Avoiding “Jackie Paper” Syndrome

As the app space has matured, marketers have become savvier about the cost of acquiring loyal customers. There’s one notable exception: those marketers who are targeting tweens and teens. This group is apparently happy to be in constant customer acquisition mode, forever welcoming new customers through the front door while watching them exit through the back. This is Jackie Paper syndrome.

For those of you unfamiliar with Jackie Paper, I suggest you listen to Puff the Magic Dragon. In the song, “painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.” That’s what happens every day as hard-won customers age out of services and move on. Somehow, this just doesn’t seem to make sense. Sure, there are some products that are designed for people of certain ages (baby food, Depends, etc.) but apps and social platforms don’t need to be among them, do they?

While COPPA does draw a bright line between teens and not quite teens, it seems silly for companies catering to young people not to have a plan for carrying those customers forward into their teen years and beyond. This is a classic example of Jackie Paper syndrome. Once good money has been invested in attracting young consumers, why not create a path forward to maintain those relationships?

This seems to be a sensible approach but one rarely taken. As digital platforms and services become ubiquitous for young and old alike, creating services that comply with COPPA and are open to everyone seems like a pretty obvious idea. What stands in the way of this happening? It isn’t the technology or the ways the technology is used. In the end, it seems to boil down to the odd belief that experiences designed for tweens and teens have no place in the adult world.

How absurd.

While not many adults or older teens are going to sign up for sites or services that are clearly designed for young teens, kids who want to get involved with social are in a quandary. They can either a) stick to kids-only services or b) lie about their ages. If they take the first approach they’re going to find themselves segregated in the magical land of Honah Lee (another Puff the Magic Dragon reference FYI) that they’ll soon outgrow. If they choose the second approach they’ll find themselves trying to reconcile reality with the fiction the created when they were underage.

Is there a problem with finding yourself in an age-specific realm? Not necessarily. The biggest issue is attempting to transpose that persona once the post-COPPA world becomes a reality. All of the content and connections crafted as a tween fall by the wayside once the COPPA barrier is breached. The result is inconvenience as a new service needs to be identified and a new identity established.

Perhaps this isn’t that big a deal. Perhaps kids under 13 welcome the opportunity to reinvent themselves when they cross the magical threshold into their teen years. Perhaps all of the content and all of those connections lose their meaning overnight. Perhaps, but probably not. Marketers need to rethink their relationships with the tween and early teen set.

There’s nothing to prevent the creation of a social app that’s open to everyone. Such an app – one that provided all of the capabilities that consumers have come to expect from a social platform – could be crafted in a way that is age-agnostic. Taking this approach would allow marketers to treat their relationships with tweens and teens as extensible rather than temporary.

This approach would also allow young people to preserve and expand their online identities from the present into the future. Does this mean all members should be treated identically regardless of their age? Not at all. The fact is people of different ages have different expectations around privacy and the social experience, but those differences can be expressed in a single app rather than discreet ones based on age.

Given the cost of acquiring a customer, and the growing focus on customer lifetime value, falling prey to Jackie Paper syndrome seems a shame. It will also lead to marketers’ tears – like Puff’s green scales – falling like rain.

This post originally appeared on MediaPost Engage:Teens.

WebInno43 – It’s Almost Here!

With just hours to go, I’m running out of time to share my take on the eight companies presenting at WebInno43. As usual, the event will be at the Royal Sonnesta in Kendall Square. Things kick off at 6:00PM. You can register here for an event you’re bound to enjoy.

As usual, the evening will be include main dish companies that present to the group, as well as side dish companies that will be demoing their technology. There’s a good mix.

Main Dish Companies

Dunwello. Give and receive reviews of professional experiences you have with others. Hmmm, there’s something about that description that’s confusing. I understand how I might give a review of a professional experience I’ve had but I’m not sure how I might receive a review of a professional experience I’ve had. I suppose if I were talking to myself but I don’t think that’s what Dunwello is all about.

The real idea here seems to be about rating and being rated for a service. I say, “seems” because I wasn’t actually able to do that. While I was able to register I wasn’t actually able to look anyone up. That is until I logged out of the system. Then I was able to search for and see comments. It seems like a problem that will be ironed out at some point.

The sample feedback provided on the site gives a sense of the tone they’re hoping to achieve. The posts are brief and have a personal feel. I like them and the idea and was a bit surprised that others aren’t doing this already. Maybe they are and I missed it?

Knockey. No Installation Keyless Entry System. This site is super thin on details. Here’s all it says:

No installation keyless entry
Knockey is a patent – pending keyless entry system. Securely control and share access to your home without installing anything.

That’s it. It’s pretty self-explanatory but I still had a lot of questions, like “How does it work?”. It sounds cool, that for sure, like magic. So I can unlock my house – or let someone else unlock my house – from my phone? I’ll be honest, I don’t really carry a lot of keys. Just my car key. Oh, and I have a garage door opener in my car – that’s how I get into my house. If I don’t have my car I know there’s a key stashed somewhere. If I’m in a total bind there’s a window or two I could break. I hope it doesn’t come to that. Geez, I hope Knockey works, it could save me a bundle in glass replacement costs. Please! Knockey! Tell me your secret! I promise I won’t tell. Just let me get into my house!

Villy. Find the Best Neighborhoods and Hotels for You in X. I remember years ago, Wendy and I were living in San Francisco and we decided to spend a long weekend in Monterey. This was years ago and the Web wasn’t really a thing just yet. We looked up hotels, saw photos on rudimentary sites and booked one that sounder pretty good. When we arrived we found the place was a dump. It was right on Route One and was dark, dank and stinky. We were able to cancel our stay and moved on to greener pastures. I’d say we were pretty lucky.

Imagine how much it would have sucked if that was it. If we had no choice but to stay. That kind of thing happens all the time but thankfully Villy is there to help. The site asks a few simple questions – what activities are you interested in, who you’re traveling with and how much you want to spend per night. It then spits out suggestions that seemed pretty good to me.

It isn’t just a list of hotels though; it starts with the neighborhood and then tells you how well it ranks in terms of the things you said were important. For me it recommended Marais /Beaubourg /Notre Dame de Paris based on the concentrations of restaurants, bars, museums and finally shopping. It then suggested a hotel in the neighborhood based on my price range.

The site has all kinds of tools for planning – and sharing – vacation ideas. I think it’s pretty slick and I can only wish it had been around 20 years ago so I might have avoided trouble in Monterey. It’s a cool site and definitely my favorite of the main dish companies.

Side Dish Companies

BioBright. Open Source Tools for Laboratories and Medical Devices. When I saw the name I assumed the company was involved with some kind of bioluminescence. No such luck. Instead the company creates and hardware and software for data collection and visualization. The company sounds pretty dry (“Without a seamless way to monitor the context of an experiment, biomedical experimentation is cumbersome, and scientists’ minds are too often clogged with procedural details rather than profound insights.”) but what they are working on is pretty serious and important. It’s hard to imagine how they’ll turn heads at WebInno but for the right audience this is pretty cool stuff.

Certus. Secure, password-free log-in. There’s no doubt that security is a big deal for every kind of site you can think of. I’m used to trying to remember what my passwords on a regular basis. Frankly, I’ve resorted to either writing them down or relying on formulas that let me remember them easily. (Things like the first three digits of my childhood phone number, the first initial of all my dogs’ names and the month and year I created the password.) Certus thinks they can go one better by using a person’s smartphone to enable multifactor authentication.

I’ve worked with clients in the multifactor authentication space in the past and agree that the combination of something you have and something you know if pretty strong. I sure wish Certus could make the case in clearer language. For them to describe how their technology works it takes five steps and more than 200 words. A picture (and not the one that’s there now) could go a long way toward making their case. I hope they’ll figure out how to tell their story so people get it quickly and get on board.

Elsen Trading. I visited the site the other day and found the company was doing algorithmic trading. At least that’s what I remember. When I went back to the site just now to write about it I found something pretty cryptic:

Welcome to nginx!
If you see this page, the nginx web server is successfully installed and working. Further configuration is required.
For online documentation and support please refer to nginx.org.
Commercial support is available at nginx.com.
Thank you for using nginx.

I’m assuming that message isn’t meant for people like me. Let’s get it together Elsen, people want to know what you’re all about!

Experfy. Data. Analytics. BI. Basically Experfy is a clearinghouse designed to help organizations find qualified data scientists, and for data scientists to showcase their abilities. It seems cool. Since I’m not a data scientist all I could feel was bummed out that I wasn’t a data scientist because some of the jobs and projects on the site seem pretty damn interesting.

LifeGuides. Save time, money, and stress by learning from those who have been there, done that. Somewhat reminiscent of Villy, LifeGuides extends the idea to every facet of your life. The basic idea is for people who have done something to share what they have learned with others curious about following that path. The site has only a handful of guides at this point and few of them caught my attention. I found the images associated with each guide to be bizarre. For example, the guide for “A career in consumer packaged goods” was represented by a bucolic waterfall, while “Interacting with your first boss” and “starting a career in healthcare in the US” were both adorned with an expanse of pine forest overlooking a lake and distant mountains.

These strange pairings made me feel as though I was being treated to a mysterious visual haiku. I never understood what they meant and that search for meaning distracted me from the actual service of the site. When I did manager to get beyond that I felt like this was trying to replicate the informational interview but in an overgeneralized way. The fact how you interact with your first boss is going to depend on who they are, who you are, what type of organization you’re working in, what your plans are for your position in that organization and a ton of other things that are going to be situational. It’s tough to try to make all of that information general. Check it out but I don’t see this as a replacement for actually talking to someone in person, over email or though social channels.

That’s it for me. I hope you found some of this helpful. The event should be good and you should come and check it out.