Found People Thursday’s – GUEST BLOG – Kathy Kohn – CMO Redwood Strategic – Key Holder of The Holy Grail to Youth Marketing
Thursday, July 4, 2013

Kathy KohnWhat industry isn’t trying to catch up with social media and get ahead of the curve? Who isn’t trying to figure out how gen Ys and new millennials think, learn, interact and buy?

Who they are and how they behave is creating a whole new economy.
When early adopting advertisers and marketers engage this key sector, they hold the holy grail to “Now”

Kathy Kohn is one such person, she is ahead of the curve, leading her clients to reach their younger consumers in movement while engaging and communicating across relevant social media channels. As a marketing & advertising executive with 20+ years’ experience, Kathy has worked with Canada’s leading brands.  She is the CMO at Redwood Strategic, a leading social & earned media agency that provides advocacy expertise on university & college campuses and local communities across Canada.   Prior to Redwood, Kathy was Chief Creative Officer & Partner at henderson bas kohn. Kathy is a leader in Canadian digital and social advertising.  Having worked on over 50 brands and winning 100s of advertising awards, both national and international. Kathy’s brand experience includes; Nike, Molson, Coca-Cola, eBay, Discovery Channel, Mercedes, Nintendo, Tim Hortons, Samsung, Scotiabank, Visa, MasterCard, Bell Canada, Rogers, AIR MILES and Levi’s…to name a few.

In Kathy’s words…Advertising is in motion.  The world is social and connected.
Marketers and advertisers who know how to impact the landscape will succeed.
While others will look back and wonder “what just happened?”

Qs & As

FP – You’ve done some pretty sexy stuff when it comes to building brands and engaging target advocates with social media, tell us about one of your favorite campaigns, your platform, networks and the impact they had on your client’s business?
KK– ‘Crush Exam Stress and Just Dance’ is a recent favourite.  A video game by Ubisoft that gets students moving to Top 40 hits. Dance teams from across Canada competed for a chance to win a stress-busting dance party at a time when it was needed most – exam period. To make it to the top, student dance groups mobilized school communities, posted images and created videos that showed off their moves.  All dance events across the country laddered up to set a world record along the way.
We gave students the tools needed to become content creators.  Ubisoft’s previous campaign used celebrity endorser, Justin Bieber, to promote the brand. That’s the unique thing about youth, when properly engaged they will influence their own communities.  Celebrity endorsement not required.


FP – How do you cultivate earned media and what are the challenges brands face in winning advocacy there?
KK – Great question.  No easy answer.  To start, you actually want to cultivate advocacy (not earned media).   Advocacy is a strategy, like loyalty or relationship management.  And it isn’t easy, nothing worth it ever is.  The challenge brands face isn’t necessarily a challenge.  It’s commitment.  Standing for something worth talking about (and that doesn’t just mean tree hugging). It simply means taking a strategic position that is talk worthy.  That starts with the organization’s culture being fully entrenched in the positioning.  The beauty of advocacy is that youth understand it because technology has proliferated sharing and discussion.  As millennials take over 50% of the workforce in the next 10-15 years, advocacy strategies (and earned media) will rise accordingly.
If you want to jump right to getting earned media there are 2 options.
1)     Create great content that users will natively and naturally spread.  I.e. actually earn it.
2)    “Bribe” to get your media spread, then call it earned.  I.e. classic social media contest tactics.
Neither will necessarily cultivate advocacy.  Great content is often a one trick pony.  And the bribe option, well that speaks for itself.  For now, advocacy is primarily tactically related to earned media.  But change is coming.


FP – What’s the difference between advocacy and consumerism?
KK – The definition?
Advocacy:  “The act of recommending”
Consumerism:  “The preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods”
Consumerism is opportunity based on our obsession with stuff.  Advocacy is a strategy to take advantage of consumerism.


FP – Redwood’s career page talks about small scrappy scaling teams, fun, collaboration and entrepreneurship. If you want a good employer brand that appeals to gen Y’s and new millennials, you have to offer this kind of culture and work experience. What does this edgier more free thinking attitude towards making a living tell us about what students need to be fulfilled and committed to staying in school?
KK – It tells a lot about what employers need to do to get the best, most motivated talent.  Millennial workplace mindset is vastly different than past generations.  They are the whenever, wherever, whatever generation.  We can’t beat it out of them.  So we need to adapt.  The biggest change coming is how to recognize valuable skills in the digital age.  Skills that are ingrained in society but aren’t taught in school or recognized by educational institutions.  Skills (not to be confused with management of social media) like; networking, influencing and gamification.  It’s a fine line but there is an absolute line of demarcation between them.  Industry leaders, recruiters, HR and Millennials themselves will lead the evolvement of new age skill recognition.  (We have found the secret sauce.  Stay tuned).


FP – Redwood’s Campus Perks concept for building campus communities and generating sponsorship is brilliant, give is a walk through, how does it all work?
KK – We start by working with brands to find their unique youth proposition and the program sweet spot through the intersection of brand context, youth context and advocacy potential.  At that point we develop the program.  And what makes us different is our programs are built to advocate for the brand and the students.
What that means is we recruit students to relevantly advocate for brands.  And in return, brands advocate for students (it’s a two-way value exchange).  Brands advocate for students by providing the following:
•    1% (of budget) Student Opportunity Fund
•    Exclusive ‘Fast-Track’ Opportunities
•    Internship
•   Coffeehouse Mentorship
•    LinkedIn Endorsements and Recommendations
•    Community Relevant Return on Advocacy
This approach keeps earned media…earned.  It’s not a temporary paid gig, a big red party bus or forced.  A respect is created, keeping the relationship authentic and the results…stellar.


FP – What’s Redwoods bird’s eye view on today’s youth, where are they taking us and where do we need to be to support their growth?
KK – They are taking us wherever, whenever, whatever.  Snack size attention in a digital age across all behaviours.  We need to accept who they are and interact accordingly.  Secret sauce anyone?


Want to connect with Kathy or check out Redwood Strategic?
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