Marketers strike a balance between skeptical teens and their cautious parents

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Marketers strike a balance between skeptical teens and their cautious parents
Marketers strike a balance between skeptical teens and their cautious parents
Varsity Brands, Inc., a national cheerleading association, has made community central to the way it promotes its cheerleading and dance uniforms and events to teens. The company created an online community, but it has also partnered with brands like Gatorade and Herbal Essences to offer samples. 

“You have to think of them as more than someone who is going to purchase a product. They are also very much concerned about social issues and we feel our message to teens is about the big picture,” says Nicole Lauchaire, VP of corporate marketing for Varsity Brands, Inc.

Whatever the differences between the sexes, there may be more differences in the marketing responses of teens overall and the rest of the consumer population. According to a survey from marketing research company Keller Fay Group, teens engage in far more word-of-mouth marketing than the general public. The survey, which drew on the responses of 13- to 17-year-old consumers, found that 78% of teens take part in word-of-mouth about media and entertainment brands, compared to 57% of the population overall, while 67% discuss technology products, compared with just 39% of the total public.

Marketers trying to get their message across to teens have to keep another audience in mind: their parents. Effective campaigns balance being cool enough for young consumers, while emphasizing responsibility to parents. 

The recent debacle surrounding the Kardashian Prepaid MasterCard illustrates what not to do. The credit card targeted teen shoppers, and was endorsed by reality show star Kim Kardashian and her sisters. However, a marketing campaign centered on big spending and a product loaded with hidden fees, and the “Kard” caused a public outcry and was pulled from the market. 

The Kardashians could have learned a marketing lesson from American Express. To promote PASS, its prepaid card aimed at teens, American Express has focused mostly on getting parents interested in the card, including a partnership with the website iVillage. The initiative, called The Talk, includes an online video series, social media effort and live events around the importance of parents discussing financial responsibility with their sons and daughters.

Speaking teens' language often means marketers must also speak their parents' too.

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