Teenagers – The last remaining unserved telecom market?

Marketers have coveted the teen/youth market for many years.  As teens begin to work more after school jobs, their level of discretionary income without parental control continues to increase.  Many industries have taken advantage of these trends, but what about telecom?  Before you answer, a couple of interesting statistics to consider:

•  Teens spend 200 days per year in the mall Teens spend $175 billion per year in these malls Most of this spending is in cash.

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So the teen market looks a little more interesting. Now the question is, how to market to these customers?  Another interesting factoid is that although teenagers “browse” online, they “buy” at the mall.  If you think about this a bit, it makes obvious sense - for the most part, they don’t have access to credit cards.  So although the Internet can be a valuable marketing tool, it can’t be your only point of sale.

Now on to the telecom opportunity.  Initially you may think, how will telecom services fit in this market?  Phone lines and DSL are part of the parent’s monthly bill.  Pagers and cell phones may ultimately be used by teens, but are purchased by parents and there’s always a concern with the unknown bill amount at the end of the month.  We’ve seen press coverage discussing the approval of cell phones for use in schools by students for parents to be able to reach them.  Text messaging, ring tones and downloadable icons all add to the personalization of cell phone identities and the desire of teens to spend to have the latest “cool” features.

We’ve recently encountered a company who is creating the tools for phone operators to take this personalization to the next level and drive an ongoing revenue stream.  The company is Wildseed.  Wildseed is a software company with a grand marketing vision.  They are partnering with handset manufacturers to bring the operators a new twist on phones for the teen market. First, turn the phone upside down, keypad on top and screen on the bottom.  Sounds a little weird at first, but look at your hand with your phone in it and think about it - it’s actually a little more comfortable fit.  Then envision skins that wrap around your phone and bring a personal identity to it.  These skins are equipped with a chip that allows you to change the experience you have on a regular basis.

Skins have more than just different colors associated with them.  They give you access to content that supports the experience of the skins identity.  This content can be ring tones, icons, downloadable content - content only available to customers with the skins,  and access to events marketed through the skins.  The theory is they would be easy and relatively inexpensive to change the marketing options for phone operators.

Think of the marketing implications of just a few of the following:

•  Gaming: Turn your phone sideways and now you have a skin with joysticks. The phone bends a bit when you play a motocross game and vibrates when you crash.  Sell downloads that allow you to reach higher levels of games more quickly, compete interactively with others on the network, navigate the games better/faster because your skin gives you access to gaming information the competitors don’t have.  Message with your friends while you are playing - are you beating them? Make sure everyone else knows it.

•  Reward users with free ring tones, etc. for wearing the skin branded with your provider name on a certain day or the month.

•  Reward loyal fans of entertainers who don’t download their new music from the Web without paying for it.  The skin would provide them with access to encrypted music prior to public release, or access to concert tickets a day in advance of widespread sale. 

Operators will have access to software developer kits that allow them to personalize to their own marketing plans.  The phones will initially be interactive via Bluetooth, but enhancements will follow in this area.  The goal would be to have users purchase four or five skins per year, drive usage of the operators network and create loyalty while reducing churn.

This story, "Teenagers – The last remaining unserved telecom market?" was originally published by The Edge.

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