The 11 key Teen consumer trends for 2007
The Zandl Group has been tracking teenage trends for over a decade using its 'Hot Sheet' panel data. Among those trends, the group has noted that major changes in teen lifestyles include the growth of technology, an greater appreciation of home and family, and the growing influence of entertainment at the expense of sports.
Hot Sheet editor, Anna D'Agrosa, told The Wise Marketer that the behaviour and preferences of teenage consumers has changed dramatically over the past few years, with beepers turning into video-phones, CDs morphing into iPods, '70s retro becoming '80s retro, baggy jeans becoming skinny jeans, The Gap giving way to American Eagle, rap fading into rock, and magazines being dropped in favour of web sites.
Teen consumer trends for 2007 onward The most important teenage consumer trends noted by Zandl Group include:
- Technology's impact Technology has had a profound impact. Ten years ago teens' identity was defined by how others saw them in their high school bubble. Now they can define themselves through profiles on MySpace. They can maintain control over their image and find like-minded people, making many of them feel a little more secure about themselves and their lifestyle choices. Interestingly, a familiarity with young technology billionaires (like the college-aged YouTube creators who recently sold out to Google for a life-changing fortune) fuels teens' entrepreneurial spirit and boosts confidence about "making it big" one day. Technology has created many opportunities for young people who view seniority in the workplace as being less relevant - and it makes them more curious about their world and empowers them with instant access to information. Technology has also increased teens' creativity (through media such as blogs, LiveJournal, and fan-fiction).
- Connectivity is constant Cell phones are still the teen's lifeline to a social life, but there's also IM (instant messaging), webcams and online social networking web sites. Portability greatly aids an on-the-go lifestyle, with increasing use of iPods, PSP game consoles, and even laptop computers. Zandl foresees more personalised and localised technology from now on. Online role-playing environments (such as Second Life) could the next front for social networking, and marketers will actively follow. Cell phones with GPS create one-on-one marketing opportunities, too. Advertisers will continue to play catch up, with new business models already being developed for entertainment and advertising.
- Home life and family-centricity Home continues to be the average teen's favourite place to be, and this popularity is growing year by year. This is helped by parents kitting out the family home with HDTVs, video on demand, gaming systems and premium cable/satellite services. More parents are allowing parties and co-ed sleepovers because they would rather have their kids socialise at home where they can keep an eye on them. A surprising trend is that family has become far more significant in teens' lives, as over half now cite their parents as role models. They have more in common with their parents, look to them for advice, and are less likely to clash over entertainment or fashion. Parents are more supportive and more likely to maintain an open dialogue about "teenage issues" (yes, all of them). Teens appear to be getting more involved on the home front, and smart marketers will increasingly target teens for home decor, big ticket electronics and technology upgrades, and even cooking and other home entertainment activities.
- Entertainment takes over from sports Sports involvement among teens has dropped significantly (down 30% - 60% in all categories including fun, media, role models and aspirations). Reasons for the downturn vary from cuts in school funding, to heavy practice schedules that kill social lives, to the scandals and crimes associated with pro athletes. Free agency also runs counter to building loyalty to teams and can make athletes appear selfish. As Zandl points out, no individual from the sports scene currently has the leadership, talent and sheer appeal last seen in the 1990s with basketball star Michael Jordan. So MTV has become the dominant entertainment media. Teens are turning to the entertainment world for some of their role models (up 33%) and career goals (up 75%) with more than ever before aspiring to become musicians, celebrity chefs, and fashion designers. Reality TV stars, especially on MTV, are often teens, making the entertainment world feel like a viable option. Thankfully, though, the decline in sports involvement among teens appears to be slowing, as more young people are concerned with health and fitness as obesity reaches a critical point. And on the entertainment front, teens are becoming more involved creating content, and distributing it online. Expect to see marketers offering consumers creative opportunities to bond with their brand (such as the Doritos user-created ads, to be run during the Super Bowl).
- Teens become less rebellious Parents have become less strict, and are now less likely to impose curfews or even restrict teens' expression of style (such as piercings or tattoos). With family and home life being more peaceful, teens simply have less to rebel against. Zandl has noted a marked increase in the number of teens describing "cool kids" as "nice and friendly" (up 36%), compared to "bad and crazy" (down 36%). With more media awareness surrounding school shootings, predators, and terrorism, being a rebel may be losing its appeal. However, given the increase in entertainment world influences, there may yet be an upswing in rebellion as a kind of "performance art".
- More grown up and resourceful Teens are looking to the future. They are more likely to value jobs, seeing "work and money as the best thing" (up 500%) and with "career and success" being increasingly on the teenage wish list (up 150%). The number aspiring to own a business has increased four-fold. Teens have become more career and education oriented, and less likely to be prematurely committed to a steady boyfriend or girlfriend - and therefore less likely to be thinking about marriage or starting a family while they are young (down 30%).
- Girls are more independent and career-focused More girls than boys are now planning to attend college (up 30% among girls, compared to ten years ago). Girls are also more likely to pursue professional career goals, far outpacing boys in the fields of law, medicine, and teaching. Girls are also more specific in their career goals (that is to say, boys are twice as likely to aspire to a non-specific "good job", while girls tend to have decided on a specific career path). Teen girls have also become less marriage-oriented (down 37% as a future goal). So, as boys continue to fall behind academically, expected to see educational planning specifically for boys' needs (more single-sex schools and more male teachers).
- Teens become ironic and smart Teen interest in smart, ironic humour has increased. TV shows such as Family Guy and South Park, along with comedians such as Dave Chappelle, pop culture, and even advertising spoofs on YouTube are all growing in popularity. One of the drivers of this trend may be the spread of skateboard culture - with its twisted sense of humour - and perhaps also the growth of MySpace and blogs dedicated to 'snarky' comment and the ferreting out of hypocrisy.
- Becoming rockers, not rappers After a decade of hip hop ruling the entertainment and fashion scene, teens are rediscovering rock music. Almost half still consider rap/hip hop to be their favourite type of music but, since its peak in 2004, hip hop has been declining. More teens now want to become rockers and are dressing accordingly. Tight jeans are becoming the norm for boys. Expected the continued growth of rock and alternative lifestyles for suburban teens, at the expense of hip hop and its associated culture and products.
- Greater brand diversity Teens are becoming what Zandl calls "serial brand loyalists", bouncing from one brand to the next as their range of choices increases. With so many options, long-standing brands are losing ground to niche brands (for example, Levi is down 74% among panellists, Gap is down 86%, and Nike is down 30%). Teens' eagerness to try new products will keep the new product launches coming. Expect more brands to be in constant revitalisation mode (whether they're a retailer, CPG firm, or service provider).
- Brands that attract teens Apple has been a pioneer in providing stylish, designer technology that is relevant to the teen lifestyle. Services that teens are highly involved with include Google, Yahoo, MySpace. In fashion retail, over half of teens are shopping at specialty stores (up 27%) such as American Eagle, Pac Sun, Forever 21, Abercrombie, and Hollister. Less than 20% do most of their shopping at department stores (down 35%), with Kohl's being the leading retailer in that category. Mass retail has the least appeal for teens but both Walmart and Target have become more popular over the past decade. Sneakers (trainers) are the preferred footwear for almost three-quarters of teens. Nike remains the dominant brand, being five times more popular than the number two brand, Vans.
Zandl Group specialises in monitoring and predicting market trends that aid consumer insight and marketing perspectives. The Hot Sheet trend report has been monitoring youth culture in the US since 1992.