What makes teens tick – what marketers need to know about the cell-phone-obsessed generation

Teenagers love their cell phones, which makes mobile an excellent medium for brands to talk to their young customers, but only if marketers play by the youngsters’ rules, according to research consultants Frank N. Magid Associates.
To prove the point, Magid invited a panel of teenage cell-phone enthusiasts to a recent CTIA event Billboard Mobile Entertainment in Las Vegas to have their say and answer questions from the audience. mobiThinking quizzed Magid’s Jill Rosengard Hill and Kristin Dykstra on what makes teens tick.

Q1: What is the teen market and what are their characteristics?
Today’s teens are part of the Millennial generation. Millennials were born between 1977 and 1996, and they differ from other generations because:

  • they are confident in their ability to succeed
  • they are smarter than previous generations, achieving higher scores in aptitude tests
  • they are collaborative team players who think in groups
  • they like their parents
  • they are optimistic about their place in the world
  • they are not rebellious and tend to follow authority
  • they grew up with cell phones.
  • Q2: Why should marketers get excited by the teen market?
    This is a generation of cell-phone users – 90 percent penetration – and mobile phones are consistently ranked at the top of the “things I can’t live without” pyramid.
    Among teenaged Millennials (age 13-18) specifically, 69 percent say they text an average of 55 minutes a day, while 87 percent say they talk an average of 45 minutes a day. The cell phone is still primarily seen as a communication device, but 55 percent of teens say it also “keeps me entertained”, with a significant portion of this audience using their phones to watch videos, play games, browse the Internet and listen to music. With today’s tech-savvy teens driving the market, these activities will only continue to grow.

    Q3: What do teens like doing best on their mobiles
    Teens are using their phones for a variety of activities, from the most basic communication features like text messaging, calling and voicemail, to more specialized features like customizable wallpaper (66 percent), digital camera (64 percent), sharing/sending photos (56 percent) and calendar (55 percent).

    Magid’s 2009 Mobile Content Study finds that teens are interested in having music videos, user-generated videos and TV shows available on mobile phones. Anecdotally, we hear many teens talking about how they use their phones to listen to music, as well as to store and watch music videos. Additionally, findings from Magid’s Millennial Strategy Program research show at least half or more of all respondents listing downloading/listening to stored music, customizable wallpaper, digital camera/ability to share photos, and ability to share video as important or very important when considering a new cell phone.

    Q4: Are teens prepared to spend money on content?
    Although they see free as better, teens are not entirely against paying for content. The Magid Mobile Content Study found:

  • 72 percent of teens use mobile content regularly (“in a typical week”)
  • 37 percent purchased content in the past month
  • The average spend on content is US$18.90 per month.
  • Q5: What types of content will teens pay for?
    In the previous month:

  • 18 percent purchased games, paying US$7.10 per month on average
  • 17 percent purchased music, paying US$7.30 per month on average
  • 16 percent purchased applications, paying US$5.10 per month on average
  • 8 percent purchased video, paying US$3.20 per month on average
  • Music is the most frequently purchased content.
  • Q6: How receptive are they to marketing messages in return for content, information and games?
    Teens understand the purpose of advertising and know that it’s the price you pay in order to receive free content.

    Q7: What types of marketing message work well/badly with teens?
    We hear time and time again: advertisements that are annoying, intrusive and irrelevant are big turn-offs (for example, a flashing ad for wrinkle-removing cream was particularly unpopular).
    Teens grew up with email “spamming” and it has instilled in them a sense of skepticism and fear around advertising – many assume that clicking on Internet and/or mobile adverts and coupons will invite a flood of ads and spam. Advertisers need to work to alleviate this fear. Teens tell us that they want honesty – full disclosure up front – otherwise they’ll probably ignore the advertisement.

    For additional information on Magid’s research please contact:
    Jill Rosengard Hill Jrosengardhill (at) magid.com

    Don’t miss:

  • mobiThinking’s page of essential links
  • Five-minute interview: Juston Payne, John Wiley & Sons
  • The Top Ten mobiThinkers 2009
  • The insider’s guide to mobile marketing in Australia
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