Going Viral at the Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup

teens1 Last week I attended the two-day Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup in San Francisco. It was fantastic. I got to speak with youth marketers about their innovative campaigns and promote HeadCount's new strategic plan. I was most impressed by two corporate campaigns that use the Internet to provide young people with creative outlets for self-expression: Ashoka's Youth Venture and Best Buy's @15, and Disney's U Rock the Summer.

Known by the Twitter-friendly handle @15, Best Buy's social-change platform promotes philanthropy to kids 13 to 18. Users complete activities on the website to earn points they can subsequently deliver to the nonprofit of their choice. Best Buy then makes monetary donations to the nonprofits based on the number of points each receives.

Another part of @15 involves a partnership with the social change organization Ashoka's Youth Venture, which helps teams of young people launch innovative social ventures. For @15, Youth Venture selected teams of young social entrepreneurs from the database of teams that they already work with. These teams then competed for votes on the @15 website. Fifteen winning teams received $10,000 each from Best Buy for their social ventures. The partnership received a 2009 Halo Award for Social Marketing from the Cause Marketing Forum.

Surprisingly, there is no commerce on the @15 website – not even a link back to Best Buy. It's all about supporting young people through a critical period of life by promoting the 4 L's: Learn, Love, Life, and Lead.

Disney's U Rock the Summer also debuted in 2008. It was so successful that Disney will repeat it this summer as U Rock 2. The deal is that kids create a music video of themselves performing a song by a Disney recording artist and (after parental permission and Disney approval) post it to the website. Viewers can vote and comment on the clips. By posting their videos, kids are entered into contests to win prizes such as tickets to the premiere of High School Musical 3 and Jonas Brothers shows. (For better or worse, videos are solely hosted on the Disney site and can't be embedded elsewhere.)

My favorite youth panelist at Ypulse was Teens Turning Green co-president Carly Wertheim. Teens Turning Green is a national coalition of teenagers whose members educate their peers about the importance of making lifestyle choices that will help keep chemicals and pollutants out of their bodies and their environments. The coalition also advocates for policy changes. This year Teens Turning Green held a "Green Your Prom" contest, in which contestants uploaded videos to a YouTube channel. In addition to having its own cosmetics and body-care products line in Whole Foods, TTG also coordinates the campaigns Teens for Healthy Schools and Teens for Safe Cosmetics. Their work is a great example of how you can make a difference by making conscious consumption decisions.