Part Two of our series on the new youth demographic, by Colleen Tapp, VP Strategy

Brand loyalty is an ever shifting landscape, which, when it comes to teens, can come and go as fast as a Snapchat message.

Brands looking for attention from this notoriously fickle demographic need to be seen as the real deal. Armed with BS radars, teens are seeking out creative, original brands that understand them as they are, yet help them be better, cooler versions of themselves. For today’s teens, being different is the new fitting in, with YPulse reporting that 66% agree that being the same as everyone else is “boring.”        

Take clothing brands. Looks matter to teens, with 2/3 rating appearance as important according to the latest Statista report. Once teen darlings, Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister are falling out of favor as teens are increasingly turning to less conventional brands like Free People, Brandy Melville and Forever 21. Whether they admit it or not though, the desire to belong still holds sway with teens, leaving space for mainstream brands to stay relevant by associating with what teens value: Ralph Lauren, a seemingly mainstream brand makes the list, possibly due to favorite teen stars being seen in the label - we know teens love their celebrities. From T Swift and Drake to YouTube stars and the Kardashians - their idols are brands in themselves, able to foster a personal connection with mass audiences via social media. 

With the rise of Athleisure, (casual athletic clothing worn outside the gym) Nike has continued to be the top teen brand for the past five years. Seen as worthy of their time and money, and aligned with their values, Nike’s top athlete endorsements and technological innovation keep the brand both aspirational and relevant.

Like a dad trying to be cool to impress his teenage kids, brands who try too hard can backfire with teens - and timing is everything. When it comes to brands using slang like “bae” (before anyone else) once it reaches BuzzFeed, it quickly loses its cool edge, according to a 2016 Business Insider report on teens.

Clearasil, a leading teen brand, learned this lesson the hard way through some memes that didn’t quite fly with the target. But the brand turned it into a teachable moment: teens are tired of brands pretending to “get them.” So Clearasil used refreshing humor to admit that, while they know about teen acne, they know squat about teens themselves – ironically showing how much they do understand the demographic.