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SIMA Boot Camp: How to connect to Today's Millenials

By Shelby Stanger
July 10, 2009 8:30 AM

Michael Wood, the Senior VP of Syndicated Research at Teen Research Unlimited (TRU), presented a very dynamic and informative presentation yesterday at the SIMA Boot Camp on understanding today's millennials. Wood is an expert on the teen market and is responsible for TRU's twice a year study that tracks teen spending habits and opinions. The study is relied upon by brands from Coca Cola and Nike to Abercrombie and Fitch and MTV. I wanted to share some highlights from his presentation:


The largest population of young people today currently live in the South (33% of all teens). One in three teens belong to a minority group, and 17% speak Spanish at home. The numbers of minorities are going up.


In 2008, teens spent $127 billion, about $72/week. Twenty something's spent $606 billion dollars about $291/week. Most teens still get money from adults (through handouts, gifts, or chores). 28% of teens rely on part-time jobs for cash, but with the economic situation, part-time jobs once reserved for teens are going to adults with more experience.


79% of teens get news from the internet and TV with youtube being the number one website for teens and twenty-year olds, and google and MYSpace close behind.


Authenticity is incredibly important for teens. The "perception" of being authentic, however, can be just as important as being real. When given a choice between buying a "fake" vintage tee shirt and an original, even at the same price, 71% of teens chose the fake tee. The reasons were the fake tee had a better fit and had never been used. With that fact, Wood advises brands to communicate their authenticity to consumers and to watch out for new brands coming up. He sited Hollister as an example of a brand who built a brand on an illusion of having roots in surf heritage even though Abercrombie and Fitch founders in Ohio created it.


Regardless of where they are, teens can stay connected to family and friends through their phone and social networking sites while shopping. Teens ages 13-17 send an average of 60 text messages day. One-third of teens take pictures while shopping to get feedback from friends. Twelve percent use pictures on phones to comparison shop.


Wood advises brands to become more multidimensional and embrace interactivity with their fans. He noted the MTV hit show, "The Hills," as a successful example of a multidimensional brand that uses TV, web, social networking and interactive tools to let fans communicate their thoughts about the show. He said you can watch full episodes of the Hills on MTV; make snarky comments, vote on those comments, and interact with cast. It's the most successful TV show to date in MTV's history.


The TRU study showed that unemployment is the most important issue for young people today, followed by global warming. When it comes to environment, teens except companies to be environmentally friendly but don't give extra credit to brands who are. They will, however, be unforgiving of a brand that makes false claims about their environmental or social responsibility standing.


Most teens want to be famous. Celebrities today are more accessible than ever, especially on the web. Young people still look to celebrities for fashion cues.

For more on Tru, click here.


1. Opportunity: If they can get a deal now, they'll buy.
2. Utility: If they need it, they'll buy it.
3. Community: If everyone has it, especially friends, teens want it.
4. Urgency: If it's limited and exclusive, teens don't want to miss out.
5. Discontinuity: If it's new and they've never seen anything like it (like the iPhone or Wii),they'll try to buy it.

COMPLEXITY: Teens (12 - 19 year-olds) of today's generation are more complex than ever. While they value irreverence, friends, fun and rebelliousness, they also have a conservative side and value responsibility, family and respect. They are also multitaskers. Half the teens surveyed say they often use three devices (TV, computer and cell phone) at once.



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