Teens are the gatekeepers of cool, always willing to try new things and setting the standard for what’s hot and what’s not. They are early adopters and an important barometer for brands. Following are a few trends we’re seeing take off with teens, pointing to what will be hot or not on the horizon. While some present challenges for youth marketers, some also offer opportunities for us to better understand and reach today’s teens.
1) The End Of Oversharing
As teens migrate from Facebook to new social sites like Tumblr, SnapChat, and Vine, the effect is that they’re actually saying much less online. Instead of lengthy status updates that lead to drama, they’re posting an image with a hashtag or a mini video with a brief caption. What’s more, many of their posts are merely re-posts of something they found online or in another person’s stream, occasionally adding their own quick quip about the image or video. For teens, social media has become less about their personal lives and more about their personal interests and staying in the know. Youth marketers no longer have mountains of verbatim data to dig through to understand teens’ lives, but instead we can study the trends on these new forms of social media to form a picture of what teens are most interested in.
2) The Use-It-Then-Lose-It Mentality
Teens have come to prefer when things aren’t permanent, a behavior they’ve learned from apps like SnapChat that erase their old messages. That coupled with Millennials’ general disinterest in “owning” items from cars to clothes to movies makes teens a unique type of consumer. Teens are less attached to possessions (well, except for their phones) because they know they can always find a way to get what they need when they need it. And after an item has served its purpose, they don’t want it cluttering up their lives or becoming a burden of responsibility. When they want a special dress for prom, they’re perfectly happy renting it rather than buying it. Instead of owning a bike to ride around town, they’re hopping on rental bikes that free them from the hassle of maintenance and alleviate worries of bike theft. This trend means brands targeting teens need to be able to deliver popular products in a just-in-time fashion, while also making it easy for them to get rid of the item when they’re done with it.
3) Tuning Out TV
At the recent Business Insider Ignition conference, we asked a panel of nine teens if they watch TV – only three raised their hands. That’s not to say they never consume TV shows. The teens quickly explained that there are very few shows they care to watch live (such as “The Walking Dead”), instead preferring to watch shows on Netflix or other online sources. And they’re quite content to watch on a computer or tablet instead of a big screen. Watching TV in the traditional sense seems archaic to teens; they can’t fathom the concept of sitting through commercials or having to wait until the next week to see what happens. One girl on the panel said that she put off watching “Breaking Bad” when it aired on TV so she could binge-view later when it arrived on Netflix. Teens’ dislike of traditional TV makes it harder for marketers to reach them with commercials, but on the flip side, teens’ engagement with shows during on-demand and binge viewing sessions means product placements can be more impactful.
4) Spy-Level Technology
It’s no secret that teens are attached to their phones, but now their phones can literally be attached to them! The wearable tech market has expanded from devices that track athletic performance to iPod Nano watches to Google Glass; it was only a matter of time until a tech company gave us a device that could make even James Bond jealous. Items like Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear make it possible for teens to strap their favorite device right to their wrists, bringing social media updates, text messages, and all their favorite music even closer than the palm of their hand. Considering the popularity of the iPod Nano watch among younger consumers (a teen boy once told me it was his most prized possession), we see this type of technology being a big hit with teens who will look forward to more ways to wear their phones. For marketers, these personal portals represent yet another (tiny) screen for advertising messages. However, tread carefully – teen consumers aren’t happy when devices that feel so personal are taken over by ads.
5) Random Is The New Funny
Humor has always had a strong influence on teen consumers, but lately it’s taken on a whole new tone. While adults scratch their heads at the latest video from Ylvis, teens (and the rest of the youth population) are cracking up. Random humor has become mainstream and youth marketers are starting to use it to great effect, from Skittles’s long-running campaign to Kmart’s recent commercial puns to the Dodge Durango spots featuring Ron Burgundy. The tactic is key for youth marketers today; with teens’ media saturated lives, it takes random, unexpected humor to grab their attention. This trend gives marketers the freedom to try just about anything in their ads, which can be a blessing (when an idea works) and a curse (when a concept falls flat). As an added bonus for advertisers that take the risk and succeed, teens love to share random humor, helping to spread the marketing message.