Magazine article Marketing

Youth Market: New Gadgets, Same Teenage Kicks

Magazine article Marketing

Youth Market: New Gadgets, Same Teenage Kicks

Article excerpt

Far from being a generation apart from their predecessors, young consumers are using new technology to do what they have always done. The key for brands is to help them get more from their conversations, writes David Tiltman.

For marketers the wrong side of 30, the past few years have been a steep learning curve. Social networks, user-generated content, web 2.0 - all sorts of technological newspeak has entered the marketing lexicon. Talk to some digital evangelists and you could be tempted to think that, thanks to technology, the UK's youth has changed unrecognisably from previous generations. But the results of a survey from MTV and Microsoft, revealed exclusively in Marketing, suggests that young Britons today are not so alien after all.

The study looked at the relationship between consumers aged 14 to 24 and technology. It interviewed 18,000 young people in 16 countries and found that globally, the UK's youngsters are some of the most immersed in technology, with TV, PCs and mobile phones all forming an important part of their lives.

Some headline findings underline the change technology has wrought. The average consumer in this age group claims to have 50 friends, of whom 16 are online friends they have never met; UK youngsters change their mobile phone handset more frequently than in any other developed market; and more young people in the UK use their PC or laptop to listen to music than their stereo - though interestingly, buying CDs still remains the most popular source of music.

Probe a little deeper, though, and a different picture emerges. When asked what they actually enjoyed doing, the top answers were listening to music, watching TV or DVDs, and hanging out with friends. Substitute videos for DVDs, and that's exactly what teenagers and young people have most enjoyed doing for decades. Interestingly, spending time online comes just ninth in the list. The conclusion is that technology itself is not interesting for teenagers; all it is doing is giving them an alternative method to do the things they already enjoyed doing.

This has interesting implications for marketers. According to VBS International Insight vice-president Andrew Davidson, who oversaw the research, teenagers' lack of interest in the technology means talking about it in brand communications is a mistake. 'Technology-led messages are one of the quickest ways to turn off young people,' he says. 'This is a point that is often misunderstood by marketers. They tend to forget what the users of technology actually want.'

Davidson argues that technology's biggest impact has been on sociability; specifically, the depth and range of friends young people have. Applications such as instant messaging, social networks and email mean that groups of friends can continue conversations when separated, and members of these groups influence each other on all sorts of issues.

MTV has already recognised the growing importance of these friendship groups in its marketing. A promotion around The Da Vinci Code film involved a pan-European giveaway of five cars. Rather than take the traditional route of having five separate winners, the competition gave all five cars to one person. The purpose was to give the winner the opportunity to reward his or her friends; the competition was the most popular movie promotion the network has ever run. …

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