In a recent article for Rookie, the online teen magazine, young writer Hazel Cills complains about how adults (particularly men) are dismissive of teen culture and specifically teen girl fandom. How can you take a girl seriously if she’s an unabashed fan of Taylor Swift and One Direction? Her complaint is the patronizing way adults “vocally criticize us for liking the things we like.” Just as frustrating to Cills is the demeaning way adults respond when a teen girl expresses her adoration of an “approved” cultural touch point, such as punk rock music, with “atta girl” permission but also with skepticism of how a teen girl could even know about or relate to cultural references from before she was born. Cills’s response says it all: “Dude, I have the Internet.”
Adults have a tendency to dismiss teen girl fandom, especially when we see it as glib or don’t immediately see why they’d even be interested. We assume their passion comes from a naïve, uninformed place (they just like what they like) or ascribe it to nothing more than a shallow bandwagon following (a ploy to seem cool). In fact, teen girls can be the most passionate, knowledgeable advocates. When something grabs their interest – a brand or band or cultural movement – digital natives that they are, they quickly become experts on the topic. They have ample time for research, clicking one Internet link after another.
A passionate fangirl is likely to be as informed as any brand manager about the history, mission, and nuances of the brand. Like it or not, once struck with love, she will turn into an online stalker (the good kind) and dig up every little bit of information she can about the brand to fortify her passion and help her to spread the word among her friends.
Teen consumers may not often be able to articulate why they love a certain product; “it’s cool” seems to be the most common answer. But ask them to tell you about the product they love and they will demonstrate the depth of their knowledge and unveil the reasons for their passion.
Brands are better off feeding that passion than hiding from it or dismissing it. A teen fan that feels ignored or cut off from a brand they’re passionate about won’t remain a fan for long. Growing up in a hyper-connected time with the Internet at their fingertips, teens expect open lines of communication with the brands they love. They also expect regular updates, which encourages their curiosity about what the brand will do next and gives them a sense of closeness to the brand as the first to know about developments.
The next time your brand encounters a teen fangirl stalker, don’t dismiss her as a crazed fan, but instead embrace her as the passionately informed brand advocate she is.