When Today’s Teenagers Become Tomorrow’s Customers


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Understanding Kids These Days

It’s no surprise that a 16 year old teenager is a valuable piece of market research data, because in just 5 years, this 21 year old young adult will have real spending power and will be entering our nation’s workforce. That is why employers and brand managers are scrambling to understand today’s teenagers, because they represent tomorrow’s customer.

Teenagers can be pretty stubborn: They don’t want to do their chores, they don’t want to study for tomorrow’s trig test and they certainly don’t want to spend 40 minutes answering a robotic telephone survey. So how exactly are you supposed to find out what teenagers do want?

Firstly, you need to start with an understanding of where they’re coming from. Where do they spend their time? How do they communicate with each other? What shows do they think are cool? What bands do they think are lame? Pro tip: those pesky whippersnappers don’t even call things “lame” anymore.

Therein lies the problem that parents and marketers have with Generation Z. Millenials, on the other hand, were possibly more predictable, and easier for marketers to cater to. Generation Z is no such thing. Marketers are still flummoxed by this non-conformist, independent group of teenagers that is slated to reach 80 million people when all is said and done. So, how does a marketer or brand manager go about marketing to Generation Z? Here are three crucial elements to keep in mind:

Teenagers Influence Real Spending

The most crucial aspect is to understand the breadth and scope generation Z. They seem tired of living in their older sibling’s millennial shadow, and are determined to set their own path. And though it might be easy to dismiss the musings of a teenager, check out these numbers first: 10% of adults say that their children (of the Generation Z variety) directly influence what they purchase. This is no small beans.

At 80 million strong and spending expected to hit close to $200 million by 2018, any marketer has to respect this group of youngsters. And the brand that gets left out in the cold will struggle for years to come. That is why any forward thinking brand must begin marketing to Generation Z – or at least begin to collect data on this fledgling group of kids.

Branding to a New Age Group:

Once a marketer understands the width and volume of these 80 million, they will have to respect their independent streak. This probably has more of an effect on employers than brands, but it is still a fascinating tenet. 61% of Generation Z would rather be an entrepreneur than an employee when they graduate from university or college. And even among the students – 75% of teenagers are interested in converting their hobbies into a full time job.

I would say that the takeaway from this is that employers need to offer more space, independence, and a self-managing style of a workplace in order to satisfy these future employees. And for brand managers, I think they simply need to convey a brand image of individuality and freedom. Those two values are likely to resonate more with teenagers.

Short and Sweet

The final tip revolves around the attention span of Generation Z. Though they are ambitious and forward thinking, they also live in a ‘now’ environment. In a world of apps and devices, teenagers desire solutions to be solved instantly with little patience for a drawn out process. Their attention span is said to be approximately 8 seconds. Now this doesn’t mean that a company should not create commercials longer than 8 seconds, but it does mean that certain elements of an ad campaign should not be circuitous, and rather brief, straight, and to the point.

Videos are an increasingly popular form of message delivery toward all age groups, but particularly to teenagers. That is why Snapchat hit the nail on the head and is now worth over $15 billion, all because they offer pictures and videos that last mere seconds…but capture an entire generation. (Imagine if Snapchat had launched in 2006 – it would have failed!).

Though they seem like a bunch of unruly teenagers with their heads in Instagram all day, Generation Z is a unique, crafty bunch. They want to change the world – but on their own terms.

Joseph Hellman-Benjamin
Joseph Hellman-Benjamin is a marketer with two roles: moonlighting as an editor for tech blogStartups #nofilter, and recently launched The Points King, a mileage broker website. Joe has worked with a number of small and medium sized businesses on their marketing copy, brand messaging, and website content. Feel free to reach out on LinkedIn!


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