What Will It Take To Engage Teens In 2011?

As one year ends and another begins, the all-important question on every marketer's mind is this: What is the next BIG thing? What will it take in 2011 to engage teens?

To answer that question, we have to think about where we are in the marketing world today. We know that "digital" is coming into its golden age, mobile technology is spreading rapidly, and social sharing is becoming more widely accepted. So it seems pretty logical that "digital environments" will take off next and will undoubtedly lead to a rise in digital environmental marketing.

What are digital environments you might ask? Well, they are exactly what you would guess - digital, non-physical environments, like those created through computers and technology. Through digital environments, people can interact with live space virtually. And if marketers find ways to break into these digital environments, people will use the technology for fun and convenience, but will be engaging with marketing at the same time!

And who better to adopt this marketing technique than teens? Teens are the demographic that looks at the latest, greatest, brightest and shiniest gadgets. They are the ones to deem whether or not these objects are "cool" or "uncool" as well. And if the objects are cool -- which digital environments certainly are -- teens will naturally respond and become engaged.

A few early examples of this interactive technique are augmented reality and QR codes. But think about taking it to the next level: Imagine being able to fully interact with a piece of clothing in a store, or at home, by simply using physical gestures. The clothing won't actually exist and will be merely a digital projection, but you'll get the same benefit as you would if you were actually trying it on.

The opportunities for marketers coming from this technique are vast. They would have the opportunity to collect huge amounts of consumer data, such as current teen preferences and spending habits over greater areas, with minimal effort. The intrigue of this technique would merit responses, especially from teens that "get" the technology and are enthusiastic about new experiences. Marketers could use these data to drive new initiatives.

So, how do we prepare for this up-and-coming trend?

1. First, think outside the box -- we live in the days of "if you can dream it, it can be built"

2. Encourage open-mindedness when trying to convince clients that this technology works, and point to examples like Fashionista's great augmented reality application

3. Be ready to move fast -- as with every other technology advancement the brands that place their bets right and adopt early will win big

There's no doubt that teens will play a major role in whatever the Next Big Thing is in 2011, and digital environments are definitely a frontrunner.

Tags: digital, teens
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3 comments about "What Will It Take To Engage Teens In 2011? ".
  1. Morgan Stewart from Trendline Interactive , December 23, 2010 at 3:43 p.m.

    Do you know if any companies are actually using the Fashionista app you mentioned? I'd love to check it out. After looking on tobi.com (which the article you reference highlights) and conducting a few searches, I still couldn't find a working example.

  2. Melissa Lande from lande communications , December 24, 2010 at 10:30 a.m.

    Cool and Uncool count but I think we can go way more basic. What are teens? They are hormone machines. All fashionista does is help them "attract" the other animals. I say go basic. And go basic with irony -- you know, like Bristol Palin lookalike in a Victoria Secret outfit. Irony is our greatest driver. Teenagers are stalkers too. While experiencing their hormonal storms -- they like role models. And who better than Housewives. Housewives? Of Beverly Hills etc? They are previews of a world gone awry 20 years hence for teens. They managed to snag the money, the job, the nose job-- and now they are still having heavy drama. What stalking nirvana! I won't moralize about this because it all sells and that's what we're talking about. But Cool and Uncool translated equal hormones, the hunt for sex, the drama after sex, alcohol, drugs and music. All related. The reality shows on drug addiction, spending to excess. All stalking. And then the emotional meltdown, the ultimate expression of teen-dom. Housewives are adults who make it all ok to be dramatic and seeing adults being like that sends a subliminal message of wither "It will be ok if I'm like that" or "I will be like that now but not later."

  3. Byron Wolt from Speak to Students , February 14, 2011 at 10:12 a.m.

    Very interesting take - and I agree. However, to me the key to engaging teens is to provide them with relevant content. NOT just relevant to what you want to sell them; if you have a product that they may be interested in, they will discover it themselves. NOT just relevant to causes they are interested in; if you have a cause they are interested in they will discover it.

    The key to me is to provide content for teens where they are in their lives today that lead them to content for where they will be or want to be in their lives. This requires a much deeper knowledge of teens/pre teens than the average marketer is interested in developing. The returns of speaking to teens v selling to teens is well worth it both in the short term and long term ROI and the building good will with teens and teen supporters such as parents and schools.

    Thanks again for the great article.