Teenage Clicks — a Digital Tribe on The Move

Posted: January 14, 2011 by FMstereo in Case Studies, Market Trends, Tech

Good or bad, one thing is for sure: the digital teen tribe is on the loose and it is powerful. Outrage from one side and total approval from the other—the debate on how kids nowadays interact, socialise, play and communicate with each other is always a heated one. When should kids be exposed to technology? The average age they get their first mobile phone is 8 years old. Too young? I don’t think so. Each major, cultural behaviour shift always has and will continue to cause disapproval from the older generation. People have difficulty with accepting change, but we need to realise an important thing: evolution happens all the time and we cannot stop it.

Today’s cutting edge gadgets will be everyday tools when our kids reach adulthood and they will consume media in a whole different way. I remember fondly when we got our first television. And oh my, when we replaced our phone from the booth at the end of the road to one that was at the bottom of the stairs. But teenagers today have all of that already in their pocket and more: a voice that wants to be heard and the power to influence. Yes, I am envious and no, I am not THAT old.

75% of today’s teenagers have a mobile phone and over the past decade the time spent with computers has tripled among kids age 8 to 18. Sophisticated, demanding, knowledgeable, quality conscious and brand savvy—today’s teenager is a mature and learned consumer. Really? Really. Their connectivity and the speed they share their thoughts with to their average of 300 Facebook friends makes them valuable ambassadors for brands. Why is that? Teenagers define popular culture, they are the next generation of consumers and unlike us adults who generally are preconditioned to judge and dismiss quickly, teenagers have an openness and willingness to try something new or different. This tech savvy teen tribe can influence a brand’s success significantly and it makes them into a highly targeted group. Brands want to be loved by them and are on the hunt for their love.

Teenagers are as tribal as ever and are influenced mainly by people their own age. 91% of children between the ages of six and ten think a product is cool because their best friend does. And 87% think something is cool because their friends or members of their family talk about it. Brands are starting to attune themselves to this word-of-mouth concept. Some in a good way and some in a bad way. Although heavily criticised, there is a range of marketing companies that are trying to cash in on and effectively bribe kids to write, talk and recommend products in exchange for free products or even money. I question a brand’s integrity that pursues this type of marketing. Should kids be marketed to by brands? We know kids care about brands but do brands care about them? One doesn’t need to resort to bribery to be successful.

Here is a good way: Proximity London turned the RNLI from ‘least known charity among youth’ into ‘most talked about online’. With just 12 DM packs, they generated nearly a million views, 8,000 texts and 150 videos across seven countries. How did they do it? Read their case study here.

There is a simple formula to follow in order to gain the teenager’s love:  Build on trust; then deliver quality, relevance and choice.

Start with focussing on your product. Have a good product and kids will talk about it. Facebook doesn’t spend much on advertising yet still 96% of teenagers aged between 16-17 use Facebook. Remember, no marketing strategy is a replacement for a decent product.

Engage. Teenagers today know they have a voice and like it when their feedback is being implemented. Involve them in your product development. Importantly, make it easy for them to recommend and share your product.


Cadbury’s Drumming Gorrilla ad didn’t feature chocolate but who cares it was entertaining!

Communicate in an entertaining manner but don’t miss to display your brand clearly.

Listen and Do as they say.

Invest into evolving your product, but stay true to your personality and character whilst doing so. Feed their need for regular stimulation and positive experiences. They can handle change a lot better than adults. The kids are fundamentally in control in this new environment and marketers cannot lie or deceive. It’s their territory and they rule it. So, don’t make the mistake and try to being ‘down with the kids’. Really it’s never a good idea – they can see right through that. Be and stay authentic.

Let’s get one thing straight here: technology will never replace human interaction. Not going to happen. Instinctively, we need the physical closeness of people around us. All that hysteria and worry about how our kids are not going round to play at their friend’s homes but communicate with each other mostly via text and Facebook messaging is quite frankly unnecessarily blown out of proportion. Technology has been changing our lives since the Mesopotamians invented the wheel. The difference is that today our living landscape is changing a little faster. Actually, it’s changing at warp speed. Studies show that Generation X does find it hard to assimilate and keep up (that would be me and other people born in the 1960s, 70s, ending in the late 1970s to early 80s). As early as the age of 2 years old, our kids are growing up with iPods pressed into their palms with Noddy dancing on their screens. Unsurprising that they accept technology as an everyday fact. Furthermore, their brains are exposed and trained to cope with this advanced, digital environment. For example, here is an excerpt from my friend’s son’s school report. His name is Jack Miller and he is 3.5 years old.

I feel we are growing a new breed. Teenagers and technology have become a driving force.  With their connectivity, huge network and insatiable desire for ‘what’s next?’ this teen digital tribe is introducing change to what we are used to from when we were their age at an incredible speed and with power. Brands understand the cycle in which they have to respond to teenagers, constantly stimulating this audience with better, more advanced and more entertaining features, thus sparking new ideas for products and communication channels. Brands get the reality: if you don’t want to be left behind, then move with the tribe.

About the Author

Alexandra Sanders is a brand strategist who is currently heading up the global creative team at Kyp, an international marketing communications agency, with clients such as Sony, BP, American Express, Novartis, O2, BBC, Shell and the list goes on.

in Popsop.com, published on 15 December 2010


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