Agency3 Communications

No Wasteland Here: the Teen Phenomenon

Do you know where your kids are? Judging by current marketing research, they’re at the mall or playing on the computer. Which means they are prime targets for advertisers around the country and the globe.

In the past few years, teenagers have become an increasingly desirable demographic segment for marketers and salespeople. More and more teens are acquiring jobs and, since few pay for their own expenses, have expendable incomes. Thus, consumer industries are beginning to focus upon aggressive marketing strategies to reach this group.

The quandary with these efforts lies in the fact that teens are among the most difficult segments to reach because popular trends change quickly. And, companies often cannot keep pace with the ins and outs of youth culture. Some retailers whose goods have been desired during one year have fallen into bankruptcy the next. Effective communication involving the younger market can be tricky and, if passé language or outdated ideas are used, deadly to a product. Are you hip to my lingo? (See what I mean.)

Teens are fickle and they alter their tastes according to the fashions displayed in the media. In the areas of electronics and other long-term devices—in contrast to the apparel industry—youths tend to remain more loyal to brands. Due to this fact, video game and technological-oriented companies are attempting to produce stronger product recognition and sales through placing their brands and goods within particular games. This technique tends to be more effective with younger males, as this segment is spending less time watching primetime television and more time on their Playstation 2 systems. Who knew 24: The Game was so darn addictive?

In general, teens are being targeted through television, magazines, movies, and the Internet. Retailers are increasing their Internet awareness and often conduct online contests and email customer tracking. Although most young people purchase goods using their computers, this practice is more prevalent among teenage boys because the items they seek, such as computer games and movies, are more easily viewed online through photos and information blurbs. Young women—who seem to be more trend conscious than older generations—often look to fashion publications and celebrities like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Vogue for their pop culture trends.

In the case of both genders, youth-oriented retailers promote their products through music, sporting events, and other areas of teen interest. Musicians and professional sports personalities can be seen in a plethora of advertising, ranging from print to radio to signage. Last year, for example, the Coachella Music Festival—a popular event involving alternative music artists—promoted their happening with an online game that challenged players to participate in various trials they could face at the actual show, such as mud-sliding and tent-pitching. Creative ideas like this one capture the attention of the younger audience, especially if they utilize teen-centered pastimes. (And it sparked my attention as well. Mud-sliding is more difficult than I imagined.)

Even though teenagers aren’t always listening to their parents, they are paying attention to eye-catching new trends on their favorite celebrities and in video games. If marketers wish to increase their sales to this growing demographic, they will also have to amplify their awareness of the movements surrounding the culture. If young people want to “hollaback,” then advertisers would be best to understand that term and use it correctly (if that’s possible). As it stands, the kids are all right enough to represent a significant force in the consumer market.

To find out more about the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, visit

Marcy J. Savastano