Last night's Hannah Montana concert at the Van Andel Arena was an example of corporate marketing to kids in action.
First, there's Hannah/Miley Cyrus herself. She's a Disney Channel creation and production. Disney owned the pre-show entertainment and showcased its stable of young, talented teens and young adults through music videos. You could see Disney recording artists Ally and AJ, Corbin Bleu, and the cast of High School Musical, among others.
But that wasn't the first marketing touchpoint. Outside the arena a group of sharp twenty-somethings with messenger bags were passing out samples of Lemonheads, which they said were Miley's favorite candy. These folks filled my kids' coat hoods with samples — we easily carried in 70 or 80 packs of candies. My children, after being assured it was OK to take candy from these strangers, asked why they would give away so many. My answer? The sooner they emptied their bags, the sooner their jobs were done!
Once inside the arena, there was a flier on every seat with information on how to see photos from the concert and create their own Hannah Montana Concert Memory Book, sponsored by HP. During the pre-show videos, there was a spot saluting teachers, with Miley Cyrus encouraging people to join OfficeMax in an adopt-a-classroom program to outfit schools.
Midway through the performance, Miley told the audience they were helping make a difference because $1 of every ticket purchased was going to support City of Hope.
On the way out, we got a flier about Disney channel stars appearing at Saturday's Grand Rapids Griffins hockey game.
This was the most sophisticated marketing effort I've seen at a concert, even during tours underwritten by a national sponsor. My kids and niece didn't flinch at any of this, since they've been marketed to practically since they were born.
The concert itself was a blast. Yes, thousands of screaming fans (mostly girls under the age of 10.) Miley Cyrus delivered a strong, upbeat performance as Hannah Montana and herself. She had a solid band behind her and eight dancers who brought a lot of energy to the stage. It was very refreshing to see a show where kids were dressed like kids (the most skin shown on stage was a few inches between Miley's cycling shorts and her above-the-knee socks) and the dancing was fun and energetic rather than something you'd want to shield your children's eyes from.
The Jonas Brothers as opening act and mid-show entertainment while Hannah turned into Miley were OK — they're cute teenage boys who sing a bit and jump around the stage a lot. I considered them the screaming warmup for Hannah.
There was unprecedented gridlock downtown an hour before the concert and parking issues, but it was something I know my girls and their cousin will never forget. After all, I remember my first big concert (Jackson Browne) and how excited I was to go and be part of the music and energy. Stop snickering right now….it was the '70s and I was in a moody, mellow teenage sort of place. It was a phase, which is exactly what Hannah Montana will be for many who attended the show — a sweet memory of childhood in the new millenium.