Teenagers, Brand Building and Communication: DOs and DON’Ts

Yo, wazup kids! Anyone 25+ might fall into the trap of thinking that young lingo could be a way of approaching teenagers when you want to get in touch with them and build a relation. Don’t ever go down that way, however. Teens have their own language and “teenish” is a language you will never master. You will not be able to speak like them, and they lose interest in you if you try too hard. You need to take other paths if you want to connect with the young target group. how-to-start-a-relationship This is just a tiny fragment of what we have learned from several weeks of research among teens online. Millward Brown Denmark has just finished a qualitative research study “What’s up with the digital natives” on teens and their use of social media. Teenagers navigate in a complex and sophisticated online world that most brand owners do not fully understand. Yet, teens are leading edge and a highly interesting target group to many companies. So, if we want to know the future of technology and its impact on brands and advertising, we must know how teenagers interact online with each other in their own context. Over the next few weeks, we will be posting some of our findings from the study. Today, we give you the basics – language.

Teens and the birth of a fourth media

People over 25 might use the occasional smiley but we tend to communicate on three dimensions only: We use written, oral and gestural signs when we interact. Today’s teens, however, have given birth to a fourth media, a complex, hybrid communication system between oral, written and gestural signs. An abstract and functional language where image and gesture are gaining ground over words because their universe seems to have a better use for non-verbal expression. Abbreviations, #hashtags and icons form direct actions and hold aesthetic values easily decoded. In addition to this, there is the inherent and historical teenage tendency to generate new words and expressions that are both ephemeral and “their own.” Adolescents are incredibly open to new words and expressions (abbreviations, word reductions, Anglicisms, diminutives, crazy nicknames, etc)

As one of the teenage respondents in our study put it: “As with all other languages, you will have to learn before you can understand and use it. I once heard about a boy whose father decided to join Facebook. The boy then wrote ‘WTF’ on his father’s wall and told him it meant “Welcome To Facebook.” I think we all know what he was really trying to say :)” Andrea, 18 years old. Based on our research we have worked out a list of DOs and DON’Ts for you to keep in mind when you develop your brand strategy and communication towards the young target group:

Please see the executive summary, What’s up with the digital natives. The research study has been worked out by Millward Brown Nordic’s qualitative team. Please contact us if you want to know more about our research and how you can make use of the study in your own branding and communication process.

We thank our teenage respondents for intelligent, dedicated and eye opening insights and ground breaking material.

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