January 26, 2001

Teenage Research Unlimited, Inc. recently released they Teen Macrotrends and have been able to categorize them into TEEN THEMES:

Optimism: Today’s American teenagers have grown up in a prosperous consumer environment, for the most part enjoying the fruits of a booming economy. Most don’t remember economic hard times¾to this generation inflation, recession, and
unemployment are foreign words. The marketplace is catering to a confident consumer base, and, in turn, teens are snapping up many of the products and services available to them¾spending an average of $82 per week on entertainment, fashion, food, and technology. Teens say “things are going well for them” and that they expect a future filled of achievement and realizing dreams.

Techno-savvy: Teens are probably more comfortable with technologically advanced products and services than is any other age group. Not only did many of the toys teens first played with as children involve computer chips or keyboards, but teens were taught in elementary school how to use a computer. And, this is the first generation to grow up with user-friendly Windows. This savviness has often enabled teens to become the “techies” of their households: many have installed their family PCs, programmed their parents’ voice mail, or introduced their folks to the Internet (this generation doesn’t make jokes about difficult-to-program VCRs or gadgets with small buttons). This technological comfort level should only increase teens’ acceptance of—and reliance on—high-tech items as they grow older (and become even more powerful decision makers).

Marketing Savvy: Teens were practically first marketed to as infants and have developed rather “thick skins” over time. They’re acutely aware of when they’re being targeted as a consumer group and are often unaccepting of messages which seem disingenuous or pandering. Teens want to feel that they’ve discovered, or stumbled upon, something interesting when filtering out youth-targeted marketing messages¾they reject that which appears overly crafted or which doesn’t ring true. Also, teens are aspirational—they want to be seen as and accepted for being mature, young adults; therefore, in many cases
they’ll tell researchers they want to have the same products and services as adults; their behavior, though, shows that they’re accepting of those which are adult-like in their utility but which are youth-oriented in their design and marketing.

Diversity: Teens are a multicultural, ethnically mingled bunch who are proud of their often unique backgrounds, heritages, and points of view. They’ve grown up in a relatively accepting age in terms of social, gender, and racial diversity which enables them to feel empowered by their differences¾rather than repressed, uncomfortable, or outcast. Many teens pride themselves on their ability to move between peer groups and become friends with many types of teens.

Customization: Likely accelerated by technology and a strong economy, teens desire personalization. Mass is OK according to this crowd, as long as it allows a keen sense of “me.” From burning their own CDs, to selecting the color of their laptop, and from launching their own Web sites to customizing the cover of their cell phones, teens have grown to expect that once size does not fit all. Teens pride themselves on being diverse, unique individuals, and, as such, they crave products and services which let them showcase their unique interests, lifestyles, and tastes.

Adept Multi-Tasking: Teens are able to juggle many different things¾consuming a full spectrum of media (TV, radio, magazines, CDs, Internet), engaging in a myriad of activities (studying, eating, driving, talking on the phone), running from here to there (school, sports, hangouts, shopping)¾seemingly all at once. It has been suggested that this generation may not spend as much quality time concentrating on each external stimulus, but nonetheless teens consider these stimuli indispensable (simply witness a teenager chatting on AOL, talking on the phone, and listening to a CD mix, while the TV is on in the background). Although the challenge to reach this savvy audience is compounded by the sheer amount of media it consumes, creative marketers can be encouraged by the virtually limitless number of outlets through which to reach this group.

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