Insight from the “Dark Side”

Marketing is a disgusting beast of an animal that sucks the souls of humans to feed the beast of greed. Marketers created “youth”, inclusive of the developmental stage of life and the social notion of a certain way of being. Now that it exists, they relentlessly sell it: shoes, music, clothes, body styles, education, and of course, culture.

Anastasia Goodstein is the author of a new book called Totally Wired, and the editor of YPulse.com. She watches youth, watches marketing, and tells marketers a lot about youth. Somewhere in the midst of all that there might be something good, but I have always come up short reading her. From the gist of it all I get is that she’s another lens through which marketers can observe youth.

That said, today I offer insight from the “Dark Side” – the Land of the Marketers. In her blog Goodstein explains that she was recently at a youth marketing conference – you know the kind, where hungry dogs saliva all over each other waiting for the latest news they can use to lure in their prey? Goodstein was there and collected a bunch of the latest marketing research. I think their statistics might tell us a lot about the future of social change led by and with young people in the United States. Let’s take a look:

  • There are 800,000 new teens each month. The total teen population is 33.9 million (12-19 yrs)
  • Purchasing power from 1990 to 2001 amongst teens has increased 189% in total. But between ethnicities, there’s been a 457% increase among Hispanics, 431% among Asians, 251% among blacks, and 176% among whites.
  • 46% of Hispanics in US are under 25
  • “Chill” is the top attitude/lifestlye teens associate with at 40%. Others include Urban (23%), Prep (23%) and Hip Hop (19%)
  • African Americans and Hispanics use social networking sites more than whites (both at 84% vs. 81%)
  • Music as defining their identity (44%), with family a close second (39%)
  • Surprisingly high disdain for brands. 56% see them as creating negative stereotypes. But it’s totally love/hate: “infatuation tempered with contempt.”
  • 20 million teens 12-17 are online. That’s 83% penetration which will grow to 88% in the next few years
  • 75% of teens that are online use social networking sites
  • MySpace is the #18 ranked youth brand, ahead of iPod and Nike
  • MySpace teens spend more time online (9.8 hrs) than watch TV (9.2 hrs)

According to Goodstein, the statistics came from Radha Subreamanyam of the N, a youth TV station, and Michael Barnett of Fox Interactive, the web-based side of that media monster.

What can these statistics tell us? These marketers have access to broad numbers of diverse young people, and their outcomes are tied into their statistics honesty – so I’m not sure that the numbers tell us any lies. But without making crass generalizations or cynical indictments of capitalism or consumerism, what is the lesson for youth programs and organizing campaigns and anyone else who cares to look? I think there may be gold in those mountains, and I’m gonna look. What do you think?

3 comments

  1. I tried to post a comment, but it didn’t seem to work. I just wanted to clarify that Chet Gulland, a contributing editor to Ypulse was at What Teens Want in NYC and summarized the event for Ypulse readers.

    As for me, my work and perpsective, it combines my experience in both the non-profit youth media space and the commercial space. My readers also include educators, youth ministers and many non-profit youth professionals. I’m sorry if it comes up short for you, I just don’t see marketing and commercial media through a black and white/good vs. evil lens. That point of view is not for everyone. Still, I encourage people to read, comment and contribute to the discussion of these issues at Ypulse.

    My book, Totally Wired, is for parents and is designed to give them solid information while combatting a lot of the fear and hysteria that has been whipped up around what teens are doing online.

  2. Marketers are evil!? How simplistic, reductive, and naive. Marketing is merely a symptom of society’s overall malaise, and marketers would have no one to sell to if consumers weren’t demanding their products.

    Let’s not kid ourselves. People aren’t morons, and neither are teens. To claim that marketers are the source are evil is to (a) state that people aren’t smart enough to make their own decisions (b) ignore the underlying fabric from which marketers sprang.

    See also: Marx

  3. First, since we’re shunning each others’ words, let’s not say “people, and neither are teens”, as if teens are not people.

    The market-based system that the United States relies on to serve its young people through its schools, agencies and nonprofit sector is largely failing to meet the needs of youth. In 2004 Bread for the World reported that 13 million children went to bed hungry in the United States every night. That’s here in the U.S.

    Marketers are in the distinct position of profiteering from ignorance, and that’s exactly what they do – young and old. They largely rely on misinformation to manipulate the masses – including myself, and you. And we are manipulated.

    The purpose of The Freechild Project is to fly in the face of this gross capitalistic overindulgence and inform young people and their adult allies of their ability to change the world – beyond the reach of marketers and corporations that would deceive anyone to make a buck. For the sake of transparency, that’s what we do – how about you?

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