Two Must-Haves for Effective Teen Marketing

MTV believes that, in order to reach teens effectively, you must “immerse yourself in their reality: in their music, in their art, in the things that they read. And if you see it or approach it any other way, and approach it as an anonymous, faceless, homogenous target market, then you will fail.” You’ve read it here in past posts.

This demographic is heavily fragmented. Softening your message and watering down your campaigns in hopes of appealing to the larger audience is a valid strategy in many cases. But it isn’t likely to work with teens. The best way to make an impact is to hone in on specific lifestyle segments. To do this effectively, there are two key challenges that demand attention.

The first is authenticity; one of the most important elements to truly connecting with these teen audiences. You are entering their world. They’ve chosen, for that moment, to eat, sleep and breathe a particular lifestyle. And they can smell a fraud from a mile away. You can’t build a campaign out of top-of-mind stereotypes.



If you want to create a real connection with these kids, you have to embrace their subculture. This is not the time to try to be all things to all people. Define and narrow your target and then take the time to do your research. Who are they? What do they do? Who do they spend their time with? How much influence do their peers have on their choices? Are they likely to be the trend setters or the rebels? Craft a genuine message that speaks to them honestly and directly, as individuals. That is how you build brand trust and loyalty with this fickle demographic. 

Take Skechers as an example. In 2010, they were ranked the #2 footwear brand in the U.S., right behind Nike. In spite of a significant legal snag in 2012, they continue to exceed expectations. When you look at their products and target audiences, it’s clear that they truly cover the spectrum. A few years ago, Skechers Sparkle Toes were finding their way into every little girl’s closet. Simultaneously, Kim Kardashian was publicly crediting Skechers Shape Ups with the toning of her assets.

Joe Montana rocked Skechers Relaxed Fit in a Super Bowl spot, to be followed later by Mr. Quiggly (the dog) promoting Skechers GOrun. And that’s just a snapshot. A look at the commercials page of their website shows more than 20 products and corresponding TV spots, all designed to appeal to a specific demographic and psychographic subset. Within the female early teen demo alone, there are at least four clear audience segments. Lil Bobs appeal to the heart of young girls (and their parents). Skech-air gives a nod to the more athletic type. Sparkle Lites and Twinkle Toes are all about the glitter and glamour. Game Kicks round out the collection, covering off on the playful, gamer kids. And this is just one piece of their audience puzzle. 

The second challenge is evolution. Brands that want to cover the expanse of the youth market have to acknowledge the quick and consistent evolution of the teen psyche. Their interests, education levels, likes and dislikes, degrees of independence are changing by the minute. To build long term interest and loyalty, you must be prepared to grow your products and marketing strategies at that same pace. Again, Skechers is a perfect example of this concept.

They have crafted a product ladder that consumers can climb from childhood. You can essentially wear a pair of Skechers from your first step right through to your last breath. In the same way that the Game Kicks product, creative campaign and media placement strategy speaks authentically to 13-year-old girls today, the Skechers Sandals product and campaign is primed to speak to those same girls a few years down the road as they mature and their interests change. 

Skechers is in a key position to build relationships with consumers at a young age, through both their products and their hyper-targeted campaign strategies, and grow alongside those consumers well into adulthood. Of course, not all business can make this kind of investment or dive this deep. But it’s a great illustration of the hyper-targeting concept and it has definitely paid off for this brand.

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