General, Marketing

Kelowna is changing. So should your marketing strategy.

There’s long been a notion that Kelowna – and, indeed, the entire Okanagan Valley – is effectively a retirement community. There’s good reason for this, too: In 2011, Just under 20 percent of Kelowna’s population was 65 and older. Compare that to the national average of 14.8 percent in the same year (census data from 2016 has not yet been fully released to the public) and it becomes clear that Kelowna skews older. But does that hold true today? Recent reports suggest Kelowna is changing rapidly.

A generational shift.

Kelowna is a city renowned for its lifestyle. Few places in Canada offer the relatively mild winters, hot sunny summers, and opportunity for year-round outdoor activities that the Okanagan does. Combined with property prices that, while much higher than the national average, remain lower than Vancouver and Victoria, and it’s clear why Kelowna is a popular destination. Increasingly, intraprovincial migration (that is, movement from other communities in B.C. to Kelowna) drives growth in Kelowna. While Kelowna has historically been associated with agriculture, rural living, and an older population, current growth is driven largely by those aged 25-34. Many of these new residents are university students or recent graduates. Others are attracted by the valley’s recent tech boom.

Kelowna is increasingly seen as a tech hub, with many startups and large companies choosing to operate in the valley. When polled on why they’ve chosen to relocate here, 18% of tech companies cited lifestyle as the motivating factor. So, young, educated people are moving to the Okanagan, finding jobs in the tech and finance sectors, and enjoying the Okanagan lifestyle. Besides more competition for parking, how do these changes affect you and your business?

The first rule of ‘new advertising’: don’t advertise.

When demographics change, so do shopping trends. Young people don’t buy the same products as older people do. They don’t respond to the same kind of advertising, either. In fact, recent marketing insights show that old-school advertising just doesn’t work on millennials. Young people are concerned more with experiences and authenticity. Think of vehicle ads: once, they were used to advertise specific features and benefits. In recent years, the technical features of a given vehicle are glossed over. Instead, auto manufacturers sell the lifestyle their vehicle offers you.

Modern Dodge Ram Ad

Dodge ads, yesterday and today. Today, ads focus on feelings and perceptions more than hard facts or selling features.

Vintage Dodge Fargo Ad

That’s not a particularly new trend: advertising has been headed in this direction for a long time. Think of Mad Men’s famous “They’re Toasted” campaign for Lucky Strike cigarettes:

Selling a feeling is nothing new – what’s new is the extent to which advertisers sell feelings. Millennials have grown up in a world saturated in an unprecedented amount of advertising. The internet generation is more sales-savvy than any generation before them. Traditional advertising is simply too easy for them to tune out. Instead, they expect engagement and personality.

A couple quick case-studies.

You’ve probably seen the internet-famous Old Spice ad campaign:

It is one of the first ‘internet friendly’ ads produced by a major brand, and remains successful years later. They innovated marketing by embracing the weird, erratic comic sensibilities of the internet. After the success of their initial YouTube and TV ads, they released a series of short videos in which the commercial’s star, Isaiah Mustafa, responded directly to tweets from consumers. This is new advertising: direct and measurable engagement with potential customers. Old Spice, which was once known as ‘dad deodorant’, became a hip, young brand with a dedicated fanbase almost overnight.

For a more recent example, look to Hamburger Helper. It sounds like an unlikely source of inspiration, but parent company General Mills did something really cool last spring: they dropped a mixtape. Now, lots of companies have gone viral with funny songs and weird videos (see above), but what General Mills did was different. They reached out to genuine, aspiring hip-hop artists, giving them a great deal of creative control. Most of all, they acknowledged the inherent goofiness of the project, allowing the songs to be fun and authentic, not scripted advertisements. The mixtape was met with enthusiasm from social media and the hip-hop community. The artists involved have been outspoken about how positive their experience was. This type of ‘win-win’ marketing, where content of genuine entertainment value or usefulness is produced, is a good blueprint for what ads may look like in the coming years.

What’s the takeaway?

So, you’re a Kelowna business, you want to keep growing, and you’re all up-to-date about Kelowna’s shifting demographics. What should you do with this new-found knowledge? Start a viral video campaign? Drop the freshest new mixtape in town? Probably not.

While demographics are shifting, and fast, the population in Kelowna remains a little older than the national average. Also, big video campaigns like Old Spice’s aren’t really attainable for small businesses. Instead, your takeaway from this should be that traditional advertising isn’t enough anymore. As our population gets younger and younger, the importance of an effective, attractive online and social media presence will only grow in the coming years. Already, nearly 9 in 10 Canadians are online. Recently, almost half of internet traffic recorded in Canada came from a mobile device, like a smartphone or tablet.

That’s the real insight here: Not only is Kelowna getting younger, but even among older populations, internet usage is on the rise. Print advertising, phone directories, and TV or radio spots may never truly die, but they aren’t a cost-effective marketing solution anymore. As internet usage ramps up and the population skews ever younger, can you afford not to modernize?

Main Street Creative offers a full range of services specially tailored for Kelowna web design. Need a mobile site to reach people on the go? Want your company to appear higher up in Google results? We can help you access the growing online marketplace.