Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Talking with 2.5 Million Teen/20-sums: COO Has Tips

Old Crank Hijacks Blog to Carp About "Kids These Days"

By Marc Dresner

As I sat down to write this post I had two depressing thoughts and I figured I might as well drag you down with me:

1. I am officially “old.” (And if you’re 26 years of age or over, sorry, but so are you.)

2. I am out of touch. (And if you spend a lot of time talking about “youth culture,” might be you’re out of touch, too.)

That first fun fact came courtesy of under a section on its website dubbed “Old People” that unapologetically states: “If you’re 26+ we consider you officially ‘old.’ This is an org for young people.”
Aria Finger
source: Crain's New York

(Well I didn’t want to join your stupid org anyway! Pbbt…)

The second bit I deduced—but only after chasing some teenagers off my lawn—from a comment made by’s COO, Aria Finger, who suggested that old people who talk about young people in sweeping generalizations probably don’t understand them as well as they think.

“You hear people generalizing a lot. ‘Oh, young people like to share,’ and so on,” said Finger. “We need to remember that young people are diverse.”

“‘Young people’ isn’t some homogenous panacea.”

“‘Young people’ isn’t some homogenous panacea,” she added.

She’s right, of course. And we’re all guilty of it.

Marketers and researchers, in particular, love to label and wrap blanket statements around entire generational cohorts.

It’s how we make sense of (and market to) the world. Show me a statistician who doesn’t dehumanize people for a living.

Now, no one is saying that there isn’t any truth (or utility, for that matter) to statements like “Young people like to share,” etc.

But we probably make or accept them more often than is advisable for the sake of expedience.

Myth: Teenagers are usually on the cutting edge of technology

We all know, for example, that Gen Z… er, Post-Millennials? Gen Next? …What are we calling these kids we’re generalizing about anyway?!? Gen TBD?

Whatever they are, they’re “digital natives,” right? The teens are into all the cutting edge technology, right?

Wrong. Finger says that’s a big misconception.

Well, ok, but they sure seem tech-savvy. (Help me with my DVR, please!)

I mean, what about their smartphones? All the kids have smartphones. We didn’t have smartphones when I went to high school...

And most middle-class teens in the U.S. today still don’t, Finger noted, which is why SMS text remains such a powerful communication tool.

And just where does she get her information, you ask?

Why from’s 2.5 million members ages 25 and under, of course.

 “We can send a text to 1.6 million young people and get up to 70,000 responses in minutes.”

“We can send a text to 1.6 million young people and get up to 70,000 responses in a matter of minutes,” Finger told The Research Insighter.

(For any out-of-touch oldies, DoSomething is a pretty-big-deal-not-for-profit dedicated to “making the world suck less” by connecting teens and early 20-somethings to social causes that matter to them.)

Finger is also president of TMI, DoSomething’s agency subsidiary specializing in research and consulting services around youth, technology and social change.

As a result, Finger knows a thing or two about the kids and how to communicate with them.

And in this podcast with The Research Insighter interview series, Finger shares some tips for talking with young people, including:

• Why “if you build it they will come” isn’t a great mobile strategy

• How to keep an authentic two-way text dialogue going with thousands of young people

• Why brands shouldn’t necessarily just take the kids’ word for it when it comes to preferences, and more…

Editor’s note: Aria Finger will present “Using Mobile and Data Insights to Activate Youth” at The Future of Consumer Intelligence Conference taking place May 19th through the 21st in Universal City, California.

SAVE 15% to attend The Future of Consumer Intelligence when you use code FOCI14BLOG today! 

For more information or to register, please visit

Old Crank
Marc Dresner is IIR USA’s sr. editor and special communication project lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the marketing research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at Follow him @mdrezz.

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