By Sarah Reedy
Jun 16, 2008 12:00 AM
It’s no surprise that most teens today have a cell phone and probably know more about using it than their parents. Yet most telecom companies are still designing new products and implementing technologies with the older generation in mind. It is these “adult business models” that may be holding the telecom industry back, said June Bower, vice president of marketing for consumer entertainment for Alcatel-Lucent. Bower heads up the Alcatel-Lucent Teen Lab, a primary research organization composed of 75 global pre-teens to young adults. Each month these youth members complete an assignment based on new or existing technology, offering their feedback on what works and what falls short of meeting their expectations. Alcatel-Lucent, in turn, shares this knowledge with its customers to inform decision-making on future services and apps. Bower spoke with Telephony Associate News Editor Sarah Reedy to dispel the biggest myths surrounding the often-elusive teen market and to help discover what teens really want.
MYTH: Teens are technology-centric.
The biggest thing we’ve learned is that teens are not technology-centric; they are relationship-centric. When it comes to using a phone or TV or game console, it is all about their relationships and enhancing them. They are constantly trying to do that. One kid found out at his fencing class [that] there was a new pair of Nike fencing shoes out. He went home to his computer and found the shoes and sent a message to all his Facebook friends, letting them know they were out and bragging that he found them first.
MYTH: The more varied the experience, the better.
In a study on convergence focusing on the TV experience, the teens told us, “Why isn’t the TV experience like the Internet experience? I don’t understand why TV is not interactive.” They want to have that same experience. They want to share content the same way they do on their television, but also on their mobile phone. They really think about content and friends. We focus so much on the technology on the screens, but the teens are saying they want an experience where they can share it. We got so hung up in creating a TV experience or an Internet experience, when they’ve already come to the conclusion that they are living in a converged world. We’re behind in how we are building the converged world for them. It is letting them connect with their friends and letting them connect with their content.
MYTH: Teens don’t mind cumbersome technology.
A lot of people think that teens don’t mind technology that is hard to use. If something isn’t working, you would ask an adult and they would say, “I’m doing something wrong.” Teens think the company did something wrong. They really do not want technology that is hard to use. It is ultimately going to hurt the brand. Companies need to be really careful about what they do with technology. They have to create a great experience so they are not hurting their brand.
Apple was the No.1 brand by far and away. Why? The good user experience; they really value it and really appreciate it. They love the beauty of a good user experience. Ego extension is so much of what they do. They create their own brand. They have tremendous capacity and need to market themselves. Every kid’s Facebook page is really a sense of their brand. They are always looking to build their brand. If technology helps to build their brand, they are interested in it. It also says who they are. They are a cool Apple person — it is who they are through what they use.
MYTH: Teens only care about themselves.
Because of the Internet, the younger generation is much more global. They can connect and see so many things going on in the world. Here they can find people and stay connected with people wherever they are in the world. We are seeing that there is real globalization going on. They have much more of an awareness of the world of international politics and this incredible caring about the world. They are the green generation. They are so interested in trying to figure out ways to make the world a better place. “How do we ensure we have a great place for the future?” — that comes from their not being so insular. I think the Internet has caused so much of that.
MYTH: Teens ignore advertising.
Teens want us to market to them on all three screens. They want to know about brands before their friends. They are actually really interested. On the computer we get such a marketed-to experience; on the phone, if I go to buy a ringtone on my phone, I see a long list of songs in black and white. Their viewpoint is: “Why do you carriers organize content by long lists of songs? Organize it by the brands I care about. If it is Shakira, show me her latest song, ringtone. Organize it by your way of thinking. Secondly, if she comes out with a new album, let me know about it. If you let me know, I’d buy it right away, and I could be the first to know because I already have that.” They love the Internet because they see ads that are targeted to them. But with the TV, they would like to see interactive ads and content for purchasing. For example, if you are watching a movie and you want to buy something in it or get more information.
MYTH: All teens are mall rats.
Teens really actually want to shop all the time, everywhere. They are children of the Internet generation, so they are different from us who grew up in the TV generation. They grew up with an interactive experience. They grew up seeing ads that were relevant to them. They see content and advertising as very related, and the Internet is their primary source of connection.