This is the last of three articles centered on teen-agers, The next article(s) will be on how teen-agers are impacting the economy. I didn't really know there was so much information to be found about teen-agers. It keeps me young just researching and writing about this topic.
But blogs can be tricky territory for online marketers because many blog sites are owned or run by individual users. These sites are often highly personal journal- based pages that are updated with no regular schedule and subject to the whims and opinions of the users. Many don't even accept advertising. All this combines to make them a less attractive opportunity for marketers.
Many industry watchers characterized teens as fickle, cynical and not particularly brand loyal.That's a claim Forrester Research analysts dispute. "Although they admit to shopping around before making a purchase, more than half of both younger and older teens agree that when they find a brand they like, they stick with it," the Forrester report says.
However, when it comes to trends and what's new the brand is not the issue it's all about what's hot at the moment.
Still, for the most part, teens are incredibly marketing savvy and by the age of 19 the average teen has seen roughly 300,000 advertising messages, according to Peter Zollo, author of Getting Wiser to Teens: More Insights into Marketing to Teenagers. Zollo is also co-founder and president of market researcher TRU.
To cut through the clutter-marketers need to develop marketing that doesn't seem like marketing, according to Boston College sociology professor Juliet Schor, author of Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture.
And while there are some common traits among teens, observers note that teens are profoundly accustomed to marketing and they can easily detect messages that are less credible. Most say resorting to stereotypical images will backfire. There needs to be a keen understanding of teen culture to develop messages that resonate with them.
Marketing to teens is all about inspiring positive involvement. That takes clever creative and a commitment to delivering value.
"It's important to speak the right language and use the right people," Ron Vos, founder and CEO of Hi-Frequency Marketing, a street marketing company, says. "If you stay true to their culture, it can be very effective."
Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety.org says marketers tend to approach teens in one of two ways. "Either they treat teens as kids, in that they should do what they're told, or they treat them like smaller versions of adults, in that they assume kids have the same values as adults," Aftab says. "Neither approach works with teens."
Because teens are especially adept at avoiding advertising through the use of pop-up blockers, marketers have gotten more creative in their delivery of their messages to this younger audience, according to a report by Forrester Research that highlights advergames, instant-win games, online coupons, streaming video ads and cell phone promotions as things that work with teens.
Teens have already been identified as music influencers and often the primary decision makers for consumer electronics purchases within their family's household, according to Jupiter Research.
But the real key to connecting with teens is to find the influencers within their peer community. The Jupiter report revealed that 17 percent of the online teens would qualify as highly active
online "influencers" who spend roughly eight hours per week on the Internet, engaging in the broadest range of activities.
More than half (53 percent) of the influencers are girls who actively shop and spread the word to friends about trends and products.
That's why viral marketing and word of mouth seem to be working. A recent study from eMarketer says, "For the most part, it works. Teens are active users of viral marketing tools like forwarding video clips to friends, using 'e-mail a friend' links, and sending e-greetings. They use tools like 'e-mail a friend' links on retail sites, wish lists, and IM when shopping to get purchasing help from friends."
Often marketing companies, such as Hi Frequency Marketing, will use an extensive network of teen influencers who are rewarded for promoting brands to their friends and acquaintances. But that can backfire if the promotion is uncovered or deemed fake.
Still some claim too many teens exhibited concerns that companies would steal their friend's emails if they used a "forward to a friend" feature common in many viral marketing campaigns. Teens have also expressed concern about cluttering up friend's inboxes as well as a reluctance to waste their friends' time by forwarding jokes and other things found on the Net.
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Freda Douglas is a published author. Her first book "Cherish the Past", still available on Amazon.com, was published in 2004. Her second book "Winds of Change"
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