Whatevs… A guide to marketing to teenagers

Since Life Magazine invented teenagers in 1944, it’s become a tradition that brands (as well as parents, obvs*) fail to reflect and connect with “teenage experiences”.
Some might argue that this is down to the ever-shifting nature of teenage objects of desire and language. But here’s the thing: there are some elements of being a teenager that will never, ever, ever change. So I would like to propose that different brands tap into these elements for fool proof teenage engagement:

All brands: Arguing with their parents has always been at the core of the teenage ethos. So in this case, I recommend focusing primarily on the rhetorical question, a figure of speech in the form of a question that is solely meant to make a really annoying point. Teenagers will be asked: “Why isn’t there ever anything good to eat/drink/wear/play/listen to in your house?” They’re guaranteed to repeat the question ad nauseam to their parents, who in turn are guaranteed to sigh dispiritedly and eventually give in.

Food brands: Instead of focusing on the deliciousness of your product, focus on the potential for pissing off parents. Highlight the power of heaps of used burger boxes, apple cores, crisp packets, pie crusts and empty tins scattered throughout the house, as well as the ability to wreck the kitchen simply by cooking pasta (holding a competition to encourage teenagers to somehow get sauce on the ceiling is a sure-fire winner). Similarly, any teenager encouraged to drink milk straight from the fridge or leave teeth marks in the cheese will love your brand forever.

Telco brands: Reinforce the idea that their social life is paramount, and if they are forced to miss a party because they have to go to Granny’s on a Friday night then, yes, they might as well be dead. If only they had a top-range SingHub1 phone with all the cool stuff on…

Fashion brands: Just remember that no teenage girl will ever fully happy with her outfit unless she has made her mother scream. (Fainting is better, but screaming will do.) In the same way, reflect on the fact that no teenage boy will ever say to his parents, “Please don’t waste your hard-earned money on those expensive trainers. The cheaper ones will be fine.”

I believe such an approach will not only perfectly reflect the teenage experience, but will also result in significantly increased sales. It’s such a win-win, I simply can’t understand why brands can’t see it…

*My own teenage goddaughter who, out of respect for her privacy, I will refer to only as Cordelia, which also happens to be her name (I know; what are the chances!) informs me that ‘obvs’ is ‘totes lame’. “It’s sooooo last season, Auntie Henry.”

Henry AdamsWhatevs… A guide to marketing to teenagers