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Marketing to Youth

We Day
Photo by Elizabeth Drew

My 14-year-old daughter, Liz recently attended the well-hyped “We Day” event in Calgary this week. Liz had done extra loads of volunteering at school and written an eloquent essay in order to be chosen from her school to attend. So, when she got home on Monday, I asked her what she thought of it, expecting her to have been inspired and euphoric about her experience.

I was so surprised by her answer, and her insight, that I had her guest-blog this post, since it is so highly relevant to marketers who are targeting today’s youth.

So this is it, word for word, from the young lady herself.


When I first arrived at We Day, I was filled with joy, energy and excitement.  Being surrounded by people who wanted to change the world as just as much as I do made me feel a sense of unity. Once I entered the stage area, it was like a large party, and everyone was having fun.

But once the show got started, I noticed how many commercials were playing between the speakers and events. There were commercials for donations to actual charities, but what really stuck out was how many advertisements there were for large corporations that were sponsoring the events. Their commercials weren’t directly trying to sell you anything, they were plainly about the charity work each of the companies has done.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that they are doing charity work, but I got the impression that they were doing it for the wrong reasons. Mainly, for advertising campaigns. We have all seen commercials about how great a company is to donate and volunteer for charitable organizations, but this is a marketing technique; not just a kind act. Mostly, these advertisers do it so they can look better to their customers, and make them more inclined to buy, because the corporation donates to some kind of charity.

One example of many at We Day was the Ford speech. Ford was talking about how great all of the innovation their company was doing to make the world a better place. But during this speech, all I could think about was the gas guzzling trucks they put out on the market every season.  Ford had a very advantageous position in this speech, because they weren’t just surrounded by the common public, but they were surrounded by charitable kids, who believe that helping the world is the best thing you can do.  Ford took advantage of this view, used it to make a convincing commercial to positively impressionable youth, and used it to find future customers that think their company is just find and dandy. The sponsors commercialized We-Day, and that sucks, because that is not what We Day is about.

It was a great day, the speakers were sincere and inspiring, the volunteers were respectful and helpful, but I wish the sponsors didn’t use this event as a marketing opportunity.  The point of We-Day is to unite and bond kind to do something great for the world, not use it for getting future customers.

*****Mom’s comment:

Marketers, don’t ever try to pull the wool over the eyes of today’s youth!   Yay, Liz!

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About the Author - Jacqueline Drew
Jacqueline M. Drew, BComm, MBA is founder and CEO of Tenato Strategy Inc., a marketing research and strategy firm with bases in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. With over 25 years' experience in all facets of marketing strategy, she is a business consultant, trainer and speaker who loves to use her superpowers "to help the good guys win."