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The sisterhood


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The sisterhood

  1. 1. WINTER 2010
  2. 2. Seeking to better understand how teen girls spend, socialize and communicate, Euro RSCG Worldwide PR commissioned a survey by MicroDialogue to a random and representative sample of 100 teenage girls aged 13 to 18 during November 2009. This white paper presents the proprietary study’s findings in the context of today’s communications and business worlds as they are increasingly dominated by social and other digital media. The objective is to present a picture of how American teenage girls spend money, consume media and socialize with friends and family. With the Winter 2010 analysis of this data and insights from teen girls across the country in hand, Euro RSCG Worldwide PR will launch The Sisterhood this spring.This agency within an agency will offer PR and marketing tools and a dedicated blog that will help brands sell to and influence teenagers, or at least join the trialogue—multi-way exchanges of ideas and opinions among consumers and brands, which matter now more than ever—as authentic players.
  3. 3. As the Great Recession grinds on, marketers and retailers are pressed to find markets populated with willing-to-spend consumers. American teenage girls have emerged as one such market, a demographic heavily motivated by trends1 that wields almost totally discretionary income. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the average teen has $2,634 of annual income from allowance, part-time work and gifts. That’s in addition to the $5,496 of parental money an average teen spends each year. All that amounts to more than $216.3 billion in yearly purchasing power for teen girls and boys combined.2 These numbers are eye-opening. Teens’ ability to affect a brand’s bottom line is considerable. But among teens, the spending habits of girls are drastically different from those of boys, with girls a more dynamic consumer demographic. A 2008 market study found, for example, that both year-over-year (2007 to 2008) and sequential spending by boys dropped by 3 percent, whereas spending by girls was up 6 percent from 2007 but down 7 percent sequentially.3 This discrepancy indicates that when it comes to spending, girls’ peaks are higher and their troughs lower; they are inclined to ride the high tide and mellow in the ebb of the changing economy. Does this reflect sensitivity to the market? An ability to restrain and moderate spending when times call for it? A social equilibrium more given to reaching a tipping point than that of boys? Euro RSCG Worldwide PR’s focus on teen girls, including the November study and this white paper, endeavors to answer such questions by better understanding the American teenage girl consumer. In addition to their purchasing power, this demographic is also a crucial one because of their engagement with social media. Teenage girls have been shaped by social media and, in turn, are shaping its development, particularly at the synapse points where social media interfaces with shopping. Since their generation is arguably the first fully wired one, their habits will determine how relevant markets develop. Euro RSCG Worldwide’s November 2009 study of social media revealed that people have come to accept social media as not just a part of social life but also an enhancement of it.Tools such as smartphones, SMS, instant messaging, Twitter and Facebook are no longer used simply as stand-alone services or devices but form a social web that is changing how people think, behave, socialize, communicate and—of course—spend. Today’s teenagers, part of the first generation of people who have never experienced communication in a world without the Internet, are self-taught masters of social technology and can seamlessly weave this social media web into their lives.They include what they want and need, and ignore, block or disable what they don’t. Teenage girls are among the most widely affected and involved of today’s social media users. 3 INTRODUCTION
  4. 4. TEEN GIRLS SEARCH AND SPENDTOPICALLY The conventional wisdom is that teens spend countless hours lost online, trolling haphazardly through fields of digital content, often of potentially dubious moral or educational value. This image of teen media consumption coincides with the popular notion of trend-addicted teen girls flocking to the latest fad, on or in the mall, and snapping up goods in a frenzy. The sober reality is that while teens certainly consume a lot of digital media, they do so in a purposeful and targeted way, spending a relatively modest amount of their time online. In fact, according to Nielsen, teens spend an average of 11 hours and 32 minutes per month online, well below the average for U.S. adults of 29 hours and 15 minutes.4 The widespread ownership of mobile platforms such as iPods and iPhones allows teens to dip in and out of media repeatedly through the day, including while they’re on the move. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study of 8- to 18-year-olds released in January 2010, 20 percent of their media consumption occurs on mobile devices, such as cell phones, iPods or hand-held video game players.5 Our data shows that teenage girls do not indiscriminately consume media and shop. A full 71 percent of respondents to the Euro RSCG Worldwide PR survey report that when they go online, they know what they’re looking for. And what is that? Friendship and a space to conduct their social relationships. 4
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  6. 6. For teenage girls, social media and social relationships reinforce each other—almost 8 in 10 use social media to keep in touch with friends. Three-quarters say they are in “constant contact” with friends via text (Nielsen reports that teens send a daily average of 96 text messages), Facebook, iChat, AIM or other social media sites or services. The goings-on at school or among their friends dominate these communications. More than half (51 percent) say they use social networking sites to keep up with school gossip, while 54 percent fear missing out on important gossip or social events if they are not in “constant communication” with friends. “Constant communication,” however, does not mean teenage girls are permanently online; they dip in and out. They surf the Web and use social media with a high degree of focus, making quick checks of Facebook, sending lightning-fast IM chats and posting short messages across online social media platforms. They search rather than browse and actively communicate rather than passively consume. 6 For teenage girls, social media enables social relationships, which are conducted, to a significant extent, through the tools of social media. 3,500 3,000 2,500 2,000 1,500 1,000 500 0 Qtr 1 Qtr 2 Qtr 3 Qtr 4 Qtr 1 Qtr 2 Qtr 3 Qtr 4 Qtr 1 2007 2007 2007 2007 2008 2008 2008 2008 2009 Number of Calls Sent/Received Number of Billed SMS Sent/Received 435 1959 1742 1514 1051 904857 255 286 280 240 238 231 239 203 191 2899 2272 AVERAGE NUMBER OF MONTHLY PHONE CALLS AND TEXTS U.S. MOBILE TEENS 13-17 SOURCE: The Nielsen Co.
  7. 7. TEEN GIRLS HUNT FOR WHATTHEY WANT The shopping behavior of teenage girls can be compared with the hunting strategies of birds of prey, which soar high above the land to spot exactly what they want. They’re keen-eyed and patient, willing to wait until they see the right item at the right price. Then they swoop. They know the parameters of what they want: brand and price. With their budgets limited to the takings of part-time jobs and allowances, teenage girls look for sales, with 61 percent saying they tend to wait for items to go on sale before buying them. In addition, 77 percent say they are more likely to buy on sale than at full price. But, importantly, low price alone is not the primary consideration. Almost two-thirds say that if they can find a good brand at a fair price, they tend to justify costly purchases. And catching a preferred brand—they are very loyal to their favorites—at a discount retailer provides a sense of enjoyment to 7 out of 10 teen girls. 7
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  9. 9. When it comes to interfacing with a brand about sales and special offers, teen girls prefer to be the active seeker rather than passive recipient. They show a clear preference for approaching a brand to find out about sales and special promotions versus having the brand approach them. Thirty-seven percent say they sign up for e-mail incentives and discounts from their favorite brands, while 28 percent “browse the Web and subscribe to newsletters” for coupons and sale updates. Only 19 percent like to become fans of their favorite brands on Facebook; about three times as many (56 percent) don’t do so. 9 Teen girl shoppers have clear ideas about what they want and what it feels like in their hands. They know how to find what they want and prefer to actively seek it out by approaching brands, not the other way around. And they’re willing to seek out their preferences at the right price.
  10. 10. TEEN GIRLS SOCIALIZE IN GROUPS,NOT FLOCKS When they find a good deal, teen girls want to share it—but they’re more interested in tipping off a friend than in broadcasting the information. Almost two-thirds of girls (65 percent) say that when their favorite brand or store has a sale, they tell their best friend or sister; 57 percent say that when they find out about a new brand or trend, they share it with a best friend or sister. The means by which girls tend to share this information is key. Just 5 percent use Facebook and 5 percent use IM; factoring in e-mail and Twitter, only a quarter of teen girls turn to social or online media to spread the word about shopping and sales. The overwhelming majority relies on a much more traditional method of communication: word-of-mouth. 10
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  12. 12. Nearly half the girls we surveyed pass along this information by text message, and 28 percent do so by phone, which means that close to 8 out of 10 use a one-on-one form of communication to spread news about shopping and discounts. With girls using SMS, phone and social media to roughly the same extent when it comes to telling their friends or sisters about other important topics—fashion and style, entertainment and even social events—it’s clear that teen girls operate in segmented social networks. 12 While the average teen girl might have more than 100 friends on Facebook, she focuses on sharing key information with the one or two people closest to her. 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Nov. Nov. Nov. Feb. Sep. 2004 2006 2007 2008 2009 % of teens 12-17 who own cell phones 45% 75% 71%71% 63% TEEN CELL-PHONE OWNERSHIP SOURCE: The Pew Foundation
  13. 13. INTIMACY ISTHE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR This approach to communication and sharing bespeaks a culture of intimacy in which important things are communicated only to important people. When it comes to topics that play a role in their daily life, teen girls prefer to talk to a select few rather than to a mass of people, and they would rather be in on a conversation than be part of a big group of onlookers. They don’t broadcast information on Twitter or even Facebook. They almost adamantly prefer to both receive and disseminate information by conversing with very close friends. Thinking of a teen girl’s intimate circle as exclusionary, however, misses the point. Rather, the small group formed by two or three girls who think of each other as sisters allows each to have her say and ensures that each will be heard. Individual identity is not lost, as it can be in larger groups; on the contrary, it gets highlighted. This intimate group interaction, key to all aspects of a teenage girl’s life, is better known as sisterhood. The parallel between how teen girls communicate and how they shop again emerges. Just as teen girls prefer texting or calling their best friend or sister about sales, trends and brands rather than broadcasting the information, they also greatly prefer an intimate dynamic when they shop. 13
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  15. 15. Shopping with just her best friend or sister, a teen girl will spend 23 percent more than when shopping with two or more friends. Shopping with a boy, she will spend less than half (43 percent) of what she spends with her close friend or sister. And shopping with her mother, who provides access to a larger budget and is also a key member of her intimate circle, she will spend triple the amount she spends with a group of friends. This connection is about comfort, as well as trust and credibility: When it comes to getting an honest opinion, teen girls have the same level of trust with their best friends/sisters as they do with their mothers. And when it comes to shopping, being able to rely on an honest opinion is what matters to a teen girl. 15 For the teenage girl, the inner circle is the inner sanctum. Important interactions, shopping and communication happen within this circle, where a sense of sisterhood can influence decisions.
  16. 16. THE INDIVIDUAL ME It’s no secret that teens are me-focused. Researchers from University College London have even found that the brains of teen girls react differently from the brains of adult women when presented with questions and situations involving other people. “We think that a teenager’s judgment of what they would do in a given situation is driven by the simple question: ‘What would I do?’” says UCL brain researcher Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. “Adults, on the other hand, ask: ‘What would I do, given how I would feel and given how the people around me would feel as a result of my actions?’” 6 Teens today live in a world structured for such self-centeredness. This has reached a new level with the advent of cheap mobile communications and social media. Just about every teen girl has a cell phone, many of which are Web-connected. The MySpace page is hers, the Facebook profile is hers. So are the cell phone number, the details on her profile page and the intimate group of friends who get to learn her secrets. 16
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  18. 18. Today’s world has been remade for the female teenager—or so it must seem to the teen girl. That her approach to personal style agrees with this worldview is only natural. Almost 6 out of 10 teen girls we surveyed said that maintaining a unique personal style is important to her—that’s roughly double the number of girls who said they like to follow the same trends and adopt the same styles as their friends. For fashion inspiration and to keep up with trends, teen girls look to their own role models, with 42 percent saying their style is influenced by their favorite movie and TV stars; just 26 percent are influenced by the style of the popular and “cool” girls at school. 18 The teen girl sees herself as uniquely defined by her tastes and preferences, and wants to feel that uniqueness as she spends and shops.
  19. 19. ME FOCUS BRINGS GIRLS TO PHYSICAL STORES The Euro RSCG Worldwide social media study found that this narrowing focus on “me” and “mine” reflects another important trend: hyperlocalism. The refocusing of digital media on local communities, local shopping and geography-specific microtrends is returning the consumer to his or her own world. Whereas in its earlier years the Internet was an amorphous mass of content with little local specificity, today’s Web is becoming segmented and focused on local communities. Teen girls in one sense have primarily encountered the Main Street of their home cities or towns and in another sense have only known the incredible power and specialized reach of social media. They want access to both the local-specific and the me-focused. Our survey found that more than half of teen girls (52 percent) say they typically shop at places near home. And, contrary to any notions that teens are super-wired cyber-zombies who point and click for everything, three-quarters of teen girls say they prefer to shop in stores so they can touch and feel the items to determine quality, rather than online. 19
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  21. 21. This need to touch and feel is woven into the wider social experience of shopping. As a social experience that’s focused on the girl herself, the presentation of brand and store is important. Nearly half of girls (47 percent) say the music and atmosphere of a store are important factors in their shopping experience. There is also a pragmatic barrier to online shopping: 67 percent of teen girls we surveyed don’t buy online simply because they don’t have a credit card. And 49 percent say that if they had their own credit card, they would shop more online. 21 Teen girls like what’s theirs, which means they want to shop in the places they know best. This focus on what they know brings them into the physical stores in their local communities.
  22. 22. THE BRAND APPROACH Teen girls live in a world where they are empowered by a sense of possessing. They own media and have control over it—a notion that not long ago was unimaginable. They have an unprecedented ability to acquire their own products and services. Possession structures their lives: no longer the family-shared land line but the personal cell phone, the Facebook page and the WiFi-enabled iPod. By virtue of this all-encompassing sense of possession, they are annoyed by intrusions into spaces they feel are theirs. After configuring her Facebook profile, posting the right photos and moderating responses to messages, the sight of an irrelevant ad is a blight. Even the right brand advertising in the wrong place provokes annoyance. And as one brand manager once observed of teen girls’ response to brands,“Once they’ve been turned off to it, it’s hard to turn around.”7 News of a bad experience travels, with 72 percent of girls from our survey saying that an awful experience (like a good experience) with a brand, product or service is worth telling “lots of people” about. Teen girls show a clear preference for making the first move in approaching brands—signing up for specific e-mail alerts rather than receiving newsletters to browse, searching for favorite brands at a reduced price rather than browsing for alternate brands or accepting full-price offerings. 22
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  24. 24. All this means brands face the challenge of how to meet the teen girl. One key is that as the vanguard of fully acclimated social media users, teen girls are an important part of another feature of today’s new consumer world: the centrality of marketing-as-discussion. Teen girls, like other social media-oriented groups, want to talk about the brands that are important to them— and they want to talk with the brand as they talk about the brand among themselves. This notion of a three-way conversation, the trialogue, is important. And with teen girls, it must be translated into a marketing language that suits their tendency to share and discuss with their intimate circle. The conversation, which often occurs on social media sites like Facebook, needs to be tailored to fit within the parameters of text messaging, the social/digital communication of choice for teen girls. The rise of social cause marketing online also presents an inroad to the teenage girl market. While few teen girls give money to social causes, 31 percent use online resources to find out about ways to volunteer for a cause, and about a quarter use these resources to organize people in benefit of a cause. While the participation numbers are not exceedingly high, a brand’s association with a social cause is one way to help develop a relationship with teen girls and their mothers.Teen girls triple their spending when they shop with mom, so a positive brand image held by both mother and daughter can result in significant benefits for brands. 24 Teen girls are empowered by owning their own media and communication devices, and they don’t like any intrusions from brands into that space. They like to make the first move and be involved in a social-media-based conversation with their favorite brands. Social causes are one inroad.
  25. 25. THE INTENSE MID-TEENS On many scores, the mid-teen years (15-16) appear to be the most intense—many of the distinctive female teen attributes are at their most widespread. Girls are no longer kids but not yet fully young women. In the midst of a massive life transition, these girls are more likely than other ages to be casting around for connection and assurance. For example, while 77 percent of the overall teen sample communicate by text with their sister(s)/best friend daily or several times a day, 84 percent of the 15-year-olds do so. Mid-teens are the most frequent and avid users of many technologies. We found that 58 percent overall phone their sister(s)/best friend daily or several times a day, versus 74 percent of 15-year-olds. The same applies to e-mail (24 percent overall versus 47 percent of 15-year-olds). It also applies to usage of less popular tools: Just 4 percent overall use Flickr often or always for photo sharing versus 11 percent of 15-year-olds; 9 percent overall use video chat often or always versus 16 percent of 15-year-olds. With Facebook, 42 percent overall communicate daily or several times a day, versus 63 percent of 15-year-olds. And where a huge 78 percent overall use social networking sites to keep in touch with 25
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  27. 27. friends, virtually all 15-year-olds do so (95 percent). One big factor driving this intense usage is fear of missing out on important gossip or social events if they’re not in constant communication with friends (54 percent overall, 69 percent of 15-year-olds and 70 percent of 16-year-olds). Both setting and following trends is especially important to this cohort. While around a third (35 percent) of the overall sample aspire to be a trendsetter whom other girls will admire and copy, just under half of 15-year-olds (47 percent) feel this way. A very substantial 84 percent of 15-year-olds wish they could customize/personalize more of their clothing and accessories versus 59 percent overall. At the same time, 15-year-olds are more likely to say they like to wear the same styles and trends as their friends (53 percent versus 32 percent overall). And 74 percent of the 15-year-olds consider themselves stylish/trendy/cool compared with 58 percent overall. Expensive brands help give them the confidence they seek; more than half of 15-year-olds (53 percent) feel more important and substantial on a day when they’re wearing brands that are known to be more expensive versus 37 percent overall. Sisterhood—by blood or friendship—provides a crucial sense of connection for teen girls, but especially for those in their mid-teens. While 49 percent of the overall sample thinks no bond is stronger than that of sisterhood, as many as 69 percent of 15-year-olds believe this. When they seek brutally honest feedback, two-thirds overall first turn to a sister or best friend versus 84 percent of 15-year-olds. And 72 percent overall say their sister/best friend knows them better than anyone else, compared with 84 percent of 15-year-olds and 87 percent of 16-year-olds. Across the sample, 64 percent believe a sister/best friend is the most important relationship in life, while 74 percent of 15-year-olds believe so. Correspondingly, a high proportion of 75 percent overall tell their sister/best friend secrets and personal information that they don’t share with anyone else, but the proportion is even higher among 15-year-olds (84 percent) and 16-year-olds (87 percent). When they get exciting news, 71 percent overall share it with their sister/best friend first versus 79 percent of 15-year-olds. Not surprisingly, while 63 percent trust their sister/best friend more than anyone in the world, an even higher 79 percent of 15-year-olds feel this way. 27 Among teen girls, 15 is the pivotal age when teen-ness goes into high gear, when energy meets confidence and a growing sense of possibilities.
  28. 28. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR BRANDS AND MARKETERS Boys Want Thrills, Girls Want Relationships While teen boys seek thrills and spills, teen girls have a more complex agenda in which relationships play a crucial role. Many activities are driven or supported by their developing relationships. They use social media to manage and maintain these relationships in a highly purposeful way. Brands and marketers must ensure they don’t impinge; to the extent that they’re present, they should be available to facilitate the interactions. Customization and Contests Brands have an opportunity to bring teen girls into their stores (both online and physical) by coupling contests and customization. Girls are attracted by the ability to modify and personalize goods. And to do so as part of a team—with her best friend and/or sister—provides a social motivation for girls to get involved with brands and campaigns. Brand-and-Price Nexus Teen girls buy when they find the correct nexus of brand, price and environment. They will not compromise on brand. With more time than money, however, they will wait until they find their brand at their price. To maximize unit sales, stores must offer the right brands at the right prices—and those must be presented in the right ambience, where a girl can feel comfortable enough to engage in the social experience of shopping. Knowing Who Each Teen Girl Is and What She Prefers Knowing teen girls is about knowing each teen girl. An accurate profile of a teen girl— her pop culture role models, her favorite bands and her shopping history—makes all the difference in marketing to her successfully. Social media provides unique opportunities for girls to compile this information for brands in exchange for access (or alerts) to special offers. 28
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  30. 30. FOOTNOTES 30 PHOTO CREDITS Cover: Sherbet Photography Inside front: Euro RSCG Worldwide PR Page 3: delong Page 4: (from top) mihaylova Page 5: Page 7: Yvonne (insets, from top)’s pics Page 8: Page 9: (from left) flying Page 10: (clockwise from top) Yourdan Page 11: Page 12: Page 13: Page 14: Page 15: Page 16:’vision Page 17: Page 18: Page 19: (from top) Susumpow Keller Page 20: Page 21: (from left) Page 22: (from top) // ou gee tew tee Page 23: Bellamkonda Page 24: Giona Page 25: (from top) hickey Page 26: Marie Photography Page 29: MC hammer