marketing brands to teenagers in the U.K.


While researching teenage consumers recently in the U.K. I’ve come to some conclusions about how they prefer to be engaged by brands.

Teenagers are one of the most highly targeted consumer groups, due to their willingness to adopt new products and brands. They aren’t averse to trying something different or new in the way adults with preconceived baggage and strongly established habits are. The openness and energy teens inject into brands is a useful fuel in an adoption curve that eventually may stimulate mass-market success.

For the brand it is great knowing so clearly who you wish to reach and persuade. But the teen audience are formative adults who wish to impose new rules on brands. When ads transparently target them, by media and message, teens often find the brand invasive.

Teens are so aware they are being targeted by brands (hunted) they find a lot of advertising disruptive. This is because many communications tends to be interruptive, rather than empathetic with their audience and media surroundings.

I recommend brand managers and planners consider the communication preferences of teens that I’ve observed.

The Engagement of U.K. Teens With Brand Communications

While teens recognise brand communications often broadcast rather than interact, they prefer to be engaged by brands that let them consent and seek out more information if they are interested (e.g. especially by text message or email, not so much by post). They hate being door-stepped by brand salesmen rather than invited to share and participate in brand engagements. Consent allows them to explore a brand deeper if they wish to do so. This is often best experienced in a store, online or through experiential marketing. But can apply to movies, books, magazines or other media that allows the brand to provide a depth of experience.

Teenagers wish to feel more in control of their lives. As they mature, they move away from the influence of their parents and families and more into the sphere of their friends. During this change they are exposed more to brands through peer discussion and personal experience.

They very quickly come to value the empowerment they feel in being able to choose when and where they should engage with new people, products and brands. So offer flexibility in brand engagements and let them have control. Allow them to choose to access your brand where and when they wish to experience or engage in dialogue with it. Leave them feeling in control of their brand exploration.

Brands that reveal everything in their message lack mystery and teens like to explore. Teens hate ads that they perceive have been dummed-down or created to patronise them. They prefer to decode and conjecture what a brand wishes to communicate.

They wish to avoid the obvious and explore what a brand is talking about, so let them participate in your brand partly by letting them fill in the gaps and make sense of your brand world. They take pride when they feel they ‘get it’ while adults are left clueless.

Brands that promise and deliver confidence are especially powerful to teens. Brands that confer confidence within social exchanges (esteem) and their personal appearance are very important to teens, both for peer-group acceptance and for attracting a girlfriend or boyfriend.

They aren’t just into cool things, they know their peer community value brands that demonstrate authenticity, difference and authority. Confidence also may express itself in environmentally-friendly brands (which teens feel they champion) and through community engagement. Teens gain peer-group cache by joining in and being part of a group that confers self-esteem and confidence.

That last point is an important perceived differentiator amongst teens and how they see adults. They see adults as members of the herd, teens are members of confident tribes that confer distinctive individuality. They wish to be individual and yet popular.

If you would like to find out more about marketing to teens, I recommend a consultancy called The Youth Conspiracy. Their approach, called Gonzo Marketing, is refreshing and informative.


One Response to “marketing brands to teenagers in the U.K.”

  1. WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for opt-in email marketing

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