Young People Keeping Track of Their Pack

13 March 2013

Some of them are slobberers, some of them foamers, or they could be cubs. Young people heading out for a night in Wellington’s bars and clubs are embracing an innovative safety campaign.

Around 800 ‘stick with the pack’ apps have been downloaded so far. Anecdotal reports show the app is fast becoming an essential tool on a night out.

While strange wolf-headed figures have been appearing on walls around central Wellington, the specially developed free The Pack app is keeping young people connected with their friends on nights out.

One young woman was reassured her friend had gone home after disappearing from town and failing to answer texts. Another young man - one of the “more wayward” members of his group - was quickly found to be in McDonalds by his concerned friends. Groups of students have even been seen walking arm-in-arm chanting “stick with the pack” and howling.

Wellington City Council, in partnership with the Police and ACC, has run ‘safe in the city’ campaigns since 2007, targeting 18–25 year-olds going out in Wellington’s entertainment area. Previous campaigns have focused on variations of the ‘stick with your mates’ message.

Following research into these campaigns and the attitudes, behaviour and perceptions of the target audience, the Council invited university students to develop the latest campaign. Third-year Massey University visual communication design students were successful with their pitch and have developed all campaign materials with support from Council staff.

The research showed many young people have a powerful need to be part of a ‘tribe’ - a group of friends they regularly socialise with and know well. These tribes are made up of various ‘personas’ - leaders, followers, and differing character traits.

The research also showed communications need to be innovative, relevant, humorous and interactive in order to appeal to young people.

Using these findings, the students developed a campaign based on the idea of a wolf pack. The main message, ‘stick with your pack’, links to the idea of belonging to a tribe and builds on the messages of previous campaigns.

Linking into the idea of tribe ‘personas’ is a fun quiz where participants can identify what their role is in the pack. Based on answers to a series of questions such as “you’ve had one too many drinks - what happens next?” the participant is identified as one of five roles.

The roles are:

  • Foamer (feisty, likely to be aggressive)
  • Lone Wolf (prone to wandering and being over-confident)
  • Cub (the cautious follower in the group)
  • Alpha (the responsible peacemaker)
  • Slobberer (the messy show-off).

This helps participants become more aware of their behaviour and aware of possible consequences. There are also tips to help each persona stay safe.

The Council’s design manager, Brenda Costeloe, worked closely with the students. “This is the first time we’ve used this approach and it’s worked incredibly well. The campaign feels authentic to our target audience because it was created by people in that audience.”

“The students’ work on this campaign has provided them with valuable real-world experience of a social marketing-focused campaign, which could be very useful when they’re looking for jobs at the end of their degrees.”

The students, who were paid for their time, also worked closely with Rabid, the developers of The Pack app. They were even given desks in Rabid’s central-city offices to work from.

Rabid is a Wellington product development firm, specialising in online technology and mobile. Rabid provided the infrastructure for the project, enabling the Council to achieve more with its budget.

“This is a campaign targeted at young people that has been developed by young people - a company like Rabid fits with that approach. The app is the centrepiece of the campaign,” says Brenda.

 “It’s really smart technology - users invite Facebook friends to be part of their ‘pack’ for the night and can track their whereabouts through mapping technology to ensure everyone stays safe. It’s opt-in to ensure privacy and you can leave the pack at any time. A ‘wolf cry’ function enables pack members to send out a call for help to other pack members.”

The campaign also consists of a range of other marketing activities including outdoor media and giveaway information packs for students. Activity is focusing on a three-week period around student orientation. The entire campaign, funded by the Ministry of Justice, cost around $50,000.