Adolescent Consumer Behavior

U.S. teenagers have almost $200 billion in buying power, most of it from their parents, according to a 2011 article on American University's website. This has not gone unnoticed by corporations and marketing companies, who target teenagers in traditional print and TV outlets, and on social networking and email sites. In other ways, being a teenager hasn't changed -- most are still influenced by their peer groups.

Psychological Factors

Many teens face insecurity with their appearance, academic and athletic achievement, and being accepted by their peers. Their insecurity might lead teens to behave in ways they think will earn them appreciation and popularity, including buying clothing, accessories, electronics and other items popular with their peer group. An article published in "Forbes" magazine in 2012, notes that many teens also focus on instant gratification because they grew up in a time of economic insecurity. They might feel they are entitled to spend money and treat themselves instead of saving because they can't trust traditional institutions such as banks.

Peer Pressure

A study published in the "Journal of Retailing" in 2004 reported that groups of teenagers hanging out in shopping malls could benefit retailers. It found that shopping with friends was a form of peer pressure that influenced high school students to buy certain items and spend more than they would on their own. This might stem from teens wanting to fit in with their peer group and being encouraged by their friends to make purchases.

Media Influence

According to a 2006 report titled "Let's Talk Business" on the University of Wisconsin website, media advertising has focused on teens for decades 3. Most teenagers are accustomed to multitasking, so sales pitches have to catch their attention in innovative ways. Additionally, self-expression and independence are important to teenagers and advertisers tap into this by allowing them to customize products. Many teenage consumers grew up watching music videos and reality shows, so marketing companies use those influences to hawk products such as clothing, shoes and make-up, electronics devices such as cellphones. According to a 2012 article in "Forbes," reality shows, in particular, tell viewers that materialistic lifestyles are achievable, leading teens and other consumers to buy certain products.


The Internet and social media sites have opened a new realm of advertising to teenagers and other consumers. "Forbes" noted that social media sites give teenagers a constant feed of updates on what their friends are buying, doing and "liking." Because of the indirect marketing messages and information from those sites, teenagers can become demanding consumers who are constantly looking for the next best thing to compete with their peers. Teenagers are major consumers of technology -- they spend about eight hours a day surfing the Internet, watching online videos and texting or talking on the phone, according to a report published in 2011 by American University. Advertisers take advantage of teens using technology. In 2006, U.S. companies spent $1.6 billion advertising fast-food and beverage products on social media, online video and other sites. A 2011 article in "Forbes" predicted that by 2016, advertisers will spend almost $77 billion online, and you can be sure the teen market will be a target of much of that spending 6.