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Leah Thiffault

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For Teens (and Brands) Back to School Shopping Means More Than Just a New Trapper Keeper

For teens, the ritual of back-to-school shopping is born from necessity. Growth spurts mean new kicks are a must and advanced math class requires a graphing calculator this year. But the BTS ritual satisfies needs beyond practical considerations. What teens wear, the electronics they use, the backpacks they carry are all means of defining their identities ' both to themselves and to their peers. BTS shopping provides teens with a unique, once-a-year, opportunity for self-expression and reinvention. Teens as Purchase Influencers It's generally parents that control the purse strings for BTS shopping, but the teens still do their best to run the show. After all, does mom really know that boldly-colored skinny jeans are the 'it' item teen girls must have for BTS? Teens report that they strongly influence BTS purchase decisions across categories, and their influence only gets stronger as they approach college age. Teens have even more control over their own discretionary spending. A recent study conducted by Piper Jaffray concluded that teens discretionary spending in categories like fashion, cosmetics, and electronics is projected to increase in 2012. If this projection comes to fruition, it will mark the first upswing in teen spending in over a decade. Think like a Teen Teens' influence over BTS purchases and increased discretionary spending this year means that they are not an audience marketers should ignore. Thinking like a teen can help brands' communications make an impact with this audience. A great deal or promotion, for example, allows teens to stretch their limited discretionary money further. A compelling deal also makes convincing parents to purchase a specific brand much easer. When it comes to placement, remember that this generation of teens is digital natives ' they've grown up using the internet and digital devices. Social media is a great vehicle for getting teens to encounter your brand's communications in the course of their daily Facebook browsing. Fads and Functionality The teen demographic is a worthwhile focus for marketers. Successful efforts can be achieved by leveraging knowledge about teens' BTS purchase behaviors. Brands should think like a teen, remembering that their BTS shopping is motivated by desire to express their identities and align themselves with what's en vogue. But don't forget about the parents! Communication must also appeal to these more rational primary purchasers via performance claims, product functionality and affordability.

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