Open your eyes

Youth marketers, if you want to blow the doors off the teen market, then take some advice. Stop believing the hype about teens being 'unreachable.' Forget research. Save your money. And flatter them.

Youth marketers, if you want to blow the doors off the teen market, then take some advice. Stop believing the hype about teens being ‘unreachable.’ Forget research. Save your money. And flatter them.

If you believe the relentless press on the subject, technology, globalization and the Internet have conspired to make today’s teen generation the hardest-to-reach demographic ever. And that has caused a movement into youth research like never before. They’re telling us that today’s teens are really that different. They’re telling us that in order to reach this group you have to forget everything you know about advertising. Give me a break.

To those who say teens are unreachable, I say you haven’t reached out. Let’s be honest. When was the last time you visited a high school? Because you can learn more about the so-called ‘unreachable generation’ by hanging out at a mall or movie on a Saturday night than you can in any focus group. And if you think you need to hire people to understand what’s going there, you deserve the invoice. Because this teen research is marketing snake oil. It’s sad. You’d think people with six-figure salaries could think for themselves.

Think. You already know the truth about teens. It’s an industry of cool. Cool equals the ‘i’ words – individual, independent, icons (à la Britney). Cool means you can make choices without your parents’ help. Cool means your validation as an individual. Combine that with the minimum age requirement at The Beer Store, and you’ve magically reached the sacred chalice of adulthood. This calls for a Bud Light.

But instead we sit behind idea-proof glass asking this rightly confused group of kids for the answer to our question – is it cool? In the interest of CYA we abandon what we know is true to a group of pubescents used like mice in human marketing mazes.

So how do you make cool? First, don’t make the mistake of holding up an actual mirror to them, because they won’t like what they see. You need to flatter them, and use your gut. They want what we all want. They want to be spoken to like they’ve got a bullshit meter. Communicate with intelligence. They want to believe in the romance of who they envision themselves to be. They want to see their ideal self. They want to see the dream of what they could do or be.

You want to understand them? Then throw away the microscope.

You want to be cool? Then put them in the spotlight.

Matt Litzinger

Associate Creative Director

Gee Jeffery and Partners

Toronto, Ont.