace the ethos of what is being discussed in this The Atlantic article. If your brand isn’t going where the real audience is, then you can’t complain about campaign efficacy. As painful as that may be. Things continue to be messy for brands looking for an audience. This proves it. 

Do you want your brand attached to this? That’s the bigger question.