What brands should know about teens

They were part of a panel discussion on Generation Z (today’s teenagers) at the PPA Festival in London today. Lizzie Cox, editor of Hearst’s teen site Sugarscape hosted the panel.

One of the key points mentioned several times through the discussion how teens are adept at creating spaces online where they feel comfortable. 

Seen from a media production perspective, in context of becoming a YouTuber (YouTube video producer), Clark explained that there is no real competition “because today audiences can go anywhere” – in other words, the audience will find the content that resonates.

This also translates into how they engage online. Whereas previously teens would have had older role models (including magazine media brands), today they have “spaces” where they raise and discuss issues with their equals.

Brands within their sphere need to engage at their level. Authenticity as “a peer” is important. Teens are put off by brands that are too business-like, or communicate in too aspirational or idealistic tones. 

“Girls in particular like something that feels realistic and similar to them, themselves. There is so much in media that’s way beyond them, which they cannot reach. That is why you have these YouTube stars. They’re their peers.”

Maya Dibley, publisher, Sugarscape and Company, Hearst Magazines UK

Earlier, in the session, Maya Dibley, publisher of Sugarscape, in a brief overview with 10 key points on Gen Z:

  1. Teens do not distinguish between websites and blogs, at all. “The competition is way beyond they brands you know and track.
  2. They are “super-sizing” certain millennial trends, such as entrepreneurialism. While there are similarities with millennials, there are also distinctions.
  3. They are desperate to be positive, “and they want to promote it to others.”
  4. Bloggers and Youtubers are losing touch when they come to be seen as “sell outs” to over-commercialisation. That said, there are opportunities for professional publishers provided they approach teens in the right way. 
  5. They have more spending power than you might think. In the UK, teens spend on average £156 per month on themselves. This may not be on a printed magazine, but there are other things magazine media brands can sell to them.
  6. They are products of today’s society, but that does not only mean “digital.” Tech play an important role in their lives, but is not the only thing that defines them.
  7. Teens care a lot about issues, but not about politics. “They are liberal and tolerant … and actively calls out negative people.”
  8. TV is still number 1, with shopping, reading books and films among other top activities. And 62 per cent of the TV viewing still happens live (in the traditional way), compared to 55 via streaming.
  9. It’s a peer-to-peer relationship. Teen brands are on equal footing with their audience. The brand is a peer, “it is not her older sister.” Here factors such as tone of voice are very important.
  10. 1They’re growing and changing every week. “No-one can wait for two years anymore before you do a brand refresh.” You have to be “completely on it” and one of the Sugarscape team’s “biggest jobs” is to keep on top of what is happening and, hopefully, what is coming.

Story by Cobus Heyl.

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