I was talking to a friend the other day about her daughter’s holiday wish list. A nice young girl from a nice family, not ostentatious at all. And yet, there at the top of her list were items from high-end brands like Lululemon, Michael Kors, David Yurman. Standard brands we associate with young, teenage girls, right? Wrong.
This made me wonder, when does the connection with luxury brands begin? And has the relationship between teenagers and the desire for high-end things evolved since I was a teenager?
I distinctly remember being 13 years old and wishing for, dreaming of, and coveting the Coach wristlet I got as a present one year. I would have done anything to receive that little labeled bag. What I carried in it I have no idea. But I know I desperately felt the need to have one of my own and thought that it would make my life, wardrobe, and social status a little brighter. So maybe the teenage years have always been the gateway for higher-end brands to work their way onto our “wish lists.” But surely, the way today’s teenagers are discovering and building relationships with these brands have evolved.
Studies have shown that, in the past, teenagers learned their purchasing skills when shopping with their parents. But this model has changed with the times. According to the Wall Street Journal, we have formally crossed the threshold — and consumers are shopping more online than at brick-and-mortar stores. So, as the retail space continues to fragment with the continued growth of online shopping, social commerce and in-app purchasing, how are millennials shaping their shopping behaviors?
With 51% of all purchases being made online, the majority of our behaviors, brand exposure, and wish lists are now created in the same space. Online. And teenagers are the most fluent in the language of our connected world.
With the onslaught of influencers, branded content and integrated campaigns, teenagers face brand messages in between every scroll and post, and as part of retargeting, almost every minute they are connected. I bet they likely don’t covet the items on their list more than I coveted my Coach wristlet, but my guess is that their list is way longer than mine ever was. Three hundred and fifty of the Fortune 500 brands have Facebook pages. Close to 400 have Twitter accounts. And, brands like Nike and Starbucks have more than two million and one million followers on Instagram, respectively. This means that brands can’t just exist in the right place, at the right time, as in my day. Now, they need to stand out.
Teenagers today are following a generation that has demanded value for their money and experiences. Take the lead of Lululemon. This brand isn’t just on teenagers’ wish lists, it created a specialized offering that is relevant to the teenage audience through their teenager-targeted line and retail stores, Ivivva. Ivivva basically delivers the exact product their moms wear but in a setting and with a dialogue specifically targeting that age group. As a result, Ivivva has delivered 37% increase in sales at a time when the master Lululemon brand has declined by three percent.
Or, be like Chloe and dress the trendsetters that appeal to teenagers with approachability, goodness and youthful maturity like Reese Witherspoon and Jessica Alba.
Or evolve with the times like Maybelline. At its core, it still promotes women being “born with it.” But the women featured in their campaigns have changed dramatically, taking on freer styles and more dramatic experimentation with color and cosmetics. Just like the young girls buying their products and tuning in to YouTube to get educated on the products and unique application techniques.
Ultimately, the holiday wish lists of today’s teenagers look a lot different. And in order to make the cut, all brands — especially the highly coveted ones — need to think of their strategy tied to teenagers from the ground up. Unlike the generations before them who looked to others for what was en vogue, today’s teens are into discovering trends and deciding what to buy for themselves. In order to not just to survive but to thrive, brands need to think about how teens first find them and associate with them, as much as they do the end product.