Teens not tied to tags

Misty Harris

CanWest News Service

March 28, 2006
Don’t be fooled by the iPods, Pumas, and omnipresent scent of Axe bodyspray: global market research suggests teenagers’ interest in brand names has declined, and some experts believe it’s at a historic low.

Recent studies from around the world have linked young people’s decreasing consumer loyalty with full-fledged brand indifference. Chief among them is the new GenWorld Report by Chicago-based Energy/BBDO, which indicates nearly two-thirds of youth worldwide are apathetic about brands and only 37 per cent of teen trendsetters like to wear the logos of their favourite brands.

"We do not see an anti-brand movement," explains Chip Walker, executive vice-president at Energy/BBDO. "We’re seeing something that’s even more alarming: not a passion for or against brands but an indifference to them."

Walker, who designed and conducted GenWorld’s 13-country survey of 3,322 teens, said he believes the findings represent an "all-time low" for brand engagement among young people. Although there isn’t enough earlier research to draw definitive conclusions, similar market studies echo Energy/BBDO’s report.

In the United Kingdom, Carlson Marketing Group’s latest consumer survey suggests just three in 10 people are committed to certain brands. In the U.S., fully 66 per cent of the 7,500 people surveyed in the 2005 Brand Keys Fashion Index said that brands and logos are less important to them now than "a few years ago."

And in the 2005 Phagnat Youth Survey of global youth ages 11 to 25, brand names ranked fifth out of eight possible factors in teen purchasing decisions, with just 24 per cent of respondents considering them important.

"We focus so hard on interrupting people and trying to be different that we’ve ceased to say anything they actually care about," says Walker. "So for (marketers), important is the new different."

In other words, companies that get behind issues that are important to young people, such as social consciousness (American Apparel’s "sweatshop free" stance) and empowerment (Adidas’s "impossible is nothing" campaign) stand to have the most success at earning teen loyalty.

Max Valiquette, president of Toronto-based Youthography, says the brands considered coolest among Canadian youth - Nike, Apple and American Eagle Outfitters being the Top 3 - are the ones that know who’s calling the shots.

"Marketers have to recognize that they’re not creating culture anymore, they’re in fact glomming onto it," he says. "Whenever that happens, you have to be incredibly respectful of whose arena you’re playing in."

Though teens may claim to be apathetic about brands (Valiquette asks, "Who in their right mind wants to admit they really care about brands?"), they’re still making branded purchasing decisions. That is, weighing a brand’s relevancy to their values and lifestyle, and using that information to choose one label over another.

"We forget that brands are often about badge value, and when you’re a young person, you really think that the things you buy make a statement about who you are," says Valiquette. "Being apathetic about branding isn’t the same as not making branded choices."

Debi Andrus, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Calgary, goes one step further by suggesting teens’ brand acumen is being misinterpreted as indifference.

"They have a lot more information to access the brands and are more discerning about the brands they want and are loyal to," she says. "Jumping to the conclusion that they’re apathetic is missing a whole level of analysis."

Andrus says the biggest challenge for marketers is finding ways to make their brands relevant to a teen audience that, despite its connected appearance, is actually quite hard to reach.

"They’ve isolated themselves, to an extent," she explains. "They’re texting but they’re not texting broadly, they’re texting each other. They use cellphones, but only to connect to family and friends. Their iPods are very much used to customize their own music (playlists) that nobody else can listen to.

"So the companies that miss the boat are the ones still using traditional advertising."


Excellent article envoyé par Isabelle Thibault. Je continue de penser que chaque stratégie publicitaire doit débuter par une question,"Qu'est-ce que je fais avec les 4 écrans pour m'assurer de bien rejoindre mon consommateur?"

Je vous parlerais bientôt de la stratégie des 4 écrans. À plus tard...

- Martin Gauthier

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