Crushes are a powerful thing. Teens might find themselves totally smitten with that cute guy or girl sitting two desks away in math class. Or maybe just the hot new band everyone was talking about at lunch. But as Valentine’s Day approaches, we’ve been thinking about a very specific form of young love: brand crushes.
Which brands do teens love most? And what makes them crush-worthy? To peek inside young hearts, we reached out to nearly 30 teens and asked them to name their favorite brands. The answers ranged from Michael Kors and Sephora to Converse and Brandy Melville. But the most popular answers include some names you’d probably guess: Vans, American Eagle, Forever 21, Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch.
It’s the crush-worthy factor all these brands share that makes things interesting. Teens fall for brands they perceive as original. They’re looking for a brand that can help them discover their own unique style among its product choices. Once teens hit on this personal style, they view the entire brand as unique. The brand becomes something teens relate to and can use as a tool to define themselves.
Teens hinted at this truth in our research. Samantha, age 14, told us she loves Converse because of its “originality.” Other teens talked about their favorite brands helping them “add to my fashion and flair” or “show my personality.” Young people also place a premium on variety. Several teen girls told us they loved the range of styles at stores like H&M, Forever 21 and Brandy Melville. These large product selections give teens more choices as they mix-and-match to discover their unique style.
The most popular teen brands already leverage this originality X-factor. American Eagle is running a campaign called “Project Live Your Life.” It features video and blog profiles of young people, who were voted in by American Eagle fans, talking about what makes them individuals. In one profile, Malia, a young surfer from Hawaii, tells American Eagle that her style says, “I’m free, I’m myself.”
Other popular teen brands echo these same themes. On YouTube, Forever 21 features mini-video documentaries about its models. Miles talks about creativity and being a painter while Chelsea shares her views on style. She praises Forever 21 for offering enough options to allow people to “express whatever your style is.” And she shares a piece of advice her dad gave her, “It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it.”
There’s also a big payoff for giving teens more tangible ideas and ways to express themselves. OPI, the nail polish brand, allows teens to virtually try on colors from its vast palette online. And celebrity endorsements, ranging from Selena Gomez to Mariah Carey, provide more color and design inspiration. Converse takes things a step further and allows teens to customize sneakers with an online design tool billed as “Start an Original.” The brand also underscores its creativity by sponsoring a live digital design tournament called Cut&Paste.
These brands have cracked the teen code for being crush-worthy. Have you? How is your brand helping teens express themselves?