Speaking to attendees at last week’s IFT Wellness conference in Chicago, Jeff Hilton, chief marketing officer for Integrated Marketing Group (IMG), said that teens exist in a “four screen world”, with their attention divided between mobile phones, tablets, TVs, and computers.
Data indicates that 77% of the times people watch TV, they do so with another screen in the room, he noted.
“Teens use these devices consecutively for different purposes,” he said, “and this is changing the way we consume information.”
Indeed, it is reported that for 81% of people, smartphones are considered for spur of the moment purchases, compared with 58% for PCs.
Marketing campaigns must bridge these four screens, he said, and one example that has done this well is Chobani. “They’ve got 46,000 followers on Pinterest, their Taste Real campaign has videos, which carries across to social media platforms, and TV spots that carry this message, too.”
While Greek yogurt is hot property for the food industry in general at the moment, if manufacturers are seeking to target teens specifically, then “liquid is right on target for teens”, he said.
A panel of teens at IFT Wellness provided a candid and insightful view of their food choices, and convenience ruled supreme.
“The panel taught me that if a product is convenient and a health alternative, then teens will consume it, but if healthy is a hassle then they won’t do it.”
The health consciousness, or health awareness of teens “ebbs and flows”, he said, with convenience and accessibility coming out on top.
“The panel showed that teens would like to eat healthy at school but they don’t have access to healthy food in vending machines.”
The overall health message is getting through, if new NHANES data is any indication. Prof Miriam Nelson from Tufts University told attendees that calorie consumption is down amongst boys (155 fewer calories) and girls (70 fewer calories). "We're so thrilled," she said.
Natural and sustainable
“Natural has lost meaning for Millenials and teens,” said Hilton. Sustainability, on the other hand, is important, but teens assume that companies will be sustainable. “Sustainability is the price of entry for teens. They expect it.”
“Look at Coke with its plant bottles. This is driven by teens and Millenials.”
When formulating products for teens, and the campaigns that go along with the launch, marketers need to remember the “fickle factor”, said Hilton. “By the time marketers have figured it out, teens have moved on to something else.
“Marketers and brands need a quick R&D timeline. You need to stay ahead or at least catch up with teens.”
Hilton’s Eight Core Insights for Teens
In order to understand the teen consumer, Hilton outlined his eight core insights:
- Life is one big experiment – health, sexuality, image/style… Teens will migrate from meat lover to vegan and back again… They are trying everything – substances, clothes, haircuts, partners – and making more of their own food choices, linked to greater disposable income and less organized meals at home. Marketers should encourage teens to “take the … challenge” or “try …. For 30 days”. “Use free offers,” he said. “Street teams & samples are also powerful with teens.”
- Mix and match lifestyle: Teens receive mixed health messages, and this ok with this age group, he said. Teens also have a “positivity bias”, and rate themselves as pretty healthy. However, healthy eating is not a priority. Indeed, Discovery Girls magazine ran a survey in 2012 that revealed only 11% said Healthy Eating was a priority
- Learn online, share offline. “Teens are not the drivers of social media,” said Hilton, “and they feel that face-to-face communication is best… then texting… then social media. Teens are a moving target and always will be. Teens consume media through which they can control the message, and they prefer facetime to screen time.”
- Reject mass, embrace social: “Teens want a dialogue not a monologue,” he noted. “They value friends’ opinions over traditional advertising.”
Hilton added that teens are more than happy to flex their social muscle, as evidences by Gatorade pulling BVO after an online campaign by 15-yo volleyball player Sarah Kavanagh. “Transparency engenders loyalty & trust,” he said. “They expect we will be more open.”
- Teens go to extremes: For many boys this means muscle and bulking up. For girls, it’s about looking good, and weight management. “Teens do take the view that some is good, so more has got to be better” For marketers, this means don’t be afraid to use extreme colors and visual approaches, he said.
- Non-stop living: “Teens have so much on their minds. Society pushes energy, both physical and mental.” Indeed, Teen Vogue recently ran an article about five substantial snack to keep you going through exam week. The marketing implication of this is “convenience”, he said. “It’s all about dosage forms, and brands should add messaging about the advantages of food/beverages for academic and athletic performance.”
- Drink up, liquid meals – “Teens are hooked on liquid delivery formats,” said Hilton. “And they are noticing soda’s bad rap, and we’re seeing increasing sales of vitamin waters, teas, non-carbonated drinks”. And for some, energy drinks are popular. “Teens forget other ways to get energy, besides out of a can (sleep, eat well, lifestyle)
- Divided attention – it’s a four screen world: “This is changing the way we consume,” he said. And for a perfect example, just check out Chobani’s Taste Real campaign.