targeting teens

caroline laurin

Lauren and Sarah are best friends and typical teenage girls. They play sports, talk on the phone, surf the net, and hang out at the mall. They know all about who and what is the hot trend of the moment, and can spend hours talking about it. Since teen trends change so quickly, they are a ready source for gossip. The girls work hard to ensure they are always up-to-date.

It is incredibly difficult to grab their attention and even harder to maintain it, which is a challenge facing anyone with a product marketed to teenagers.

Magazines in particular have a tough time selling to teens. Unlike mature publications that develop a solid and loyal subscription base, teen magazines have, at best, three or four years with any given reader and have to constantly search for new ones.

What is encouraging is that teenagers are the largest group of magazine readers. It is not a question of getting them to read. The tricky part is making them brand loyal. With a high disposable income, they are the holy grail of consumer-based marketing. A variety of tools are needed to capture them.

Glow, a magazine promoted by Shopper’s Drug Mart and Rogers Publishing, is in the process of launching Glow Girl, due in the fall of 2005, in the hopes of using the distribution power of the Optimum program to hook teen girls. People can sign up for an Optimum card at Shopper’s Drug Mart as young as 12 years old.

The card allows the holder to collect points from their purchases to be redeemed later for a cash rebate. This allows Shopper’s Drug Mart to monitor which products are popular with what age group.

By using the Optimum database, Glow Girl will determine who buys the kinds of products it advertises and send the magazine straight to their homes, says Krista Bradley, a sales representative for the publication. “We appreciate in this world of technology it’s not very often that someone gets mail anymore. It’s kind of nice to get something, especially when you’re a younger girl at home, that’s addressed to you, that’s a magazine just for you,” she says. Shopper’s Drug Mart hopes that Glow Girl readers will be more inclined to buy the things they have seen in its pages, says Bradley.

The publications that brave the newsstand have to be much more aggressive.

When Faze magazine was first launched, it featured subjects such as crime and punishment and young entrepreneurs on the cover, says Paul Zander, Faze’s executive director. But after a while, that began to change.

“We started moving into having more celebrities on the cover because we sort of realized that if you want to get magazines selling on newsstands, and getting picked up, the cover really has to be exciting.”

Not only are celebrities a helpful hook, but they also provide much of the magazine’s content. Faze often has a feature profile about the cover and reports on their struggles to stardom.

Fashion 18 uses the celebrity draw differently. “We recognize that teens look to the celebrity market for trends and styles, so we reflect that and try to stay in touch with what our readers are looking for,” says Jacqueline Demchuk, the magazine’s acting director of advertising/marketing.

It is of paramount importance for writers to be up to date with what their readers want.

Faze keeps it fresh by keeping it young. “Most of the writers are either [in their late] teens or college-aged students, so we definitely keep a very youthful voice,” Zander says.

There is no better way to grab a teenager’s attention than by offering free stuff, so contests and giveaways reign supreme in teen magazines.

“Teens love contests and are very interactive,” Demchuk says. “They are a finicky group, you know, so we do our best in that regard and use their feedback.”

Faze incorporates TV to help push its product. “We’ll do a contest where there will be an element where the winner gets to co-host a TV show and they get to appear in Faze magazine, or they’ll get a micro-site hosted on the website,” Zander says.

Trial copies of Faze are also included in gift packs across the country and, by including the magazine with other purchases, it is guaranteed to make its way into the home.

“About 200,000 copies throughout the year are given out at video dance parties in gift bags that you get as you leave,” Zander says. “We also sell 600,000 sample copies in these teen sample packs that are sold in Shopper’s Drug Mart and Zellers and various retailers.” By joining forces with these retailers, Faze broadens the ways it gets into the hands of its readers. “It’s about getting our name out there in lots of ways. There is a lot of sampling going on out there with the magazine,” Zander says.

Sampling magazines seems to be okay with teen girls. Lauren and Sarah spent their money on a magazine neither had read before. It was simply the only one they could find with a picture of Jennifer Aniston on the cover and they wanted an update on the actress’ love life. Whether this leads to them buying the next issue or getting a subscription remains to be seen.

Much like Pitt and Aniston, the matching of teens and their magazines is a temporary thing.

But it’s good while it lasts.

Photos by Caroline Laurin