As part of London Digital Week in the summer of 2009, myself and 3 colleagues from Playgroup presented a talk and facilitated a discussion on “The role of play in engaging a youth market”, based on some of the methodologies and principals we had developed into our processes and outputs at Playgroup. Attended by over 100 clients and contemporaries, who worked for companies that ranged from BBC to Tate to The Nobel Peace Prize, we presented a series of ideas on how we felt brands could adopt a genuinely playful approach to engaging their young consumers who are so savvy in the ever changing world of digital and social media. And how openness, honesty and direct interaction with them, in a playful manner, can give a brand an edge over the direct approach of traditional marketing. This was backed up by some sound research into the role of play in human existence/happiness, as well as applying that directly to the context of brand engagement and user experience.
My role in this event was to facilitate a discussion with the audience and us (the “panel of experts”) on the role of play in engaging a youth audience. This was achieved by presenting several real life digital examples of brands being genuinely playful in engaging their audiences through an open, honest and interactive approach, which allow the consumers to become part of the brand itself, and those more traditional approaches which come across as apparently playful (a few giggles here and there) but completely fail to genuinely engage a consumer with the brand. Some of the examples I presented included Jones Soda, Okanagon Springs party sponsor, Piss Screen, Sony Vaoi – Stop Writing On My Wall, Threadless and Sonic Drive In (amongst many others – will let you make up your own mind about which ones are genuinely playful, and which ones are apparently playful!). The following discussion was based on these examples, allowing the audience themselves to make up their mind about which ones are apparently playful, and which ones are genuinely playful. With the aim of this to leave them realising what approach is the best to take when trying to engage a youth audience with their brand in the future, rather than us directly telling them.
It proved to be a successful event, with some great feedback. From a personal level I really enjoyed the public speaking, but also the research process beforehand, and the knowledge that I was performing a role of consultancy to a whole range of people that may help them improve the performance of their brand in this ever changing industry.