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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  • BRB:
      Be right back

  • IMHO:
      In my humble opinion

  • JK:
      Just kidding

  • H&K 4 U bab, tak caR:
      Hugs and kisses for you babe, take care

  • LOL:
      Laughing out loud

  • LYLAS:
      Love you like a sister

  • NP:
      No problem

  • OMG:
      Oh my God

  • OTP:
      On the phone

  • ROFL:
      Rolling on the floor laughing

  • RUOK:
      Are you okay?

  • CYL8r 2nite@*$'sk:
      See you later at Starbucks, OK?

  • TTFN:
      Ta-ta for now

  • TTYL:
      Talk to you later

  • YW:
  • You're welcome
Source: Wired magazine


Eating morally is a cause celebre for some teens. They work together to decry pesticide use, to limit deforestation and to improve the conditions of food workers in developing countries. They vote with their dollar for fair trade, conservation and natural foods.

More than half of 1,183 teens in a January 2006 Omnibuzz (a collaborative effort between TRU and Harris Interactive) survey believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction - surprising news from a generational cohort often described as carefree and optimistic. Only 18 percent say the nation is headed in the right direction.

They think even less of what we've done to the environment. Only 17 percent are satisfied with the country's progress on environmental issues, compared to 57 percent who believe the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction environmentally. Their sentiments on education are similarly grim: 18 percent approve and 51 percent disapprove of the nation's track record.

TRU Trends Director Rob Callender says last year's natural disasters - and lackluster response efforts - contributed to teens' overall feeling of unease about the world around them. Despite their gloomy outlook, teens haven't yet given up hope, Callender says. "Optimism and faith in the future are integral parts of the teen mindset," he says. "In a follow-up Omnibuzz survey, 60 percent of teens said they believe 2006 will be a better year than 2005.

How we stock their vending machines

According to the agreement reached between the Southport, Conn.-based Alliance for a Healthier Generation (a joint venture of the American Heart Assn. and the Clinton Foundation) and the country's top beverage companies (PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Cadbury Schweppes and the American Beverage Assn.), elementary and middle schools will sell only water, some unsweetened juices and low-fat plain and flavored milks. However, the juice and milk will only be available in 8-oz. containers in elementary schools or 10-oz. containers in middle schools. At the high school level, diet sodas, light sports drinks and reduced-calorie teas will be added to the list, and milk and juice servings can increase to 12-oz. sizes. A final caveat of the guidelines requires at least half of all beverages sold in the high schools be water.

Potato or tortilla chips 43%
Cookies 35%
Fresh fruit 32%
Chewing gum 27%
Ice cream 26%
Candy bar 22%
Popcorn or pretzels 21%
Crackers 19%
Cereal or granola bar 18%
Yogurt 17%


Source: Buzz back's report "Teens Eating Healthy: Oxymoron or Trend?"



TRU asked 1,994 teens (ages 12 to 19) what beverage brands they drank in the past six months:

Coca-Cola Classic 55.2% (higher for Hispanics)
Sprite 52.1% (higher for females and African Americans)
Dr. Pepper 51.2%
Pepsi-Cola 51.0% (higher for Hispanics)
Gatorade 46.4%
Mountain Dew 44.2% (higher for males)
7 Up 43.5%
Aquafina 37.5%
A&W Root Beer 33.1%
Cherry Coke 31.4%



  Average minutes per month
Male 650
Female 825
Combined average 780


Source: Telephia's Q4 '05 Mobile Youth Report


Hip-hop, rap and R&D musicians still comprise more than half of the Top 10 list of music act scores, but rock acts are threatening to make the race competitive for the first time in years.

Top music scores (Percent*)


Kanye West 37
Eminem 36
The Game 35
Green Day 35
System of a Down 34
Three 6 Mafia 33
Weezer 32
Fall Out Boy 30
Jay-Z 29
Nelly 29


Fall Out Boy 52
Kelly Clarkson 50
Chris Brown 49
Green Day 49
Usher 48
Mariah Carey 48
Kanye West 45
Ciara 45
Weezer 43
Gwen Stefani 42


Source: TRU's TRU Score 2006 - derived by dividing percentage of respondents who indicated they like a particular artist "very much" by percentage who are familiar with that artist.



Teens' favorite color is blue, but it's rare to find a naturally blue food. That's why food manufacturers have developed a variety of foods, from cookies to soda that are not blue by nature. It's a way to add interest to ice cream, cookies, toppings, and even french fries. In fact, some think the newly introduced blue M&M's taste better than the other colors.

No matter what the latest trends, teens are rebellious by nature, so a quest for the unconventional is always on their agenda. Since blue is so rare in nature, naturally endowed blueberries in all their forms are a great solution in food formulation for teens. Millennials perceive blueberries as healthy but cool.

TV has some work to do

A poll by Bolt Media, a Web site used to upload videos and photos, found only one in four 12- to 34-year-olds can name all four major broadcast networks: ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, reports Surfing the Internet is the most popular activity for 84 percent of respondents, followed by hanging out with friends (76 percent), watching movies (71 percent), and TV viewing (69 percent). The five most-watched TV networks are Fox, Comedy Central, ABC, MTV and Cartoon Network.

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