It looks like anxiety over today’s economy has spread to a younger demographic. While in the past, young consumers were relatively recession-resistant, today’s teens are adjusting their buying behaviors accordingly. This shift highlights the difference between this generation of youngsters and generations before them.

In 2006, Euro RSCG Worldwide conducted a Global Cross-Aging Study, which polled people on their attitudes about aging. The study found that today’s youth is being forced to grow up too quickly and that older people are behaving youthful longer. This key issue is being exacerbated by the uncertainty and angst concerning the economy.

The destruction of net worth is forcing Baby Boomers to work longer. While their parents confidently retired at age 65, the anxiety of diminishing retirement funds is causing Boomers to rethink their plans. Young people, on the other hand, are being forced to mature much earlier. They are dealing with money worries at an age their parents never had to. With the threat of nonexistent social security and rising rates of unemployment, teens and young adults are feeling even more pressure to save money. In fact, 58% of American youths say they regularly save or invest for the long term.

Suddenly, this emotional observation has become a pragmatic reality.

American Student List (a company with the most comprehensive list of students) conducted a study on recession-minded teens and young adults, which was featured in a recent Ad Age article. Interestingly, this study found that while both genders are worried about the economy, males and females are reacting differently. Female teens and young adults are more likely to engage in money-saving activities (41% v. 35%) than males. Additionally, nearly half of females in this age group are looking for sales (48%) and staying home (51%) more often than a year ago, compared to fewer than 43% of males in both categories. On the other hand, almost half (48%) of the males polled buy high-end brands just as often, and nearly one-third (29%) spend money on entertainment more often.

These findings shed light on the immense opportunity for gender-specific behavioral marketing that engages teens and young adults – especially when it targets teens that spend their own money. In this recession, marketers should communicate with male and female youths in a unique way in order to get the best results.

The ASL study also highlights the importance of brand loyalty in today’s economic environment. The study found that when teen and young adult consumers’ store relationships grew stronger, shopping frequency during the past year also increased. For this reason, marketers will benefit most from advertising brand value and finding new ways to become part of this age group’s daily lives.

This key consumer group should be reached on a personal level, taking into consideration age, gender and lifestyle. Now more than ever, young people will be extremely choosy when it comes to where they spend their hard-earned money. Brands need build to Brand Rituals™ among their teen and young adult customer groups in order to engender loyalty and keep them coming back for more – regardless of fluctuations in their piggy bank.

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