General Growth Properties `Rock the Mall' Gen Y program entices teens and increases profits.

"Here we are now, entertain us." - From the song "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana.

Anyone targeting the Gen Y crowd has to take these Nirvana lyrics, which became something of an anthem for a generation, to heart. In developing its Rock the Mall program, General Growth Properties did just that.

The Chicago-based company, which owns and manages more than 130 malls, devised the program to serve and draw the powerful teen demographic by inviting emerging bands to perform in 11 of its properties across the country. The two bands were Innosense and Dream. "Gen Y is very valuable to our business. Teens come to the mall 4.5 times per month and spend more money than their adult counterparts," says Cathy Domanico, GGP's vice president of consumer marketing. "They have an incredible amount of discretionary income, and we welcome them."

But the program also aims to bring together sponsors, GGP retailers and not-for-profit groups to work with teens, amuse them, educate them and stay on the leading edge of a trend - embracing and serving the Gen Y audience. The tour ran from Sept. 18 to Oct. 16, 2000 and visited 10 markets: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Orlando, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

Do something A significant component of the promotion involved band members and a Rock the Mall affiliate called Do Something going into local middle schools and high schools to send positive messages, such as not taking drugs, avoiding violence and gangs, and the importance of doing good in their communities.

Do Something is a non-profit network encouraging and helping young people to take action, volunteer and implement service projects in their communities. The tasks that members have accomplished include mentoring children and working on environmental issues. The New York City-based group is supported by several celebrities, including its co-founder Andrew Shue (a star on "Melrose Place") as well as MTV, Nike, Blockbuster, Rolling Stone magazine, Applied Materials and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

After the in-school presentation, the bands played at the schools and students were invited to the mall concert. The cause-related component was important to the whole strategy. "Gen Y is very conscious of doing good things for the environment and giving back to the community," comments Jeannine LaRouche, GGP's director of business development for consumer markets. "They're a special audience and the charitable cause portion of this creates loyalty with this group."

Instant gratification Retailers and corporate sponsors were also key participants in Rock the Mall. Prior to the arrival of the bands, in-mall advertising plugged the upcoming events, and retailers that are popular among the demographic - like Eddie Bauer, Guess and Old Navy - distributed scratch-and-win sweepstakes game cards. Pepsi, Fuji, the M2 Card and Sam Goody sponsored the sweepstakes while the prizes, including gift certificates, CDs and T-shirts, came from RCA Records, Sam Goody and Pepsi. "We know many of our retailers focus on teens and we wanted to make sure we were helping drive their business," comments LaRouche.

Beyond the bands playing, sponsors boosted the fun by running games like one-on-one hoops and a prize give-a-way wheel. Also, an emcee pumped up the crowd by asking trivia questions and distributing prizes to audience members who answered questions correctly. "We know kids are really into instant gratification, so we wanted to give away many lower-priced prizes rather that a few big prizes," comments Domanico.

Joey Char, marketing director of Northridge Fashion Mall, Northridge, Calif., calls the program "a perfect example of a well-executed promotion." At the Northridge Fashion Mall, traffic was up 11% the day the bands played, as compared to the same day the previous year.

GGP considers the promotion such a success it would do it again and plans more programming aimed at teens. LaRouche points out that Rock the Mall drove traffic to the malls, generated revenue for partners, turned a profit for retailers, and built a positive rapport with the powerful Gen Y shopper. The program drew about 7,500 participants and sales were up by about 10% on Rock the Mall days as compared to the same days the previous year. "We think programs like this add value for our customers," comments Domanico. "Because we know Gen Y is such a valuable part of our business, we want them to keep coming and to feel comfortable at our properties."

And what about that Nirvana chorus - entertain us? "That's exactly what a promotion like this does. You can pretty much do anything but bore them," says Char. "As long as you're giving them reasons to come to the mall - stuff to do, buy, see and hear, like this program did - it's a winner."

If you've never heard of superscript *Nsync, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera, then you haven't been listening to Top 40 radio, watching MTV or reading Rolling Stone magazine.

These four acts have changed the course of pop culture in the past few years, filling concert halls, selling unprecedented numbers of CDs and stirring teens into a spending frenzy.

superscript *Nsync's second album "No Strings Attached" set the pace with its late 2000 release, becoming the first album ever to be certified for U.S. sales of 2.4 million units in its first week by a Recording Industry Association of America audit. Then Britney Spears weighed in with her second album "Oops - I Did It Again," which sold more than 500,000 copies on its first day of release. And most recently, the Backstreet Boys' third album "Black and Blue" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 albums chart and sold nearly 1.6 million units in its first week of release. With CDs currently selling at an average price of $15 per unit, these teen dreams have proven to be golden geese for music retailers.

But music retailers such as Best Buy, HMV and Wherehouse Music aren't the only ones cashing in on these groups' popularity. Fast food titan McDonald's tapped Spears and superscript *Nsync for its Summer Music Event 2000, a promotion that lured consumers into restaurants with exclusive, low-priced CDs and videos featuring the artists. Burger King ran a similar promotion with the Backstreet Boys, and teen diva Christina Aguilera teamed up with Sears and Levi's to market CDs and concert tickets via specially designed "Christina Boutiques" in 650 Sears stores.