It is of all times that teenagers are acting impulsive, which often proves to be stupid. Not without consequences these days, as witnesses are capturing all events with their mobile phones, posting it online before the unfortunate hero realizes what happened.
Examples of runaway searches for excitement and adventure are everywhere. Drunken youth who fight the police, teenagers who end up in a hospital after drinking super hot chili sauce, guys who set themselves on fire after a party, girls who strip on webcam, 13-year-olds who are threatening their school at Twitter, and so on. These are incidents, but still. There’s no escaping that youth are more susceptible to harm and shame. They are the highest risk group in traffic and they are relatively often on holiday just to drink as much alcohol as possible.
Brain science taught us that the brains of young people are constantly ‘under construction’. They don’t have a helicopter view, it’s difficult for them to think rationally, they have less control over emotions and exhibit an increased recklessness. Over the longer-term impact of their decisions they barely think.
Particularly 10-16 year olds are looking for kicks, take many risks, break the rules and express themselves with coarse language. They experiment with everything their parents have long feared: truancy, alcohol, smoking, drugs, sex, body decorations, speed, violence, vandalism, debt. Nothing new, it comes with growing older, with starting their independent lives.
What does this mean for marketing towards the “impulse junkies” from the “borderless generation”? Do organizations also have to exceed the limits and act Jackass-like? It fits Red Bull to continuously organizing over-sportive events, and there is a number of other brands for which groundbreaking actions could be called authentic.
Less “cool” companies can cause emotions too. Not by pasting a logo on a stunt, sport or style (only for insurance companies it may work to link their name to failed thrills), but for example through challenges, by changing/renewing the collection more often (variation!) or by marketing limited editions, with activities that enhance self-confidence, or -not very original- by offering the chance to win something.
Research from Linda Leijenhorst of the Brain and Development Lab (Leiden University) shows that young people are very vulnerable to the prospect of a potential reward. This audience prefers a “reward” right here, right now. Responding to the need for instant gratification (Trendwatching.com calls it “Nowism”) is of course possible in many ways. Not as fun as adolescent behavior, but better for sales.