Steve Jobs, Teen Idol?

Watch out, Justin Bieber, there's a new teen idol in town. According to Junior Achievement's "2010 Teens and Entrepreneurship Survey" the celebrity entrepreneurs that teens admire most are:
  • Steve Jobs (23%)
  • J.K. Rowling (17%)
  • Oprah Winfrey (14%)
  • Jay Z (13%)
  • Tony Hawk (9%)
  • Mark Zuckerberg (9%)
  • Russell Simmons (6%)
  • Stella McCartney (5%)

While we usually think of "fanboys" rather than teen fans when it comes to Steve Jobs, the reason for his top ranking is quite interesting. Teens, it seems, may not be as fame- or wealth-obsessed as our culture portrays. In fact, the reasons that teens admire entrepreneurs are downright impressive:

  • They've made a difference in people's lives (31%)
  • They've been successful in multiple fields (31%)
  • They've improved people's lives or made the world a better place (23%)
  • They are famous (5%)
  • They are rich (5%)
  • Something else (4%)



In light of these figures, it's no wonder that Steve Jobs tops the JA survey. Clearly, Apple's iProducts have revolutionized consumer electronics. Jobs has also managed to succeed across multiple industries including personal computing, software, telephony, music, and film (Pixar). And a majority of people would say Jobs' efforts have made the world a better place.

So one thing is certain, teens admire Steve Jobs. But there is a deeper lesson here for marketers, and to find it, we need only look back one year to JA's "2009 Teens & Entrepreneurship Survey" (PDF).

According to that survey, 51% of teens want to start their own business someday. Yes, 51%! Put the two surveys together, and a picture begins to emerge of a generation of teens who don't just admire today's entrepreneurs but who actively want to replace them. In fact, 47% of the 2009 respondents believe that starting their own business provides more job security than working for someone else.

The question for marketers who want to engage with the teen market is whether they are speaking to this entrepreneurial majority. According to the Kaufmann Foundation, youth entrepreneurs have a few key characteristics:

  • Curiosity about the world
  • Natural creativity
  • Willingness to take risk
  • Unbridled enthusiasm

Think about your own efforts to reach a teen audience. Do you tap into any of these entrepreneurial instincts?

Pepsi certainly has with its well-documented "Refresh Project," that is giving away $1.3million in grants per month to fund ideas that will have a positive impact in their communities. A quick glance through their funded projects reveals teens building greenhouses for their schools, spearheading public arts projects, and building new youth community centers.

Don't have $1.3 million per month to reach entrepreneurial teens? Then think about how you can inspire their creativity, recognize their risk-taking, and keep their enthusiasm high. In so doing, you'll not only keep this generation of teen entrepreneurs inspired to reach their goals, but you'll also reach an audience that includes their friends and support network. For as we all know, even Steve Jobs needed a few friends to get where he is today.

Justin Bieber, too, for that matter.

1 comment about "Steve Jobs, Teen Idol? ".
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  1. Byron Wolt from Speak to Students, November 12, 2010 at 9:57 a.m.

    Good article. It is good to see that entrepreneurs can compete with sport idols and pop stars for teenage repsect.

    As a person who speaks to high school students, I think it is important to understand that the traits of the youth entrepreneur - Curiosity about the world, Natural creativity, Willingness to take risk and Unbridled enthusiasm - are traits of youth ingeneral and if you want to reach a youth audience, you must create materials that to tap into those teen traits as well

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