Gen Z and #AlexFromTarget

#AlexFromTargetGen Z and #AlexFromTarget  Nov 7, 2014

During election week, I’ve been following one of the most successful campaigns for an unlikely candidate.  It’s not an election campaign but a social media marketing campaign for overnight teen success Alex LaBeouf, aka #AlexFromTarget. Generation Z’s teenage girl fandoms in particular are getting the credit for making Alex an instant online celebrity. Everyone’s focused on the Who Dun It? of the campaign but to me, that doesn’t matter.

What matters is that this week, Gen Z got to prove their online power and I’m proud. If you haven’t heard, #AlexfromTarget is a 16 year old Bieber-like young man who went from an everyday Target cashier to an Internet sensation overnight. With 54 million twitter followers today, up from 600,000 on Tuesday, Alex is an online teenage social media phenomenon. The persona Alex, with his Bieber look, is a good-looking, hard-working, unassuming American young man from Texas working in a big brand retailer, a persona that teen girls obviously worship.

Major news media have been trying to identify the campaign source by looking at three potential suspects: Breakr, a “beta startup helping connect fans to their fandom”; Target who should have done this if they didn’t; and Teen Girls organically, who made Alex famous with their viral marketing power. Perhaps the news media is stuck on who did this because it’s hard for us to believe Gen Z could do this without any backing.  I’d like to believe it was Organic, because I never underestimate the power of Gen Zs.  

No matter who was responsible, #AlexFromTarget became famous due to the online actions by Generation Z, teen girls who shivered and shared Alex with all their “friends” and more.  Generation Zs are the ones to take credit for this social media story by endorsing two players: the “candidate” Alex and the audience, fellow Gen Zs. Like political candidates, we need to move on by focusing attention from the campaign to the elected winning persona, Alex. 

What can brands learn from the #AlexFromTarget campaign?
1) Engage Generation Z

#AlexFromTarget is a winning and to some, startling example of the online marketing capabilities of today’s teens. Even if a campaign is staged, it’s trending popularity will make it bigger. Gen Z can be a brand’s biggest reach with 95% online today, but you have to stand out like Alex did. Once you do, not only can Gen Z do your advertising, they can do some spending too. Mashable reports that Gen Z contribute roughly $44 billion to the US economy. 

2) Create and Promote Your Brand’s Persona
Alex himself is the actor in this online commercial for Target. If you create the right personas for your brand, and feed that persona to your brand’s voices and influencers, your brand could be the next #AlexFromTarget. Brands need online “spokespersons” that resonate with your target audience. If your Brand came to life, what would their persona be? Make it good, make it real and do so before Generation Z defines your brand. Had Alex not been so attractive, or working at K-Mart, he would not have been so viral.

Gen Z wins a major marketing campaign this week because they revealed their potential with the #AlexFromTarget overnigh success. Gen Z is practically waiting to post images with a high popularity potential. I expect more personalities to be launched into social media and I hope they succeed, even if they aren’t as good looking as #AlexFromTarget.

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