Spotlight On: Marketing to Teens

Coca-Cola blends mobile and social media.

While many companies are still dipping their toe into such Web 2.0 mediums as social networks and mobile marketing, the Coca-Cola Company is connecting with the teen audience by combining the two. In late June the company launched the Sprite Yard, a social network designed for mobile devices and aimed at the generation that made texting and social currency a way of life.

"We know that when it comes to reaching teens, mobile is the medium," says Denis Sison, Spite's global brand director. "This is a world where technology has a profound effect on how we build relationships with customers."

Realizing that the digital generation seeks "customization and instant gratification," the Coca-Cola Company's strategy is to provide Sprite's core customers with unique content and the ability to connect with its on-the-go network.

Some of the exclusive content features of the Sprite Yard will be housed in an area called Nuggets, which includes visual ring tones called "visitones" and short-form animated content called "mobisodes." To tie participation in the Yard back to product consumption, this exclusive content can only be accessed through a PIN code found under the caps of 20 oz. Sprite bottles.

The Yard will also include areas that provide a platform for connecting and sharing content, for example, a Planner to post invites and key dates, a Pix gallery to share photos, and messaging functions through Scribbles & Shouts areas. Like other social networks, Yard users will build their community by inviting and being accepted by other members. The company will screen the content and images to eliminate offensive photos or language.

With an estimated 60 percent of the ages 12-17 demographic already using social networks like Facebook and MySpace, Coca-Cola's pioneering move to lock up the core demographic for its second largest brand could pay big dividends. The company, which had been an early adopter of marketing through platforms such as YouTube and Second Life, now has a head start in the mobile marketing space and an exclusive channel to reinforce its brand to prime soft drink consumers.

Although the Sprite Yard is a direct hit for two of the prime mediums among teens-mobile and social media-industry experts caution marketers not to pigeonhole this group because of their "digital DNA."

A recent study from Bridge Ratings found that Generation Y is made up of multitaskers when it comes to media consumption. Teens' time with media has grown by more than two-and-a-half hours a day over the past three years, according to the study, often instant messaging while they are listening to music and surfing the Web.

The most effective strategy to reach this audience, according to insiders, is an integrated mix that includes traditional channels, such as event sponsorships and product sampling.

"It is easy to make generalizations about teens, but it's deceptive to do that. This isn't a monolithic group, they are very diverse in their behavior," says Jane Grenier, former publisher of Teen Vogue and current publisher of, CondeNet's first all digital offering. "They are tremendously savvy about mark-eting and don't like bad advertising. They value honesty, informed service, and selection and appreciate the opportunity for trials."

The Coca-Cola Company is not counting exclusively on the viral reach
of the new mobile network either, as the company has plans to promote the Yard on the packaging of single serve bottles of Sprite and integrate promotions into its My Coke Rewards program.