Gaining cred by endorsing musicians continues to be in the marketing mix of the wireless industry targeting youth culture. In the past season, Boost Mobile, the prepaid wireless network known for targeting the action sports genre of 14-24year-olds and sponsoring pro snowboarders, skateboarding, and surfers, launched a campaign featuring hip-hop artists The Game, Kayne West, and Ludacris. Zingy, a ring-tone company signed up Snoop Dog and 50Cent, while m-Qube partnered with Madonna. Clearly the cross-over of cell phone culture, music, and entertainment have made one’s mobile system more than a communication tool. The consensus from our Global Youth Culture Studies indicates that one’s cell phone also acts as a fundamental tool for one’s social life.
“It’s no longer about the phone in your pocket, but rather the phone you place on the table and present to others,” claims Darryl Cobbin, Boost Mobile’s VP of marketing, in a recent article in Advertising Age. Boost Mobile plans to make their product “a lifestyle product” according to Cobbin. But in reality, cell phones and services among the 13-24-year-old target market already are deeply embedded into their lifestyles.
The most extreme examples of the impact of cell or mobile phone culture is in Japan, where one’s cell phone is also the equivalent to one’s computer, according to our Japan Youth Culture Study. Young people are constantly texting, playing games, taking photos and sharing, buying tickets, checking train schedules, news, and music reviews. Ring-tones are the #1 product they purchase and the unique-ness of such ring-tones is a clear indicator of cool among Japanese youth.
In our European Youth Culture Research Study, ring-tones are also a big deal, but come second to text messaging capabilities. 26.6% of females compared with 18.8% of males rank text messaging as the #2 feature they most desire (after cool shapes and sizes) in their mobile.
For Americans, cell phone ring-tones and texting are but 2 essential features. It’s also imperative to have photo capabilities and walkie-talkie features to make your own tiny film feature…which you then pass along to friends’ cell phones.
Cingular, which has made 5 major record label deals, knows the importance of getting artists involved in the ever-expanding cell phone culture, particularly through sales of ring-tones—an estimated $50 million industry. Boost Mobile and Virgin are getting young people to sign-up based on cred-factor of cool athletes, and now, hip-hop artists. So, who’s next? It’s still open-space but we predict cell phone makers such as LG, who recently launched their own LG Action Sports Championships and of course providers Verizon Wireless, which is looking into expanding it’s place in the lucrative and growing space of cell phone youth culture.