Interview with Becki Heller from Trendsta Part 2

in Strategy & Trends | by Ethan Lyon


By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

Over the past weeks, we have discussed the importance of influencers in the world of marketing. We reviewed Razorfish’s Fluent: A Social Influencer Marketing Survey, developed a guide to buzz marketing and explored how to identify and engage influencers.

We recently had an opportunity to speak with Becki Heller, a founder of Trendsta—an online web network that connects teens with products / services. Trendsta, a DreamIt Ventures site, leverages teen influencers to spread their clients products / services to a vast network of friends. Trendsta is pioneering a new revolution in marketing that happily accepts brands slipping ownership over their products / services. Instead, managers have to play ball with consumers on their court, on their terms.

Becki was formerly the editorial director at MyYearbook. Her experience with teens stems from her work with MTV Networks and Rolling Stone. Her inspiration for Trendsta came from large companies seeking her advice about how to reach and engage teens and ways to spread messages through their networks.

In part one of our interview with Becki, we discussed how social influencer marketing is about “going back to high school.” Each “clique” leader exerts powerful influence over their respective followers. Marketing to that select group of thought leaders is a very powerful tool for an advertising industry struggling to adapt to a new generation of media consumers. Trendsta is a pioneer in this new marketing frontier by targeting influencers (an estimated 12% of the population), giving them client products and measuring the brand message as it permeates social platforms. To target this younger, more digital savvy audience, corporations need to “dismantle” and liberate their stereotypes of Generation Y and We. This second installment is about the discrepancies between Generation Y and the Gen Xers and Boomers trying to market to them. Becki discusses the importance of one-on-one interaction and the corporate image among Trendsta core audiences.

1. How is traditional advertising consumed differently between Generation Y and We versus X and Boomers?

Efficiency and speed are critical elements in targeting teens. Becki illustrates her point about conventional wisdom with the new Bruno marketing campaign. To buy the front page of MySpace, marketers spent millions. The banner advertisement harkens back to marketing’s former guiding principles—throw whatever you have against the wall, and hopefully something will stick.

Take example from Morgan Stanley’s new report of teen media consumption—written by a 15-year-old summer intern. The intern discusses the ineffectiveness of traditional advertising. Essentially, the digital generation has learned to black-out most advertisements. The Bruno media buy does not integrate with teens space, Becki says. The message might be plastered over the MySpace homepage, but does not speak with them one-on-one. To spark word-of-mouth success, marketers need to speak with them on their terms. Though Bruno will be a blockbuster success without the MySpace homepage buyout, the media spend could be allocated in a much more effective way, Becki notes.

2. Are Generation Y and We so different from Boomers and Generation X?

Though Gen Y / We live in the digital world, Becki says, “they are not any different than everyone else.” Don’t believe the hype in other words. Just as Boomers were saying Gen X was lazy and didn’t want to work (which is egregiously misguided), the same goes for the newest generation. They will still work and follow guidelines. They will not bankrupt the system with outrageous salary demands. Just as Becki said, they’re like everyone else. The major difference is the way in which they communicate and live in the digital world.

3. Why are you focusing in on Generation Y and We? Why are they worth it?

Teens are worth it to the tune of $190 billion. That’s how much buying power they had in 2008. While Gen X and Boomers spending is receding, Gen Y and Gen We are still doling out dollars for new products / services. Furthermore, the Gen Y population is trailing that of the Boomer generation. The combination of high population numbers and spending power, brands are scrambling to find ways to reach this generation.

4. Why has social influencer marketing not taken center-stage in current marketing?

Becki admits, it’s difficult for seasoned professionals to understand the up-and-comers. Gen Y and Gen We have not known a world absent of the internet. As far back as they can remember, the web has dominated communications with friends, family and within educational institutions. From online research database services taught in elementary schools to the emergence of IM with AIM, teens are connected in ways no other generation has known. They know how to dig for and share information like no generation before them. Therefore, to target teens, marketers need to revamp their way of thinking to understand the digital divide.

5. Can you provide examples of successes either with you or elsewhere?

Currently, Trendsta is working with its first list of clients. Atlantic and Epic Records are two large Trendsta clients. The SIM firm is now out to make it’s stake in the marketing world. By leading the next evolution in marketing, they are pioneering a new frontier. With their success, they will be a benchmark and precedent for future marketers.