Lessons on relevancy from an 8-year-old

I was dropping my 8-year-old daughter off at cheerleading and started to wave goodbye when I got "the look." She frowned, and shooed me away with her hand.

I was dropping my 8-year-old daughter off at cheerleading and started to wave goodbye when I got “the look.” She frowned, and shooed me away with her hand. Translation: “Dude, get out of here, you're embarrassing me.” I recognized that look as one I gave my own mom a long time ago. I thought I had a couple years left before the ritual shunning, but, as cliché as it sounds, kids today are a lot savvier.

In some respects I'm no different than many companies or brands. As your target audience matures, you have to find new and different ways to communicate with them, stay in front of them, and continue to stay relevant.

How do I stay relevant to my budding 'tween (and her younger siblings) while retaining some level of parental respect with the consistent, authentic voice they'd come to expect?

Option 1: Get a complete makeover: dye the hair, get the cool car, and start listening to the Jonas Brothers. But I'm sure any short-term gain with my daughter would mean lost credibility with other influential audiences (e.g., other parents).

Option 2: Do nothing, and assume she'll come around when she realizes that even though I'm not Troy Bolton (or Troy's dad, for that matter), maybe that's not a bad thing.

Ironically, brands do this all the time, they overcompensate or do nothing, and in the end they lose trust or fail to adapt and differentiate, which often translates into brand commoditization.

Neither of these options adequately addresses my situation. What I have been doing, and what the best companies do is to take time to listen and ask questions, watch how competitors handle the issue, and then determine a level of engagement that resonates.

It sounds easy and simple, but a father staying relevant to his 8-year-old can be as complex as harnessing and responding to conversations about your product or brand in a social media environment.

My daughter and I both like music—a lot—so I've introduced her to U2 and Kiss, and despite what Kanye said, I happen to like Taylor Swift. Recently I caught my daughter telling a friend, “You know that Dr. Pepper commercial with the guy in makeup, and they're singing Dr. Love? He's in this band called Kiss; they're kind of old, like my dad, but they're pretty cool.”

Right after that she hit me up for some money. Turns out she knows me as well as I do her.

Tony Telloni, MD, Burson-Marsteller, and president, Proof Integrated Communications

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