Study: Differentiate marketing messages to teens, tweens

Jan. 8, 2012

The Millennial demographic, including those in their early teens through mid-to-late 20s, is expected to increase its spending influence and its size, mostly driven by immigration, in the next few years.

This growth should provide a big boon to the foodservice industry. According to recent research by The NPD Group, Millennials made more than 13 billion of the 59 billion visits to restaurants in 2010 and spent $73 billion.

And, a new report from Technomic and C3, The Dining Habits of Tweens and Teens, shows that tweens/teens play a large role in where their friends and families eat. Fifty-eight percent of teens and 54 percent of tweens report that their family decides together which full-service restaurant to visit.

The Technomic research explored 1,500 consumers' attitudes toward national restaurant chains, food preferences, dining-out behaviors with friends and family, kids' menu preferences, snacking behavior, convenience-store patronage, technology use and more.

"Our youth play an integral part in the family dining experience, often participating in decisions on where and what to eat. On the other hand, a majority of their dining behaviors derive from outside influences, most notably, friends," said Sara Monnette, Technomic director of consumer research.

Targeting the message

Because of the younger generation's growing influence, a differentiated marketing strategy geared toward that group could provide plenty of benefits. Some brands have already caught on.

For example, CKE Restaurants Inc., parent company of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, has signed an advertising agreement with, an online news website aimed specifically at Millennials. The advertising campaign is interactive, with short-form 5-to-10 second messages and content sponsorships, and is geographically targeted.

"We are creating short form advertising for Carl's Jr. and Hardee's that is specifically designed to appeal to the fast-paced Millennial Generation in a high impact, geographically targeted manner," said Brad J. Rosenberg, manager of Digital Strategy & Marketing, CKE Restaurants.

Douglas J. Greenlaw, founder and CEO, said the Millennials make up the largest generation in the history of the U.S., however is the most under-delivered demographic in the news and information space.

Other brands attract teens through high school scholarship awards, such as the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens' "Graduate to go Studios," and the KFC Colonel's Scholars Program's Twitter promotion.

There are even brands that reach out to an even younger crowd by promoting children's literacy. Great American Cookies hosts an annual Reading is SWEET program, while Pizza Hut's Book It! Reading program has featured Justin Bieber as its spokesperson, to the delight of tween girls everywhere.

Tailoring menu items

Because the attitudes and behaviors of tweens and teens reflect specific life stages, foodservice operators and suppliers may find success by tailoring menu offerings and marketing strategies to fit these stages. As an example, the majority of tweens report in Technomic's research that they wish restaurants would provide a separate menu for kids their age.

Also, the demographic tends to spend more than half of their foodservice dollars on takeout and, on average, spends more than other generations on snack items.

Snacking tends to decrease in frequency as youth get older, but the quantity of food eaten may increase. For example, 60 percent of 8- to 9-year-olds report that they snack every day, compared to 47 percent of those aged 10 to 12, and 38 percent of teens. Teens are slightly more likely than tweens to report snacking a lot (22 percent vs. 18 percent of tweens).

"Today's tweens and teens are a diverse population, even within demographic and age segments," said Ian Davidson, senior manager, Brand Insights at C3. "They can often be difficult for marketers to understand and engage. Brands that are successful with tweens and teens will need to demonstrate a tiered strategy to reach this powerful group of consumers."

This approach echoes NPD Group's research, which concludes that foodservice operators are smart to offer greater menu variety to meet Millennials' interests.

"Millennials will overtake Baby Boomers as the most sought-after target for restaurateurs in the coming years," said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. "This is the time to reach them to build their loyalty. It's important to understand that Millennials are not a one-size-fits-all generation and their needs and wants are varied."

Read more about statistics and trends.

Topics: Food & Beverage , Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Online / Mobile / Social , Trends / Statistics

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