04/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

3 Digital Tips for Reaching a Hip, Disinterested Market

From CMO's to politicos, at one time or another many people have been faced with the challenge of branding an entity in which it's very difficult to get traction from the target population. The market either doesn't know, doesn't care and/or doesn't trust whatever it is you're pushing.

So what do you do? How do you get onto the radar?

With society changing faster than you can Tweet, it's hard enough to keep up let alone succeed particularly when one has a product or personality to promote and revenue, constituents or viewers -- select your personal pot of gold -- to obtain by a specific point in time. Often the road to success is so specific to a particular situation that it simply can't be replicated so more often than not, savvy powerati today are actually learning much more by quietly but actively observing the missteps of other giants and making major mental not to do lists.

A timely case in point is the U.S Census 2010 campaign. Appropriate because it faces a significant uphill battle in its "brand" receptiveness with many, and the "launch" date takes place in just a few weeks.

In fact, the 2010 Census could perhaps not come at a more inopportune time: a moment in history when many in the country distrust the government, and at a time when privacy is becoming a heightened hot topic. And it just so happens that young Black and Latino males, both now and in the past, are the U.S. Census' most hard-to-reach demo for a variety of reasons but said to be due in largest part to those aforementioned. It looks like the same thing just might happen this time around simply because certain "tools" have not been utilized. So if you want too want to give yourself even more of a struggle at the office, here's what to do:

Misstep 1 - Avoid the communication platforms which your hard-to-reach demo uses most. In this case, mobile phones. Most research shows that Blacks and Latinos out-index in mobile phone usage and expenditures per month. Thus, if one wanted to reach this population, it's obvious that's where they would be -- and to be even more precise, they'd be there texting. A simple, inexpensive yet thorough texting campaign which involved an organic push-pull strategy would be ideal because any difficult-to-reach demo needs engagement, interaction, reminders and an opportunity to have a voice in order to make that leap; not just one-way ads. The code would also need to be integrated into all organic information coming from "trusted ambassadors" (more on this in Misstep 3) in a hip way with hip language, ditching the eat-the-peas-cause-their-good-for-you vibe. But instead cite privacy issues as the hurdle, even though the FCC has already worked through this quite a while ago and the carriers guard the info behind the phone number with the same vigilance of those first charged with protecting the Holy Grail. Let privacy issues even paralyze the project past even creating a mini mobile application instead of SMS to at least get some mobile impact.

Misstep 2 - Avoid hiring any specialists which are experts in digital technology and the demo and rely primarily upon a large advertising agency for the national message. To be clear, many mega advertising agencies are not in their offices cobbling together mobile applications, posting across Twitter, Facebook, BlackPlanet and others, shooting and encoding live digital events nor are they handling the back-end of SMS campaigns and the like. That's not their core business. There are the "sister" company off-shoots. There's the outsource rolodex. These both may or may not actually be utilized on your particularly project. Most big agencies, themselves, can't yet typically tell one about the technical do's and don'ts, the legalities of opt-ins/opt-outs; thus many new cool opportunities are either delayed or danced around sometimes due to temerity, existing workload and more. Something new is being created. So it's not just about the "media buy"; but it's becoming more about engagement, data-mining, execution, tech knowledge and more. Don't necessarily use older, albeit prestigious dogs exclusively, to do newer tricks no matter how full service they tell you they are. Bringing on an additional company which specializes can save a brand a world of heartache.

Misstep 3 - Avoid collaborating with deeply Trusted Ambassadors of your hard-to-reach target to carry the message across social networks and, instead, brand as self. Could it be perceived as a slight waste of time to create a social network page for something which is already not trusted and post in typical, mainstream stoic language? Answer: probably. Here's something a Seth Godin won't tell you. It's an old trick from the music industry. Take a new artist and have them do a collaboration with the appropriate established artist to create leverage, credibility and increased acceptance. If Brand Census developed a deeply innovative national and concerted effort to tie-in organically with social networks of the trend-setting leaders, from that of DJs to street teams, for this demo; the results could have been astounding for a creating a genuine early conversation around this stuff and ultimately increased action. It's also certainly more effective than pop-up and banner ads across the Net/MobileNet terrain which the demo will just "close" or ignore anyway. When confronted with a battle, one needs to think like, behave dare we say even recruit the opposing side otherwise; why stride out to the field no matter how big the budget is. (Bonus: become a cautionary tale of budget usage and panned creative via Associated Press)

So, what can all politicos/brands/media learn from this little analysis?

The first order of action is to put yourself in your target's place. If their young and cool, perhaps diverse, and you don't know them intimately; please get someone who does and who specializes in the latest digital moves. Take some risks and allow yourself to be lead to innovation. If your numbers are consistently not where they need to be, might it be time to do something radically different? Put the proper soldiers in the proper place on the battle field because the war on disinterest from 18-34 is one that today's power players simply cannot afford to lose. Because quite frankly, the latest video game may have just come out and that just about supercedes everything, doesn't it?