As 2014 nears to a close, here are a few key trends that will rise to prominence in the coming year. These growing shifts are all intrinsically tied to teens’ cultural interests and personal habits. As their lives evolve and what’s cool is constantly in flux, marketers need to be on top of these changes in teens’ mindset and attitudes in order to find the best ways and most relevant content to reach young consumers.
A decade ago, it was common for teens to hang out in online chat rooms talking to random people about serendipitous topics. Eventually, social media replaced these forums, but chat rooms are experiencing a resurgence as part of the proliferation of messaging apps on teens’ phones. Services like MeowChat and FireChat both caught on for their distinct benefits — MeowChat is packed with cute digital stickers and FireChat lets users send messages even when they don’t have cellular or WiFi signals. But they also include popular forum features where users can join group chats based on being in the same vicinity or having common interests. As digital natives, teens are particularly intrigued by the random connections they can make via mobile chat rooms, using them to find new friends and even potential romantic partners. We expect that the use of messaging apps to meet new people will only grow in 2015 and beyond.
Teens appreciate it when brands remove the highly polished veneer in their marketing and advertising to “be more real,” as evidenced by the overwhelmingly positive response to Aerie’s new no airbrushing policy. In fact, the very allusion to perfection is off-putting to teens. At the same time, teens show a marked interest in being personally involved with the brands they love. The logical merger of these two trends is the inclusion of fans and actual employees, rather than celebrities and models, in marketing. The response to Alex from Target demonstrates the furor teen fans can build around a brand with a “regular guy” spokesperson, particularly when they organically nominate him or her. We will increasingly see youth-oriented marketing that leverages average people with authentic viewpoints rather than staged scenes.
Instagram With A Twist
Instagram has become a central focus in teens’ lives — it is the fastest-growing social network among 14- to 17-year-olds, with 59% saying they’re using it more than they did a year ago, according to the Cassandra Report. It’s among their favorite social sites because they are always finding something new each time they visit, and marketers have an opportunity to help keep it interesting for them. As long as brands stick with ethos of the network as an inspiring communication venue, teens welcome their involvement. To date, brands have found creative ways to use the site to offer games, innovate stagnant online product catalogs, and spark “flashtagrams.” Keep an eye out for more companies giving their followers fun and unique experiences on the platform.
You Are What You Ride
Teens and 20-somethings have made cycling cool again and bike lanes are popping up in cities across the country. The mode of transportation has evolved to become a mindset, particularly among teens who are foregoing getting driver’s licenses and latching onto two-wheeled rides. In response, established brands and startups alike are acknowledging this group of riders by creating products and marketing specifically for them. Levi’s added a Commuter clothing line designed especially with those who bike to school and work in mind. And the variety of clever new accessories and specialized gear for riders is booming thanks to Kickstarter campaigns and design competitions. Youth marketers cannot afford to ignore this growing segment of teens who take pride in the fact they ride and consider it an intrinsic part of who they are.
Teens have always been highly intrigued by new technology, even if they don’t always have the pocket money to be able to afford the most current devices. Oculus Rift is the latest to capture their imagination. Marketers are using the VR headset to give fans a branded experience that incorporates the technology, leveraging the excitement around virtual reality to give an aura of innovation to their own products and campaigns. This tactic not only allows teens to get hands on with the technology, but also extends the product experience. Such memorable, share-worthy encounters are will only grow in importance as brands try to make an impact with a highly sophisticated teen audience.