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Marketing from a High Schooler’s perspective

20 May, 2016 McKell Naegle

High schoolers are hard to market to, and this is coming from one. It happens for one reason: we can’t relate to you, and you can’t relate to us.

But that’s what you marketers are working on, to understand us. And unfortunately, the majority of teenagers are not going to try to understand you…sorry. Though there are some things that will get a our attention, regarding placement and content.

First of all, you want to place advertisements where we will see them. Because, like it or not, we spend a lot of time in school. I know, personally, that at my school that lunches that are sold from our cafeteria come from local pizza places and other restaurants (food is every teenager’s weakness). There are banners that hang on the side of our gymnasium walls advertising local businesses (but that’s more for the parent’s benefit when there are games in the gym). And then there are school activities like football games, where there are many students filling the stands. These can be good places to advertise, considering the large teen audience that could see it. There are also virtual places that teens spend a lot of time.

Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube are all places that we spend a lot of time. Plus, Youtube’s ads appear based on search history, so what the viewer is interested in will appear. Places like these would be good for advertisements targeted at teens. But when you are using advertisements that are delivered to teens, the content is very important as well.

This can be difficult, since every high schooler has their own likes and dislikes. Personally, I have found that when companies try to relate to us by using slang that we know and use, it comes off as forced, cheesy and uncomfortable because it’s usually coming from an adult or someone who wouldn’t normally use those terms or slang in their daily life. So if you try to relate to us by using slang, the right person has to do it (unless you’re going for the whole “it’s so bad it’s funny” thing). There is a simpler solution, though. Keep it professional.

I know that when I’m watching TV and commercials start, I would rather watch commercials that were intended for an adult audience. Commercials where the background music is the trendiest song at the time wear out really quickly. If adults know which songs are trending for us, then there is no way we haven’t heard it twice as much as you have already. A normal complaint from high schoolers about music is that we have heard it “literally” a dozen time over the last three days. So when you try to appeal to teenagers with the most popular song, it may have the opposite effect. Choosing a new song that is a little older would have a much better reaction. But if you are not advertising with sound, there are a couple things that could get our attention.

I don’t stop and look at every advertisement that I come across, I look at the ones that are eye-catching or surprising. On our social media sites, we push our way past ads to get to what we came for, so to make us stop, you needs to grab our attention. I remember one advertisement that went something like “SHARKS! Now that we have your attention…” Vibrant colors (as childish as it sounds), comedy and shock factor could all get our attention.

I would also say that comedy can be a very difficult strategy to tackle, simply because everyone has a different sense of humor. The only safe way I can think of to use jokes well is to use a comedian —  it’s their job to know how to be funny. This leads into my next point, famous people.

I generally would stay away from “controversial” people, and I am not talking about gossip like “oooh, I heard they are dating so and so” or “did you hear the latest scandal?” I am talking about people who are loved or hated, a prime example would be Justin Bieber. Sure he has some die-hard fans, but he also has mobs of people waiting for him to screw up. I would use celebrities that are liked by the public as a whole, and aren’t in that “love-or-hate” state. So ultimately, a “play-it-safe” kind of  advertisement I believe would be most successful (but I am a play-it-safe kinda guy).

Again, I will say how difficult it is to advertise to high schoolers, partly because of misunderstandings between different generations and partly because of how diverse our group is. The youngest high schoolers just got out of eighth grade, while the oldest ones are figuring out what they want to do with the rest of their lives (maybe that’s a slight exaggeration). Advertising to such a strange group has to be difficult, but I am hoping that I was able to help slightly with my viewpoint as a high schooler.

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