By B.L. Ochman
This is Runescape, which my way cool 10 year-old nephew, JH, describes as “Second Life for kids.” He left Nicktropolis, which used to be cool among the elementary school set, because “there, you could just stand around.”
Dear CMOs – are you talking to 10-year old boys? Trust me on this, they can teach you more than a lot of hot air-filled marketing gurus. (You know who you are.) Listen up, JH has a lot to teach us.
JH is in a gifted students’ program where he has read and analyzed the Beowulf Legend. He loves his Wii; is very interested in what can be done about Global Warming; is very social; not wild about sports, although he’s good at the ones he plays; and being online is as natural to him as turning on the TV was to Baby Boomers.
He’s been writing and illustrating original stories on the computer since he was four; and he likes to create multi-level games revolving around fantasy worlds.
Runescape, he explains, “is a fantasy world where I can fight a dragon, make things, and join clans.” It’s interesting because it’s different each time he logs on, and he can keep expanding his levels. CMOs: that last sentence is a remarkably succinct definition of social networking and social media marketing.
JH had a friend who started a mining company in Runescape where people could mine for a living so they could buy food and shelter.
“But,” says the wise, budding entrepreneur JH, “I got annoyed because he gave me a paycheck, but I can make more money if I make tools and sell them myself instead of working for him.
So now we’re partners, and our friends work for both of us.”(You go, JH!)
In Runescape, “you store your stuff in a bank.” But someone hacked JH and took his stuff. So he logged off and switched computers and that solved his problem. (Are you listening Microsoft?)
Here’s what I learned from my talk with JH, and why CMOs should be paying attention to their future customers:
1- Kids know a lot more about what’s happening online that you may think. He knows all about YouTube and social networks, avatars, and Second Life. His parents don’t let him use all of them, but he knows how they work, and a cool aunt of his has shown him some of the ins and outs. :>) However, he’s taught her just as much as she’s taught him.
2- Kids do social networking naturally. JH and his friends love to find great new sites their friends will like. And they love to teach each other how to use them. JH learned the complexities of Runescape from a friend.
3- Being boring is the cardinal sin. Stop challenging kids, expanding the possibilities available to them, and teaching them new skills and they’re gone faster than you can say “peace out.”
4- Kids like multi-media experiences. JH is into Beowulf online and off. He can’t wait to see the movie. He loves the online games he’s seen, but wishes he could find one as complex as the poem.
5- Kids ignore online ads. They’re there for the content. (Hint, be relevant.)
6 – Do not underestimate young people.
7 – Kids rock. Especially you, JH.