In 2014, Dell took a bet on teens with their Back to School “Where learning meets doing” campaign. Wanting to build on last year’s success, we were tasked with evolving the same strategic line for the 2015 campaign. But for teens, a lot can change in a year. Junior year is nothing like sophomore year. Braces come off. New phone models come out. Graduations come and go. That’s why we weren’t satisfied to work off of the same insights from last year – we set out to find out who today’s teens are and how Dell could fit into their lives.
The main challenge Dell faced was teens’ dated perceptions of the brand. When you asked them about Dell, they often said it had been their first family computer, or that they’d seen their parents bring their Dell laptop home from work. They pictured clunky, heavy desktops, and were unaware that Dell made sleek, modern products. In order to even get Dell on their radar, it became even more important that Dell really understand today’s teens to overcome these dated perceptions. We needed to communicate with them on their level, proving Dell’s relevance from a functional and emotional perspective.
To understand this generation of teens, we knew we couldn’t do “traditional” research. Put teens in a focus group and they cross their arms, give canned responses, and generally wish they were somewhere else. We chose instead to get to know today’s teens through eXploring – Y&R’s way of getting to know people as friends, not research subjects. No research facilities, no payment, no recruits. We took Staten Island teens to Applebees, hung out in the Emory bookstore during the midterm crunch, commuted with parents of teens, visited old high school teachers, shared a family dinner with a freshman football player in Atlanta, and did homework with high schoolers in Connecticut. They showed us their Instagram feeds, their Snap stories, and their Back to School wish lists – all on cracked phone and tablet screens.
Through our eXploring and plenty of social listening, we became teen experts, engaging in heated debates with the account team over the meaning of “bae” and the subtleties of posting a photo to Snapchat vs. Instagram.
Most case studies cite a pivotal moment where the planning team uncovered a single brilliant insight that lead to the creative work. This isn’t one of those cases, because it wasn’t a handoff of one insight, it was a constant back and forth of feeding information and evolving the creative to feel more authentic for our teen audience. When we briefed teams, we called it a “briefstorm” rather than a creative brief because it was just that: a brief filled with insights and thought starters around all the ins and outs of being a teen – who they are, how they talk, what they worry about, and how Dell could help.
The most important thing we learned was that today’s teens are in many ways completely unlike other generations. Today’s teens are not teens at all, but mini adults. They’re driven, entrepreneurial, open-minded, and more tech-savvy than any other generation. And, they have an uncanny ability to detect phony brands. In fact, there’s a whole Reddit board dedicated to calling out brands that attempt to use teen slang. The worst thing you can do as a brand is talk down to them or try too hard to speak their language. The subtleties are the difference between being in and out with this group.
But at the core, teens have the same desires, hopes and fears as they always have. They’re trying to figure out who they are, and they’re doing it through trial and error. That’s where the “learning meets doing” comes in, and where Dell can help, because in all of the things they want to learn and do, technology can play a vital role.
The most important thing was that Dell come across as authentic to teens. As the “Learn it. Share it.” campaign developed, it became clear that there was no one better way to achieve this than to speak through teens themselves. The planning team worked with the creative team to select a handful of “new experts.” They weren’t “influencers” in the usual sense, but a group of teens who exemplified all the ways teens are using technology to learn and share what they love to do. Because today’s teens don’t aspire to be just one thing, we chose a nuclear scientist, a pair of songwriting Viners, a fashion designer, a YouTube star, and a musician. The experts were featured in every aspect of the campaign, but the cornerstone was the Docuseries, a series of short videos showcasing each teen’s latest project.
In addition to the Docuseries, a handful of our experts posted a “challenge” video to their own social channels, which asked teens how they could use technology to creatively solve a problem – like how to make the most out of your day or give yourself superpowers. The challenge gave teens a chance to interact directly with their favorite influencers, powered by Dell. All digital and social assets drove teens to the Lookbook, a destination where teens could learn about the products they’d seen featured and watch more of the videos.
So far, the campaign has received widely positive responses from teens, with high engagement levels across social. Dell’s two top performing tweets to date came out of the campaign. The sentiment in all social channels has been hugely positive, with many teens explicitly stating that the content has changed how they feel about Dell and would lead them to buy Dell as their next computer.
Through a quantitative study, we also learned that a key to the success was the variety of influencers – getting the right combination of fun, smart, interesting stories helped create a well-rounded perception of what Dell can do. When shown a combination of two different Docuseries, teens were even more likely to relate to and consider purchasing Dell.
By truly understanding who teens are and what they care about, we communicate with teens through their peers and build credibility, creating a foundation for a fresh image for the brand.
Objective: Get teens to consider Dell during Back to School season by establishing relevance among teens.
Challenge: Whether it was their first family computer or something they used at school, teens have a dated perception of Dell.
Truth: Being a teenager is still a coming of age story. You’re still trying to find yourself, who you are, who your friends are, and what it all means. But that’s where the similarity ends. Today’s teen path to discovery is more focused. Gone are the liberal arts students who postpone career decisions. These kids want to figure it all out, and they want to figure it out now.
That’s where technology comes in – finding your passion for music editing, discovering your true friends are an ocean away, teaching yourself how to be a coding pro or even figuring out how to pay your way through college. These are the lessons teens are seeking out today. With a note of sarcasm, complete self-awareness, and purpose. It’s within these lessons that Dell can help learning meet doing.
Answer: Dell technology helps you find where learning meets doing.
The New Experts Docuseries on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLmbFlhPb2qyVwjzJclv8Ue9PQ8VdC0ZOK
Jack and Jack's Challenge video: https://youtu.be/rOzOdLf_agM
Jenn’s Challenge video: https://youtu.be/0htUkUrS24c