In the U.S. alone, teens wield more than $176 billion in spending power through their own purchases and their significant influence over the spending decisions of friends and family, according to the 2009 Global Teen Edition of the TRU Study.
By appealing to teens' desires to be mobile and remain connected, marketers can tap into a powerful demographic. Here's how:
Harness the power of peer influencers Teens place enormous value on the recommendations and tastes of their trusted friends or close-in-age family members, as well as the opinions of their classmates and their virtual peer groups on Facebook and Twitter. Teens also trust the opinions of other teens they consider peer influencers: often popular, confident, or funny teens who know about music, TV shows, movies or games, and are able to fluently and creatively express their opinions.
Marketers who understand the power and characteristics of peer influencers can tap into these groups to build brand loyalty and promote products, services or content among their peers.
Boost brand collaboration Teens are willing to invest their time in brand collaboration if it provides an immediate benefit to them, such as making content easier to access or less expensive, as in the cooperative effort for accessing movies between Xbox Live and Netflix. Teens also perceive brands favorably if they find them personally relevant or involve products or services they might use; or if the collaboration allows them to express their opinions or communicate with impact, such as the ability to talk to an MTV host live via Twitter.
Brand collaboration must have a clear benefit to be valued by teens. If savings and efficiencies are not clearly involved, brand collaboration risks being ignored.
Sell style, not just service For teens, the styling and features of electronics are virtually as important as their functionality. Design should be a priority in any technology targeted to kids, especially mobile technology that will be used or displayed in social situations, such as cell phones, smart phones and portable media players.
Offer free trials Free trials and other incentives are powerful ways to attract teen attention -- particularly in today's tight economy, when fewer discretionary dollars trickle down from parents to teens. Trials are frequently the way teens first experience new content before they commit to a purchase. Teens are also willing to accept advertising in scenarios where they can get content for free, such as on music and gaming sites or free video streaming sites such as Hulu, tv.com, or YouTube.
Talk to them in text Kids are talking this way on their cell phones and through social networks. Texting can be used and accepted to get an advertising message across --especially if there is a benefit, such as reduced phone bills.
Catch them with viral video Video communication and sharing are extremely popular, especially with humorous content. Getting teens to stream, share, and rate your company's videos constitutes both an endorsement and a way to build your brand via today's version of word of mouth.
Advertise across platforms Teens access content across multiple online media platforms, so advertisers should be there, too. Be present on social networks, content portals and search engines.
Reaching today's youth can be challenging -- but it's not impossible. Talk their talk. Know what they know. Understand what pushes their buttons. And embrace the fast-paced, electronic, mobile environment preferred by this new consumer generation to achieve notable results.