OMG! Teens (not parents) may actually know best

Candy companies shouldn’t discount this educated consumer base.

Whenever 17-year-old Sarah Belle introduces me to something new, I have learned to check it out immediately. 

crystal lindell
Crystal Lindell

That time she wore moccasins to church? I was hesitant at first. What would I wear them with? Could I pull them off at work? Do they really go with skinny jeans? Then, BAM. Three seconds later, everyone and their dogs were donning casual moccasins like they were all living on Native American reservations. Turns out, they do go with skinny jeans. Naturally, I went out and bought a pair.

Then, Sarah Belle (we call her that because she’s so beautiful), came to Bible study with a sock on her head. Of course, all I saw at first was an awesome updo. And I was all, “How did you get your hair to look like that?” And she was all, “It’s called a sock bun. I just rolled my hair around an old sock.”

I was baffled and intrigued and excited. And within a week, I was wearing a sock bun and noticing them on every girl within a 6-ft. radius.

Sarah Belle is not the only teen in my life to get me hooked on new trends though. My little sister Monica Rose also has a knack for showing me what’s hot and what’s not. She was the first one to tell me about the phone app, SnapChat, which lets me send quick pictures to my friends that then delete within 10 seconds. And, when I needed a new cell phone, I went to her for an expert opinion. Not that you have to ask, but yes, I bought the white Droid Razr based solely on her very educated advice.

All this is to say that a recent article by TIME Magazine pointing out that families are increasingly letting kids make buying decisions may not be the worst thing in the world.

In my totally personal, completely anecdotal experience, they’re actually among the most informed consumers.

My theory on this on this is they they have so much time on their hands. By the time Monica Rose introduced me to the smash hit  “Call Me Maybe” (a completely wonderful song by the way) she’d already listened to 283 songs that weren’t quite as good. And, when Sarah Bell maked me download FunRun on my smartphone, it’s only after she’s tried 16 other smartphone games first and realized they weren’t quite as, well, fun.

Call me crazy, but it seems like a lot of companies sell teens short in this particular area. But imagine how different the marketing landscape would be if 13-18 year olds were actually thought of as educated consumers?

How would things change if the idea that teens had time to try 15 candy bars before they told their mom about the one they really liked was taken into account?

Would campaigns look different if the fact that teens could learn about, and understand a concept like Fair Trade better than their parents — who may not have time to learn about sustainable  cocoa farming and livable incomes for farmers — was actually considered? And not only that, as TIME reports, once teen consumers are educated on Fair Trade, or healthy confections, or organic candy, they actually have lots of family buying power in the household. In fact, Sarah Belle actually does a lot of the grocery shopping for her family. And I have seen Monica Rose walk the grocery store aisles with my mom. Let’s just say, Monica usually wins.  

I believe there’s a real potential here for confectionery companies looking to sell higher end candies. The adults with money to blow may not be the target market you think they are, and teens could be the consumers you didn’t know you wanted.

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