Commerce Spotlight Shines on GEN Y
Tech Savvy, Financially Backed and 30 Million Strong...Gen Y Busts Loose
by Theano Nikitas
Call them what you will - Gen Y, Echo Boomers, Millenials - but
regardless of the label, the youth market is huge and is spending
money like crazy.
According to FujiFilm's Matt Knickerbocker, Vice President, Marketing (Consumer Markets Division), there are 30 million teens ages 13-19 wandering among us, spending about $150 billion a year and shelling out, on average, up to $200 a month directly on themselves.
But it's the teens that have their own money, earned from part-time jobs and allowances. At a recent PMDA presentation, Lynn Lehmkuhl, President of TEEN Magazine estimated, for example, that the average weekly income of teens is $85 a week. Growing up in a booming economy, it's no wonder that teens have achieved this kind of economic independence at such an early age.
Additionally, according to Knickerbocker, 22% of high school students have a credit card in their own name, obtained for them by their parents. This percentage does not include the new types of prepaid cards like Visa Bucks or the American Express Blue Card. This year, says Knickerbocker, "the credit card companies are beginning some very aggressive target marketing to 16 year olds and up and we think that number is going to rise pretty dramatically."
The numbers here speak for themselves - the youth market has the money and they are spending it. Not surprisingly, there are an enormous number of companies and retailers vying for kids' dollars. If you want to get in on the action, it's important to understand a little bit about what makes these consumers tick.
Did You Know That:
• Teens influence 20% of household spending -
Lynn Lehmkuhl, TEEN Magazine
• 12-15 year olds are experimental and will try
different brands; 16-19 year olds are learning
brand loyalty. - Lynn Lehmkuhl, TEEN Magazine
• 36% of one-time-use cameras are used by people
under age 18; seasonality within that age groups
isn't as pronounced as it is with grown-ups (kids
take the camera on school trips, to parties, etc. all
year round). - Matt Knickerbocker, FujiFilm
• 18-24 year olds consume 26% of APS film; they
like the drop-in loading and index prints.
- Matt Knickerbocker, FujiFilm
Media-saturated teens are especially savvy consumers. Many understand the basic tenets of marketing, knowing exactly when (and, often, how) they're being targeted. Because of this, they can be a marketer's harshest critics. These kids are sharp and, not surprisingly, Lehmkuhl points out that until the 1980's marketers picked the trends. Now, however, teens are in the director's seat and deciding the trends themselves. And, in this wired world - of which teens are major participants and innovators - trends spread like wildfire across the country and the world.
Although teens are brand aware, they have yet to establish brand loyalty. Instead, says Knickerbocker, teens are "heavily influenced by friends" and, in fact, may sometimes favor the opposite of their parents' brands. But perhaps the most appropriate description we've heard is Lehmkuhl's reference to teens being "brand obsessive."
To keep kids interested, Polaroid, for example, periodically introduces new colors for its i-Zone products. Interchangeable faceplates, in different colors, are included with the i-Zone Instant Pocket Camera (faceplates can be purchased separately as well) so kids can keep fashionable with the latest hot colors or color-coordinate the camera with their outfit.
Keeping pace with what's hot and what's not isn't as difficult as you may think. Watch TV, browse through magazines, surf the 'Net and, if there are any teens or tweens in your family or neighborhood, talk to them, pay attention to what they do/wear/say (but be careful not to be a POS - Parent (snooping) Over Shoulder.
Music is a great influencer; the "number one activity among teens," says LaCoste, so it's no wonder that Polaroid has developed activities and contests around the latest and greatest bands (look at a girl's bulletin board or room and you're likely to find pictures of at least one boyband). This year's affiliation is with the Backstreet Boys and, in fact, the i-Zone Instant Pocket Camera is the "official" camera of the band's Black and Blue tour, so make sure you have some in stock if the tour comes to your area.
Keeping in line with teens' interest in music, Kodak, Fuji, Konica and Polaroid (among others) all have digital cameras that incorporate an MP3 player and Polaroid will be releasing a Pocket Camera with a built-in FM radio this fall. Technophiles R Us
There's no doubt that Generation Y is technologically savvy. Technology is an integral part of many kids' lives. Younger kids sometimes learn how to use a mouse before they can write their name with a crayon.