If you have a product with a core target market of anyone aged 15-25, you’re probably finding them very difficult to communicate with. Unless you’re on Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter, you may as well give up. Many companies are sharing your pain. But one very popular and fast growing method, building on the concept of participative marketing, is the ‘brand advocate’ idea.

The role of a ‘brand advocate’ is to simply talk about a product or brand as much as they like through social media (aka Facebook, You Tube, Myspace, Twitter) and it’s gaining popularity for companies needing a new approach to capture an elusive market place.

Queensland Tourism is one well known example, with their innovative ‘Best Job in the World’marketing campaign. The winner, a lucky punter from the UK, gets paid $150,000 to live it up on a tropical island and record a video diary, write a blog, and of course, clean the pool. We all know how popular this campaign was.

Pizza Hut recently adopted a similar approach through Twitter, dubbing the program a ‘Twintership’. Essentially, they advertised for students to apply for a 10-12 week program in their marketing/PR department in Dallas where they were required to document their experience via social media. Whilst this approach is slightly different, its objective is similar in that it aimed to create an insider perspective of their brand and form a connection with their target market on a different level.

Yesterday I received a promotional email from innovative Australian company Red Balloon Days, calling for ‘RedBallooner’ applications via their facebook fan page. The company is choosing two people per month to test their products and write reviews. So you get a day spa package or wine tour or whatever you desire all in exchange for the power of your word of mouth (or, word of type). Red Balloon Days is known for their ‘ahead-of-the-pack’ thinking so this approach comes as no surprise.

Innovations such as Wikipedia and the ability to comment on news articles or blogs has fuelled the desire for unregulated involvement and exchange of information in online environments. The brand advocacy approach is one step further and the international hype surrounding the Queensland Tourismcampaign is testament to its popularity.

All of these companies have acknowledged that they need to think differently to speak to their target market and this is something we can all learn from. If there isn’t a media vehicle that directly targets your customers – think about how they behave, what they desire, and create a new one.