Modern Marketing

'My sons chose the color and design' - How teens influence purchase decisions

By sandeep Dutta |

June 16, 2022 | 8 min read

The power of teens is stronger now than ever according to Sandeep Dutta, vice president (insights division) at Kantar group.

Armed with cutting-edge knowledge and experience on food, fashion, home décor, travel and technology, teens are influencing their parents like never before. It is, then, time for marketers to ready an inclusive marketing plan that considers this influencer set’s amazing influence on purchase decisions.

Increasing influence of teens in purchase decisions

Increasing influence of teens in purchase decisions

A few days back I was talking to a mother of two teen boys aged 15 and 18 in Delhi’s tony Greater Kailash about the home furnishing category. The mother was showing me the curtains which she had bought during the last festive season and said My sons chose the color and design. We all went shopping and I suddenly realized that my sons know more about home décor trends than me. They visit many places with their friends and get to see a lot. And of course, their phones are their biggest teachers. So, I was pleasantly surprised when my older one said... mamma don’t’ pick up these floral printed curtains, today people prefer plain ones with neutral colors. My husband and I didn’t argue, and we let them decide.

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Teens of today are heard when families decide on food, fashion, home décor, travel, and technology for their household. Technology is their primary domain, and they are the esteemed advisors to their parents when the latter decide to buy mobile phones and laptops. Having grown up in the digital world they are more skilled at navigating the digital world than the physical world and this has earned them enormous respect from their parents. The parents depend on them to run their digital devices smoothly and efficiently and this is further accentuated in the post-pandemic age when they found themselves at the mercy of their digital devices both for work and leisure.

Never has a generation yielded so much power on their parents as the teens today, thanks to their mastery of technology. Their technical knowledge has triggered a role reversal that would have been unthinkable in earlier times: when they talk the parents listen and act.

But it’s not just the digital arena where their influence pervades. We are seeing their ever-growing influence in the space of food, travel and fashion too. Sometime back I met a father of a teen son, who lived a modest and conventional life in the outskirts of Delhi and had become a euphoric fan of Chinese food (read Indian Chinese) under the influence of his persuasive son.

My son used to get chow mein cooked at home, but I never liked the look of it, so I avoided it for quite some time though my wife and my other children loved it. Then one day my son insisted that I have it and I realized what I had been missing so far. I am a big fan of Chinese food; I love the spiciness and its soft textures… my wife makes it at home sometimes and my son orders it from Swiggy at least once a month. Many homes nowadays are adapting new cuisines and ingredients on the behest of their teen children who are increasingly seen as more knowledgeable than their parents, not only about global cuisines but also about healthy food trends.

A few years back I was engaged in a study on cooking oil, and I met a mother in Mumbai who very proudly informed me that the cooking oil she was using happened to be the lightest and the most premium in town. It was recommended to her by her teen daughter who was extremely calorie-conscious and had managed to influence her mother to not only use less oil in everyday cooking but use the lightest of them so that the family remains calorie-proof. My daughter follows some fitness gurus on social media and gives me tips on healthy cooking. Our food habits have changed a lot in recent years. We eat less fried food now and more baked and steamed.

Today’s teens eat out a lot regularly, watch cookery shows for entertainment purposes and follow health trends driven by their need to be fit and attractive. The food experiences and knowledge that they acquire are promptly transferred to their parents for execution and though sometimes they face initial resistance sooner than later, they find a place in the family’s food repertoire.

Last but certainly not the least is their influence on family’s aesthetic identities. The mother who bought curtains chosen by her teen sons also confided that she now dresses up keeping in mind that she will be critiqued by them. She talked about a recent incident that made her realize that her sons are ahead of her on the fashion front. A week back we had to go to a family get-together and I wore some gold jewelry and my sons told me not to wear gold as it looks too loud and instead wear costume jewelry as they look trendier. And to be honest that day I got a lot of compliments from my relatives.

Many parents have started dreading Parent Teacher Meetings; not so much because of what they would get to know about their children’s progress in school but more because of what their children’s friends would comment on their sense of fashion when they walk into the school premises. There are plenty of stories floating around about how the teens have put their parents on a strict diet before the parent-teachers meeting so that they can easily fit into their skinny jeans and look cool and trendy when they swagger into the school corridors under the prying eyes of their classmates. The day after the parents’ teacher meeting there is an intense debate in the classroom about whose parents looked the coolest and passed the teen test with flying colors.

The teen test is indeed a rigorous one that brands now have to willy-nilly pass through to enter households with a strong teen presence.

Armed with cutting-edge knowledge and experience in food, fashion, home décor, travel and technology, the teens are influencing their parents like never before. Marketers of these categories should ensure that their brand’s engagement strategy must reach beyond parents and talk to the teens lurking behind them. There is perhaps merit in devising a two-pronged engagement plan: one that targets the parents (the actual spender) and the other that engages the teens (the potential influencers) for both short-term acquisition strategy and longer-term retention strategy.

The teen tests are going to be more stringent in future; so, marketers be prepared to woo the teens and ensure that they are on your side.

Sandeep Dutta is the vice president (insights division) at Kantar group

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