What is the impact of advertising on teens?

Teens are one of the most important demographics for marketers. Their brand preferences are still gelling, they have money to spend, and they exert a strong influence on their parents' spending (even on big-ticket items such as cars). Because 25 percent of teens access the Internet through mobile devices, companies are targeting them where they hang out: in apps, in games, and on websites that stream music and video and offer other downloadable content.

Teen-focused brands use a combination of traditional marketing techniques and new communication methods to influence product preferences. Here are three key approaches:

Exploiting insecurities. Brands appealing to teens take advantage of their particular vulnerabilities: the desire to fit in, to be perceived as attractive, and to not be a huge dork. Teens are extremely attuned to their place in the peer hierarchy, and advertising acts as a kind of "super peer" in guiding them toward what's cool and what's acceptable. Both teen boys and girls are highly susceptible to messages around body image, and marketers use this to their advantage. 

Tracking data. Once kids turn 13, companies have little restrictions over marketing to them and collecting their data. The information they collect isn't personally identifiable -- it's far more valuable. Tracking teens' digital trails helps companies precisely determine their tastes, interests, purchase histories, preferences, and even their locations so they can market products to them or sell that data to other companies. Talk to teens about using privacy settings and understanding what information they're unwittingly giving to companies.

Using peer influence on social media. Advertisers actively enlist teen followers on social media to market products. You can find this in online stores such as J. Crew's, where you can share items you like with friends. Many brands encourage teens to broadcast their interactions with brands (such as uploading pics of themselves with a particular purse, drink, or outfit). These techniques reinforce the idea that brands "make" the person, and it's essential to help teens realize that their self-worth is not determined by what they own (or don't own).

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