Marketing to Teenagers

If you want to reach teens, here’s advice on marketing to teenagers.

1.  Create a very specific (and different) website, brand image and marketing strategy when marketing to teens

The amazing thing about the web is that your business can be different “brands” to different people.  If you want to reach teens, instead of one website and brand you might consider specializing and creating different brands with different brand “personalities” and images and products/services that will appeal to teens.

Here’s an inspiring example:  a fashion e-commerce company that has  two brands PromGirl and SimplyDresses.

prom girl founded

PromGirl is the #1 teen special occasion e-commerce retailer in the world, selling Prom, Homecoming, Winter formal, Sweet 16, Quince and Graduation dresses for teenagers around the world.   Simply Dresses, owned by the same company, specializes in making it easy to shop for a dress for any occasion.  They target anyone who wants to buy a dress, not just teens.   They have a different marketing strategy and approach than what they use for PromGirl where they focus exclusively on selling and marketing to teenagers.  And more specifically, teenage girls.  The company was ranked #41 on Inc. 500’s 2012 list of the fastest growing retailers in America.

2.  Target your social media marketing to teenagers

Teens were the early adopters of Facebook and now most teens still have a Facebook account but it’s losing ground as the primary way they share and connect with their teen friends.  Many teens use Facebook now when they want to post photos to share with parents, family around the country and grandparents.  Or, when they are loading a lot of photos from a school event that they want to share broadly with other teens.

A survey of 5,200 teens conducted by Piper Jaffray this spring found 33 percent listed Facebook as their “most important” social network, down from 42 percent in the fall.  Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr all showed gains in popularity and use during that period.  Teens also mentioned Kik for messaging, Snapchat for sharing photos and Vine for sharing videos.  These may be the social media “up-and-commers” that you’ll want to use when marketing to teenagers because you’ll gain “first mover” advantage and reach the teen early adopters who may be the opinion leaders.

A study released last month by the Pew Research Center found teens complaining about the increased presence of adults on Facebook, including teachers and relatives, as well as unwanted social pressure to keep up with cliques and gossip online.

Teens said they had more fun using photo-sharing apps such as Instagram and Snapchat, according to the Pew research. Facebook has let Instagram continue operating as a stand-alone service, after buying it last year, while promoting its use to Facebook members.

teddy photo by nate june 1Personal story.  We got a new puppy this weekend and my younger son (an 8th grader) posted a picture of the puppy on Instagram.  I sent his older brother (a senior in high school who was at lacrosse practice) a text saying, “Big surprise at home!”  He came home and said he’d already seen the photo on Instagram that his brother shared.

This doesn’t mean Facebook is losing its teen audience overnight.   The teens aren’t closing their Facebook accounts.  They’re just not using them as their primary social media connection.  The teens will grow up and then they may become more active in sharing on Facebook like their mothers and grandmothers are now.  Facebook bought Instagram because they saw the trend of teens shifting from Facebook to Instagram.

Teens are the early adopters of new music, apps, social media sites, websites, clothing, gadgets, shoes, accessories, food…

That’s good news and bad news if you are marketing to teenagers.  Your product, company, app, website, social media marketing can be hot and then not.  You have to continually stay attuned to teens.  An easy way to do that is to create a teen advisory panel that you pay (or offer special products/services or prizes to) for their advice on what’s new, cool, happening.   Teens fortunately act as a pack so you’ll want to identify and tap the early “majority” leaders among teens.  That may be different among girls, boys, urban vs. suburban and discretionary income.   Using PromGirl as an example, it may be that they can create separate “sub brands” for different types of teen girls.  For example – PromGirls for Blacks, Hispanics,  Indians, Caucasians… using photos of teen girls of those different ethnic groups as their models and monitoring (and optimizing) what to promote based on what sells among that particular niche group of teens.

Marketing online allows extreme targeting.

3.  When marketing to teenagers use photos

Teens love photos!  Give them a platform to take and share photos of your products.  They love Instagram because it does one thing really, really well:  makes it fast and easy to share photos from your phone.

Good people to target for your teen advisory board:  the person on the high school student council who has been elected by their peers as class photographer or school video creator.   Their names should be easily visible on the school websites and Facebook sharing sites for the student body.

One teen high school photo editor posted this on Facebook after a grad party:  It was so nice to see everyone and celebrate–thanks for coming today!! I’m pretty sure the pictures from the photobooth will be up on the website (cheesymugs.com) soon too >^..^<

cheesy mugs teensCheesyMugs is a locally owned small business (not a franchise) that specializes in live photo booths for parties and events.  They target teens and adults too.  These live photo booth operations are popular nationwide.  They are often used at teen proms, dances and events.  These photo taking and sharing booth companies in your town may be great people to partner with to learn more about marketing to teens.

More tips and how-to guides on MarketingZone to help you with Targeting Your Marketing To Teenagers

About Derrith Lambka

Derrith is the founder of MarketingZone.com, a how-to website for small business on marketing. During her career Derrith has worked directly for, or as a consultant to, many Fortune 100 clients including Apple, Adobe, Cisco, Gateway Computers, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, HP, McDonald's, Microsoft and WebMD. Derrith brings all her accumulated expertise and industry-insider knowledge to help small businesses with how to do marketing better, faster and less expensively to the MarketingZone.com blog. As she learns, she shares what is most relevant and actionable to help small businesses with marketing.

4 comments


  1. Hi Derrith–
    Thank you for this thoughtful, informative perspective on teens and social media. Ironically I hold a class for Moms & tween/teen girls about technology and social media. Parenting through this explosion of social media options while keeping kids safe from bullying and predators and helping kids have a clean digital record for college entry and job applications is a huge parenting fear.

    I appreciate your explaining why teens are moving to the different social media and how they use it. Parents think if they get a handle on FB they have solved the issue. The truth is, as you point out, there will always be an emerging social media option for teens to hop to. Challenging for parents and marketers alike!

    I realize my comment is not spot on for your article’s intention; I wanted you to know that your information will help families around social media. Thank you Derrith,
    Carolyn
    p.s. I love Pew (pew.org) as they have amazing studies on technology and teens–great parenting resource in addition to helping marketers understand technology trends for teens.

  2. Thanks for the mention in your post. However, we do not directly market to TEENS, we marketing to schools such a Proms, Dances, Grad Parties etc, all run by and hired by adults. We don’t market directly to teens.

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