RealTime IT News

The ABC's of Marketing to the Y's

It's marketing, but it's no stock market or dog food commercial. This Web site is "kewl" ... a girl can "get styled" or "vent" while she's creating her own jeans design. Second Generation is aiming for and hitting its target audience: teen girls. And its efforts will probably pay off most handsomely in a market that was worth about $153 billion dollars in 1999, and, according to Jupiter Communications, online spending by teens will increase to $1.3 billion in the next two years.

"When you are a teen, you have the strongest opinions you'll ever have in your life, but you have no one to listen to you," says Jane Mount, co-founder of Bolt, a Web site designed specifically for the teen market. Bolt has answered teenagers by providing them with a Web site that is written by its readers. "What we provide is an opportunity to say what you think to millions of other people your age," says Mount. "You're bound to find other people who like you and who agree with you."

But Bolt wasn't always so hip. When the site first debuted about three and a half years ago, the staff wrote music reviews, and articles in an attempt to inform teens what was cool. It didn't take long for the realization to set in that kids have their own views on what the trends are.

Trends are of great importance in the teen space, says Matthew Diamond, chief executive officer and co-founder of Alloy. Not only must you know what the current trends are, but you must be certain that your brand is part of them. "Ultimately, it comes back to how strong you made your brand," he says. "Our key is we circulate a catalog, we have a book imprint, and all of these build a very strong brand and drive traffic to the Web site. Then on the Web site, you give them content that is relevant, that they like, that gives them a sense of community and they're going to come back."

Teens are looking for a place to belong, and sites that market to teens can work together, says Katie Arons, publisher of ExtraHip, a magazine targeting plus-size teens. "We have a niche market, and we find that because we focus on that market, other sites are willing to link to us, because we are not in competition."

How exactly does a 20 or 30-something marketer find out what is on the mind of a 15-year-old with cash in his pocket to spend? Bob McKamey, director of strategic planning at Web site development and marketing firm Imagine That, is bullish on his team's approach. "We went to a local school and asked," he laughs. "Even the terminology on the site has to focus on and target the younger generation."

Tommi Lewis Tilden, editor in chief of Teen Magazine agrees, but is concerned that adults get the idea that because they may talk alike, teens of all ages think alike. "I think the teen market is a little bit over saturated at this pointI think that we are headed towards a backlash in a way," says Tilden. " The key is to narrow in on the segment of the teen population you're looking for. Everyone is addressing the teens as a mass force, and they're really not."

Tilden recently attended focus groups for teenaged girls. The first group of girls was 14 and 15 years of age, and the second group was 16 and 17. The difference was remarkable, according to Tilden. "If you really customize your product or message to the teen and understand the developmental stage, then you can be successful, because at every stage there is a huge market."

It's not just teen-only sites and magazines that are hoping to get kids to open their wallets. A lot of the brands that their parents knew and love are re-i