Our ongoing research, in collaboration with the Center for Media Design, compares how consumers communicate interpersonally versus how they want marketers to communicate with them. When it comes to teens, there is a marked difference in how they communicate on a personal level when compared to other demographic segments. For example:
As marketers, we know this stuff. But this is also where we often make a typically "old" mistake by misattributing the significance of these trends as they apply to marketing.
As we look at the communication habits of "old" people (i.e., anyone over 35), it makes sense that since they (um, we) use email for interpersonal communication that we also tend to prefer email when receiving permission-based marketing communications.
However, despite the fact the majority of teens communicate with each other via text, only a small minority (10%) want to receive text messages from companies. They are much more likely to prefer companies use email (64%) or direct mail (19%) to communicate with them.
"But teens don't use email and they don't read direct mail," right? Not true. They simply don't interact with these channels as often as us "old" folks, but they do transact as a result of these channels. When asked, "Have you ever made a purchase as a result of a marketing message you received through each of the following channels?" they answered:
As we look at the teen market, it's important to keep in mind the difference between "relative" and "absolute" preferences. Across the board, teens have much more favorable impressions of marketing through emerging channels such as SMS and social networks than non-teens -- but these are relative views.
When targeting this market, it is crucial to have a strong presence in emerging channels, but don't get caught in the relativity trap. In terms of absolute preferences, they are similar to other consumers in that they still prefer traditional channels for marketing communications and they are still converting through them. Note: if you are interested in reading more of these research findings, they can be found in our 2009 Channel Preference Study.