Are You Communicating with Teens?

They're numerous, cool and impressionable. They already spend millions. In a decade or so, they’ll be your primary market. Are you talking teens' language?

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

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Snack attack

"In food products, the good news is teens are very interested in convenience, attracted to products that offer variety and newness and there's a growing interest in healthy food alternatives," says Wood.

There's no doubt, Frito-Lay knows how to build excitement for a brand. "One of the most appealing brands to teens is our Doritos brand," says Jared Dougherty, spokesperson, Frito-Lay Inc., Plano, Texas, a subsidiary of PepsiCo. "The brand has had a long history of introducing bold and spicy flavors that teens are looking for and is involved with appealing promotions.

"Doritos has done a good job using music as well as comedy in advertising to appeal to teens," he continues. "The brand now is offering interesting prizes that money can't buy, experience-based prizes that really appeal to teens and young adults – for example, win a day as an intern at a record label. Last summer we invited people to work backstage at music festivals across the country. And when Doritos introduced its packaging with a great new look for the bag, we held a promotion for teens to get a new look of their own – a makeover."

Crafting grab-and-go snacks for teens is something Kraft Foods and its Nabisco brand excel at, providing options such as Kraft Easy Mac, DiGiorno frozen pizza or its latest offering – 100-calorie snack packs of its most popular snack brands. Teens, particularly females, don't have the time or inclination to figure out portions, so this line makes snacking and calories a no-brainer.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis-based General Mills continues to grow share for its best-selling brand in the frozen hot snacks category, Totino's Pizza Rolls. It's a great snack for hungry teens, particularly males, who enjoy savory flavors. It's notable that seven of the Top 20 frozen Hot Snacks/Sandwiches contain pepperoni, and 49 percent of frozen pizza options included pepperoni, according to AC Nielsen (26 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2005).

"We find in all categories that all ages love spicier foods both in restaurant options and home cooking," says Marlene Johnson, senior public relations manager. "All of us are exposed to and enjoy more full-bodied flavors, including Mexican and other ethnic foods."

When hands are full or teens are watching their weight, chewing gum is a perfect solution. It helps multi-tasking teens concentrate better, eases tension and some brands even whiten teeth. Chicago-based Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.'s Orbit, the No. 2 gum franchise, second only to Wrigley's Extra gum, will roll out the two latest Orbit flavors in July: Lemon-Lime and Crystal Mint.

"Despite having a lot of money to spend, they want to get good value and are very selective in how they spend," says Wood. "They are an extremely sophisticated group in terms of shopping behaviors. We like to say these teens are as comfortable shopping at Wal-Mart as they are Tiffany."

For the first time, this age group very sees a strong link between what they consume and performance, according to Wood. "They've grown up with Smart Water – water with electrolytes for brain power. We hear them talk about dosing with a caffeine fix before an exam or an energy boost before a game. Because they have so many choices, they don't have to settle on a soft drink when they can have an energy drink.

"My advice to the food industry is it's important to be open and take chances (creating products) for this age group," says Wood. "This is a very forgiving cohort. The myth associated with teens is if they try something that doesn't work and it flops they hold it against you. These teens are not like that, in fact, the only mistake that a brand can make is not taking chances."

U got 2 luv em, TTFN.


Cool, often pronounced "kewl," is the all-purpose word for OK, good, great and terrific, according to Robert Thompson, a Syracuse University professor of popular culture, reports STL "Cool" remains the gold standard of slang in the 21st century, much as it did for the latter half of the 20th century.

Some other teen jargon:

    • All that and a bag of chips – very attractive, fine, cool

  • Awesome –
      great, really cool

  • Butter, butta –
      something that is good

  • Brizoke –
      broke, no money

  • Cheddar, cheese –

  • Chillaxin –
      hanging out and relaxing

  • Crush –
      the person you really like, but they don't know it

  • Dis –

  • M&M –

  • Phat –
      very cool

  • Rents –

  • Slacker –
      not someone who tries but can't do something, this person is lazy or dumb

  • Tight –
      very close, based on relationships; best friends are tight

  • Trendies –
      kids that always are the first to try a popular item

  • Way –
      very. If something is cool, another teen will say "way," meaning they agree, and then some

  • Whatever –
  • one-word answer to something they just don't want to talk about



  • BBL:
      Be back later
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