As the sun shines a little bit too brilliantly through the window and your silver-plated designer alarm clock blares, you roll out of bed. Being the troubled, sassy, and tired genius teenager that you are, you reach for your Sony laptop and hurriedly cram it into your North Face backpack. You smile at the originality of its buttons and patches that don street smart sayings whose purpose are to differentiate your black bag from all of the other clones that are seen in your schools hallways.
As you stumble out your front door, Diet Coke and Pop-tart in hand, you dont stop to realize that you are being sucked into a black hole that has made you and teens like yourself the biggest group of consumers in the entire world. Solely during your morning commute, you have been exposed to 115 advertisements, most of which have been targeted toward you. You have become so accustomed to the media and the advertising wallpaper that is plastered all over your world, that you do not take notice of the scams and the tricks that you are about to fall for.
Two weeks ago, you faintly remember hearing your mother and father talking about the newest baby boomers, but you had no idea what they were talking about. You figured that they were just reminiscing over their nightly brandy like they normally do. You didnt know that because the teen population has grown twice as fast as the overall population in the last decade, that you and your peers are the future of the marketing and advertising world. (Zollo 19) As you stare out the tinted window of your best friends Volkswagon Jetta, a billboard reminds you of last weekends party.
You can almost taste the Doritos and the Twix ice cream that they had served. You also clearly remember the hours that you spent looking for an outfit, and how you finally settled on an overpriced DKNY skirt because it showed the label on the front. Because it has become easier and easier over the years to reach the teenage consumer, all sorts of brands are taking advantage of you. Why did you buy that skirt even though the olive color didnt go with your highlighted reddish hair Teenagers do not realize the power that the marketing world has gained over their minds.
They have been brainwashed into buying and spending money since they were brought into the world by their excited and eager parents. The teen purchasing power has driven marketers and companies into actively pursuing this market (Zollo 303). Teenagers alone spent an overwhelming 540 billion dollars in 1999, which researchers believe is only the beginning for this no-holds-barred group of consumers. Because lately so much pressure and focus has been directed toward the teenage consumer, young adults and their parents must to be careful not to get sucked into the whirlwind of advertising and consuming that has taken over the market today.
Understanding the way that this group of consumers has slowly taken over the world is crucial to being a smart customer while living in this money-driven society. During the years between the Depression and the end of World War One, adolescents were no longer considered children. They had become bobby soxers, teenagers who had a voice and vote in their familys affairs (Palladino 99). For the first time, they had private social lives and expected higher standards of living for themselves and their families. Due to the sudden need for a social life, the quest for popularity brought a new market designed for teenagers.
Teens at this time were determined to be independent. (Palladino 100) The economic prosperity in the post-war world yielded personal freedom and enjoyment. Boys expected a car and a license at age sixteen, and girls demanded the newest makeup and trendy poodle skirts. The war had seemed to teach teenagers the meaning of sacrifice, but engage their appetite for clothing, records and other superficial and tangible comforts. Though marketers were slow to realize the need for specialized teenage markets and advertisements, they eventually caught on.
Advertisers were beginning to identify and create a specialized teenage market, and they were appealing to the high school students age-old desire for independence and separation to do so. (Palladino 53) Even Seventeen magazine had begun to publish articles on topics such as the fine points of intelligent buying. The task of getting advertisers to create teenage copy, or advertisements made directly to influence teens seemed impossible. If advertisers hoped to reach [teenagers], however, they would have to keep teenage tastes in mind.
In fact, in the early days, it was [a marketers] job to persuade ad agencies to produce specialized teenage copy (Palladino 105). But soon this undertaking would become the key to success for advertisers and marketers all over the world. Teens had only begun to realize their importance in the marketplace and use their prowess to begin taking over. Peter Zollo, president of Teen Research Unlimited, the first market research firm to specialize exclusively in the teen market, explains the change that occurred in the minds of marketers in the United States,
Even though the importance of the teenage consumer was identified somewhat slowly, they would still become the most amazing buying force that the world had ever seen. At a restaurant with some friends on a dark and boring Friday night, the topic of payment comes up. Your friend Peter, who has his own credit card, says that he will pay if everyone pays him back. As he signs his own name on the check, he doesnt realize that he is among the twelve percent of teens that have credit cards in their own name and one of the 45 percent of teens that have one in their possession (Parr 65). Jackie, his quirky blonde girlfriend, sits next to him.
The money that she hands him to even out the bill is from her personal savings account which is identical to those that two-thirds of her peers hold. Your other friend, Kirsten, begins to talk about what she bought at the mall last week. She spent 40 dollars in total, which is close to the $38. 55 that an average teen spends each time that they hit the local shopping center. In 2001, 31. 6 million Americans will spend $108 billion of their own money, along with 47 billion of their familys funds (AP 7H). While normal adults only go shopping 36 times per year, teens go a whopping 56 times on average (Parr 65).
The importance of the teenage market is so evident and prominent that it is inevitable that marketers will do anything they can to tap into this flow of money. Today, more than ever, teenagers make their own purchases, borrow money, and apply pressure on their parents to buy certain items; exemplified perfectly when a teen advises their seemingly ignorant parents on which computer to invest in. Households with one or more teens spend ten thousand dollars more per year than those without any (AP 7H). This statistic is due to the influence of the advisor role that teens have assumed regarding household decision-making.
Says author Lori Fransisco about this influence, With their own hectic schedules to juggle, parents rely on kids to be part of the decision making process. With so much access to information at their fingertips, todays typical kids are also a lot more knowledgeable about the products on the market, from clothes to technology (160). Teenagers need to realize that they have become an enormous market that has the power to make or break certain products. The expenditure of 58 dollars per week by teenage girls pales in comparison with the 76 dollars spent by their male counterparts (Zollo 9).
This money is most definitely influenced by the advertising world. Two-thirds of teenagers agree with the statement good advertising helps me make decisions about what to buy and good ads make me think or feel better about a product or company. There is undeniably room for improvement though, as only two-fifths of teenagers say that advertisers do a good job of marketing to their age group (Zollo 249). The significance of focusing on teenagers in the marketplace is so intense that marketers abuse their power and begin to take advantage of impressionable minds.
While the marketing world realizes the teen prowess in todays society, there are many rules that must be followed in order to successfully reach teens and promote a certain product. Teenagers are smart, and tend to understand their strength. [Teens] consider themselves immune to the tricks of the advertising trade. Bombarded from birth, they know they are being pitched to and are suspicious. They recognize their own power (AP 42). In order for teenagers and their families to understand the ways that they can combat the sales pitches thrown at them at a constant basis, they need to understand the ways that advertisers target them.
First of all, advertisers know that teenagers hate to have adults condescend upon them. Advertisers know not to talk down to teens and avoid slang. Using slang is dangerous because it is short-lived and can be misinterpreted or misunderstood (Zollo 260). Teens hate products with the word teen or teenage in the name, and prefer to be called young men or women. Room should be left for creativity and imagination as 84 percent of teenagers think it is cool to be smart (Fransisco 120). Psychologist Michael Schudson, believes that teens have a floating, unformed sense of who they are.
He also agrees with the fact that they try on several selves for size and are open to all and any suggestions from surrounding people or media. Schudson says, [Teens] devour advertising, and may be more susceptible to it while their identities are in flux (Farrington 6). Teenagers need to be cautious that they form their own identities, away from those that are supplied by the trials of daily life. Teens need to establish themselves without the noise made by the media and their peers. It is common that the most successful advertisements are those in which teens can see themselves.
Teen consumers need to be aware of this trap, and know that they cannot be encapsulated by a single advertisement or product (Zollo 262). Teens are avidly influenced by their peers. The most effective advertisement seems to be word of mouth and the direct popularity of certain products in the life of the buyer. Marketers like Kevin Umeh are wising up to the inner thoughts of teenagers. Through his 50,000 interviews with teenagers that his company executes per month, he has learned that People have been marketing to teens for years, but treating them like intelligent consumers is a new concept (AP 7H).
Teens need to follow the example of advertisers who have become smarter and more efficient regarding their teenage audience and begin to gain insight on the sales pitches that are directed toward them. Steve Goldstein, the vice president of marketing and research at Levi Strauss and Co, sees the impact of the media on teens today; These kids are extremely media-savvy. We have to understand what motivates teens and makes them buy (Parr 65). Todays media is a huge part of every teenagers life. Teens will spend a year and a half of their lives watching television commercials (Kilbourne 6).
In order to become smarter consumers, teens need to realize that they cannot believe everything they see. Marketers are increasingly coming up with ways to reach teens like never before. Teenagers need to see that they can overlook the fast balls the are constantly thrown at them. Teen power is most apparent in the entertainment industry. Teens obviously love to watch TV and movies, and have extreme impacts on a production. For instance, the movie Titanic earned 1. 8 billion dollars worldwide, much of which is due to teenage girls seeing it five or six times because of their idol Leonardo DiCaprio (AP 43).
When a teen relaxes in front of the television, they are contributing to the 11. 5 hours watched on average per week. Another popular medium, the radio, is listened to on average of 10. 3 hours per week (Zollo 89). D Smith notices the importance of advertising through the media when targeting teens, Many teens look for situations (in movies or TV) in which theyd like to see themselves. They may choose to copy clothes, language, or other aspects of that situation. Other times they like to create their own look. Teens today are not a flock of sheep, they are very media-savvy (6).
Eighty-five percent of teens say that the most effective way to reach them is through the radio. In this case, the inborn teenage love for music shines as an outlet for advertisers. Because increasing numbers of advertisers are selling products over the radio waves, teenagers need to beware and understand this method. Companies will fight to be affiliated with a local or nationwide concert so that their name will be associated with popularity (AP 7H). Also, because todays teenagers are the first generation that has grown up with computer and internet technology, they are totally comfortable with it.
This has proved to be the newest medium used by advertisers to reach their teenage consumers. A massive 19 million teens own computers, and 71 percent use the internet on a constant basis (Parr 65). Teenagers should also beware the advertisements that idolize celebrities. Teens need to remember that just because their favorite musician is shown in an advertisement, that it does not mean that he is using the product or even has any interest in what is being sold. He is doing the commercial because he is getting paid, and the marketers know that his appearance with their product will boost its sales.
As teens become gradually more materialistic, they ardently believe that looking good is a key component to being cool and successful (Zollo 122). As they identify themselves with celebrities or people depicted by advertisements, they are selling themselves short and causing harm to their self image. The media is an extremely prevalent source that is tapped by marketers to instill these feelings in teenagers. The more vulnerable they feel, the more likely they are to buy an advertised product.