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Hunting Teens with Shotguns

I’ve been guilty of bashing Manufacturing here in Indiana as much as the next guy. When I think manufacturing job, I picture a guy in coveralls doing some monotonous production assembly line work over and over again. My perception probably isn’t different from teens nowadays, though.

Manufacturing and logistics aren’t even exciting words. They’re old. They’re boring. It’s difficult to picture them any other way! The truth is that manufacturing and logistics are anything but boring, though. Manufacturing equates to dynamic, high-speed automation. Logistics equates to complex software models combined with fascinating growing technologies like geographic information systems.

The question is how does an entire state change the way government, parents and children think about you when so many people don’t realize what you actually are? Sure, branding campaigns, typical marketing to influencers like politicians and educators will help. But how do you target the very people you need to fill hundreds of thousands of jobs in a few years? That was a question posed to me this afternoon… what a doozy!

In a state like Indiana, where the hubris of the 4-year college has settled in (that’s what we’re known for, right?), how do you attract young talent to trade programs and 2 year trade colleges? I think it’s a three-fold proposition:

  1. Ensuring influencers recognize the bitter reality of statistics. The majority of students that start at 4 year schools don’t complete their degrees. And of the ones that do capture their bachelor’s degrees… many are having a difficult time finding meaningful employment. An influencer who talks their C+ student into a 4 year degree program may not be doing them any favors. That’s a tough pill to swallow!
  2. Ensuring parents recognize the opportunities to discuss them with their children. At my son’s school he was a mediocre student – so it was the military knocking on his door every day. Bill started at IUPUI instead and has now blossomed into a double-honors major in Math and Physics. He’s also beginning to attract scholarships and works to tutor other students at the University.

    My point with my son is this – if we didn’t have the resources for his schooling, he could have been easily talked into the military. I’m a veteran and don’t regret the decision – but I didn’t realize I had options at his age. He did (and does) have options! If the 4 year degree program hadn’t worked out, he would have been an exceptional trade school prospect (why does that sound so negative?). He and I weren’t aware of that, though.

  3. Absolutely key to any marketing effort is the target, itself. This is where the rubber hits the road. I don’t care how well you impact influencers and market to Moms and Dads… if you’re not getting these kids on board, you’re going to fail. So where do you find them? Facebook? Twitter? Mobile? Video Games? At School? Youth Groups?

Yes, you find them everywhere. We’ve done a fine job at educating our kids to build their own identities, think differently, find happiness… so that’s just what they’re doing. You can find my daughter taking pics and sharing them. Katie’s also testing out videos with her Flip camera. And of course, on Instant Messenger and her cell phone. Once in a while, she’ll get together with her friends and play Rock Band.

My son blogs (sporadically), is on Facebook and joins his other musician friends on MySpace. Aside from that, you’ll find him at his favorite hangouts, The Bean Cup (he got me hooked) and Waffle House… yes, Waffle House.

Teens have choices nowadays and are fighting for their own individuality. Very few, if any, of my son and daughter’s friends are rebelling as we did when I was young. They’re spoiled. They have toys. They have the Internet. They have each other. They don’t like brands or being managed. They like green. They want to save the Earth… whatever that means.

Tapping into youth nowadays takes more than a few well-designed infiltration methods of yesteryear. I remember when all Nike had to do was run their newest hightops in a movie to hit sales. Nowadays, the kids want to find the pair of sneakers that nobody has.

If you’re going to hunt teens, you better bring a shotgun. Dominating Google, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook (may be a little too old), MySpace, the music scene, the mall, video games, cell phones and the local Coffee Shop or Waffle House may be a good start!

My advice is that it may be easier to provide a place for teens to be rather than go where they are. I know how appreciative our kids were of regional and Church youth groups where they could hang out, talk, play video games, and still be told a great message. They didn’t always come for the message, but they did come for each other! That place needn’t be a brick and mortar establishment, it could be a great place online.

Your thoughts? Picture and a great post on Teen Marketing found at the perspective blog.

4 Comments

  1. 1

    Great post! Gives me more to think about, I’ve got a number of years before my two kids are teens, but I know it will fly by before I know it. I think one of the worst things we do is push kids into college when they’re really not ready for it. There are other options: military, trades, service organizations.

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    Also, not everyone wants to be in an office or a lab all day. There’s many kids who have been chained to a desk for the past 13 years, who would rather be up and doing something other than typing. Manufacturing isn’t just for C students. I’ve known some brilliant people in trade jobs who would rather be up and doing something physical.

    It makes me think of Office Space where Peter is finally happy to be working on a cleanup crew instead of being in a cubicle.

    • 3

      Michelle,

      You’re absolutely right and I hope I didn’t come across as stating that somehow these jobs were for below average students. My point is just the opposite – these jobs are both exciting, technologically advanced, lead to very well paying careers AND DON’T require a 4 year degree. Some of them don’t even require a 2 year!

      It’s really just an overlooked industry. Everyone thinks that to be successful you need a Bachelor’s nowadays. While I would state that that’s a good ‘insurance policy’ it may not be the most enjoyable and fruitful route for a young person who wants a challenging and rewarding career!

      Thanks so much for your thoughts!
      Doug

      PS: I LOVE Office Space!

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