Once upon a time, not so long ago, brands had a fair amount of influence over what teenagers thought was cool. Magazine advertisements, star-studded TV commercials, and canny product placements played a big role in persuading young people to invest in everything from the Calvin Klein perfume CK One in the 1990s to the T-Mobile Sidekick in the 2000s.
Appealing to teens these days is as important as ever for businesses. Gen Z makes up 40% of global consumers today, with about $150 billion in spending power in the US alone, according to the consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
But online culture has upended the traditional relationship between influencers and influencees. This generation has never known life without smartphones and social media. That’s allowed teens to wrest power away from brands and traditional cultural gatekeepers. Companies hoping to appeal to this demographic will have to follow Gen Z’s lead.