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Digital Insights from the Inland Waterways

Monday, 22 September 2014 | By Gerry Mulvaney


By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing

I have just spent a week on a narrow boat with six young girl guides. Now I know that must sound like one hell of a gig for an old man, but let me tell you I was doing it in my capacity as a qualified inland waterways skipper and they were doing it as part of their Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award.

This programme was established in the UK for young people as long ago as 1956 by the husband of the Queen of England and has now spread to over 140 countries around the world. The Duke’s programme demands that young people become involved in volunteering, physical activities, developing skills and an expedition.

To get their highest Gold Award young people have to take part in a residential shared activity living and working away from home, which is how I came to be on a narrow boat with six girls who had not met each other beforehand and were destined to spend the week with me and another trainer learning how to operate a 70 foot long narrow boat on the canals and rivers in the UK East Midlands.

Gerry and girl guides on narrow boat

Gerry’s dream boat?

It is a while since I had spent any length of time with teenagers, given that my kids are now in their thirties, so it was fascinating in our downtime to listen to them talking about their hopes and aspirations as well as their fears and worries.

Brand New Marketing for a Brand New Generation

It would also have been of interest to brand managers to hear their views on the way that they are sold to by manufacturers. For a start none of them spend any time watching live television. If they do watch a programme it will be on catch up TV or even YouTube, so they can miss out on sitting through the adverts that brands have spent a fortune on creating.

Social media plays a big part in their lives, but Facebook is mainly a way of letting their parents know what they are up to, or rather what they think the kids are up to, since when it comes to their friends, most of it is done on Tumblr or other sites like Match, Flickr or Digg. Standard texting is also the way they talk to adults, but amongst their peers, WhatsApp or Viber is the communication platform of choice.

Personalized Coke bottles

Coke’s personalised printed labels campaign

Now I realise this is statistically a very small sample of today’s youth but if brand owners are to target this market segment, traditional methods are no longer effective. The most appreciated large brand marketing campaign was without doubt the Coke personalised bottle. All of the girls had got one and in a couple of cases had ordered their own version of their names online. It’s a major result for Coca-Cola to have an empty trophy bottle in the girl’s bedrooms!

After one week on the boat, the girls had all achieved their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and all of us went home to a hot bath and comfy bed.

Image source (bottom):

Landa S10 - Mainstream