News

TeenScreen Report: The difficult teen years

Teens. It's never been more challenging to reach this influential and elusive audience: not only are teen consumers becoming ever more sophisticated and skeptical, but now, more than ever, programmers must ensure that teen-targeted programs do not offend adult sensibilities....
October 1, 1997

Teens. It’s never been more challenging to reach this influential and elusive audience: not only are teen consumers becoming ever more sophisticated and skeptical, but now, more than ever, programmers must ensure that teen-targeted programs do not offend adult sensibilities.

In the ‘TeenScreen’ special report, we examine recent winners in teen programming and hear directly from those targeting today’s teensÑsharing their strategies for successfully connecting with the ‘arbiters of cool.’

* * *

Teenage years. More often than not, these words conjure up deep and often dreadful memories. For many of us, those recollections from adolescence are ones we’d like to forget.

With descriptions like immature, childlike and undeveloped, there is no wonder that the teen years are perceived as the most difficult time in our lives. Many of us don’t quite know where this period of life fits into the marketing scheme and haven’t a clue how to effectively connect with this market.

Who are teens? Technically, the term ‘teen’ refers to kids between the ages of 13 and 19. But is this a true indicator?

Perhaps becoming a teenager really begins in the double- digit years. It seems that since adult programming, from a developmental perspective, is quantified as shows targeted at kids at least nine years old, then perhaps 10 is the magical number that we should consider to be a teenager.

By age 10, kids are already watching adult programming. Unfortunately, and with rare exception, when television attempts to target teens, the programming rarely reflects teenage life in an uplifting, positive way. Too much of it focuses on teens in crisis, and the myriad social and emotional problems faced throughout this period in our lifetimes.

Television programs that don’t look down at teens or their lifestyles, and deal realistically (and positively) with the issues and situations that affect their lives can be both entertaining and informative to teens. Products that are marketed with the focus on the realistic product benefits also are more appealing to the savvy teens.

It is understandable that marketers have trouble understanding how to reach teens, since they are only just unraveling who they are and want to be. Yet, this elusive and lucrative teen market is sought afterÑand very often missedÑby manufacturers worldwide.

My favorite example of this lack of teen understanding dates back to the early `80s with the classic multimillion-dollar Gerber Products teen mistake. Because of its family branding, when the name Gerber is mentioned, we immediately think of baby food. A decade ago, someone at Gerber decided to make a foray into the teen market by creating a new product line called Gerber Desserts. Despite a teen-directed print campaign through magazine ads, the teen market just wouldn’t buy something from the company that gave them their baby food. You would’ve thought that Gerber might have anticipated this a little better after their mistake in the `70s of putting adult food into baby jars and calling it Singles. How many single people do you know who want to pity themselves by eating their meals from baby food jars!

The simple fact is that teens should be treated as though they are already adults. No one likes to be talked down to, so relating information to teens in an adult manner is certainly key.

Because of their numerous outside activities and schoolwork, teens don’t spend a great deal of time in front of the television. Teens do, however, listen to the radio, play CDs, use the computer and the Internet, go to the movies, read school magazines and newspapers, pay attention to school events, use the telephone as a social and information tool and read ALL of their mail. Reaching this youthful market is most important to marketers to establish lifelong buying patterns and brand loyalty, and connecting with teens in an adult manner is crucial.

By simply respecting the teens of today, and understanding their journey towards emotional and personal growth, the teen market can be better tapped.

Debbie Weber is the president of Multi-Media Promotions, which specializes in developing targeted marketing campaigns and creative programs that tap into entertainment licensing.

About The Author

Menu

Brand Menu