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As Farrell (June 14, 2000) states: "The idea is to make milk the "cool" drink. The "mustache" still runs, with current stars such as Britney Spears." The success of such milk advertising to teens, it seems, represents an especially skillful endeavor, since milk is otherwise so much (and traditionally) associated with babyhood and early childhood, life stages (and self-images and reflections by others) that teens in particular generally yearn to leave far behind. Moreover, the considerable success of the "milk mustache" campaign proves very well the fact that just about anything can be successfully marketed to teens, as long as it is marketed to them with enough imagination, research, and skill (and with plenty of advertising dollars).
Some advertising for teens is also currently undergoing some interesting media changes, internationally. Within one global mega-conglomerate, Coca Cola, according to Foust (March 1, 2004):
Coke has diverted money into new initiatives that allow it to embed itself into the favorite activities of its target audience, everything from sports to music to the Internet. In Spain, Coke launched a Web site where the large share of twentysomethings who still live at home can design their own "virtual apartment," Sim-City-style. In Britain, the soda giant created a Web site, myCokeMusic.com, that lets surfers mix their own tracks -- and then submit them for a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" review by peers. (Business week online)
But the Coca Cola Company has also been equally hard at work at home lately, developing and energetically trying out on suburban American teens new advertising media and messages (U.S. equivalents of Coke's new marketing practices piloted in Europe). The idea behind these, as with the European ones, is that Coke is not just a product; a "lifestyle" (or at least a new way of 'hanging out' with other coke-sipping friends) also now comes along with the product. Specifically, Coke has created a whole "cool" [to teens, at least] experience intended to be integrally and automatically associated with "cool" Coca Cola.
To accomplish that, Coca Cola has begun using a combination of upscale mall locations; trendy, expensive decor; and popular music, that is, "Coke Lounges" strategically placed inside popular teen shopping spots. The overriding idea seems to be that the consumer pleasures of Coke need not be limited anymore to the mere physical consumption of it. As Foust (March 1, 2004) further explains:
When the marketers at Coca-Cola Co.... wanted to reach out to teens like Lauren Salapatek, a 17-year-old high school junior in suburban Chicago, the soda giant lured her to the Coke Red Lounge, a gathering area for mall rats built in a shopping center in the northern 'burbs. The lounge... offers exclusive music, movies, and videos piped in... [It] has quickly become a gathering spot for Salapatek and her friends. "It's cool, it's comfortable, it's in the middle of the mall," she nods approvingly as Linkin Park's Faint blares from the hooded speakers. (Business week online)
This is arguably the most insidious, yet also very likely the most deeply persuasive, type of advertising directed at teens (or at anyone). Through companies' using these cleverly ingratiating marketing techniques, products become associated, through "lifestyle experiences" with a now-desired mood, feeling, or lifestyle, always far beyond (and scarcely related to, if even that) what the product itself ever actually delivers.
Another recent teen marketing trendsetter in the United States is the Toyota Motor Company, with its, economically priced, custom accessory-laden Scion automobile line. Toyota's Scion division currently builds three models of unusually-shaped, offbeat-looking, relatively low-priced autos researched and marketed to appeal to teens. Besides the cars themselves, Scion also holds various themed "events" around the country, where young Scion owners can meet, mingle, and show off their custom paint jobs and optional Scion car accessories (e.g., polka-dotted floor mats and gear shift decorations; neon-colored cup holders, and various other effects, gadgets, and decorations, to their fellow Scion drivers and aficionados.
Toyota's teen-targeted Scion website homepage also features links to "Culture" (which then offers sub-links to "Events"; "Music"; "Scionware" (customized extra car accessories)," an installation art auction, and "Scion Chat." Also, from Scion's homepage, prospective consumers of this (supposedly, at least) hippest object on four wheels, may, should they choose, "Play the Scion Shuffle"; "Unleash Your Inner Flash Artist"; "make a music video," and "Show off your design skills and Scion love" (http://www.scion.com.,October 15, 2005). Clearly, what is being advertised is (or so it appears, at least) very much more than just a relatively fuel-efficient economy car. Implicitly, then, to own and drive a Scion is to have joined a cyberspace-inspired "club" consisting of other drivers as hip as oneself. Such masterfully brilliant advertising and marketing, on corporate Toyota/Scion's part, has managed so far to very successfully "sell" the combination of being young; short of cash, and a Scion driver, as an extremely attractive teenage place to "be." Again, what is being convincingly sold to teen consumers, in much the same way as at Coca Cola's "Coke Red Lounge" in suburban Illinois, is not so much a tangible product as an implied, associated, accompanying image or lifestyle (or, more accurately, the false promise of one).
Consumer marketing, of course, by its very nature is designed to be, and indeed must be, profit oriented in order for companies to survive. What is harmful about ways many products are marketed is that so many advertisers of all products, for all age groups, associate their products with an image or lifestyle beyond what the product actually does or delivers. However, older consumers usually know from experience to be skeptical of such tactics, while teenagers do not. Most unfortunate is that, with the teen years being so difficult anyway, teens motivated by advertising and peer pressure to buy certain items can sometimes sincerely hope or even expect that ownership will transform them. In the future, perhaps what might be useful and beneficial to teens (and all consumers) would be wider, more frequent, better known availability of books; websites; seminars; classes; articles, etc., like those so ubiquitously available to advertisers, for wary (and/or inexperienced) consumers themselves. While it is unlikely that such resources would make us any less susceptible to either peer pressure or to deceptive or manipulative advertising, they might at least better enable consumers, particular the youngest, to better recognize, understand, and critically evaluate what advertisers are really up to.
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