Teenagers and Marketing Communication on Instagram
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This study aims to determine if teenagers between the ages of 14-16 years are aware of the marketing communication tactics they are exposed to on Instagram. The study focuses on Instagram because it is one of the most recent platforms and is popular among teenagers as it has more features than other platforms. It is also an increasingly popular pathway for marketers to engage with teenagers, for which reason this study attempts to understand the relationship between the platform and teenager consumers. The use of mobile phones and Instagram as a platform has increased exponentially and both play an integral role in the lives of teenagers today. It is thus important to understand the influence of Instagram marketing on teenagers. Marketing communication is ever present in the lives of teenagers (Moore, 2004). Many marketers have recognised that the teenage audience is a very profitable target market. Teenagers are targeted by marketers because they are developing knowledge, skills and values they will use in making purchasing decisions throughout their lifetimes. According to Dieneke and Sompel (2013), many children spend the vast majority of their free time either watching television or surfing the internet, where a lot of marketing communication is placed. With the rise of the internet, mobile technology and social media, teenagers have a number of ways to communicate to the world and gain their own perspective on information. This research employs qualitative research methods. Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with teens in the age group of 14 – 16 years old. The interview questions sought to understand how teens perceive and react to marketing communications on Instagram. The teens were asked to login and interact with their Instagram account while being interviewed so that the interviewer had a more complete picture of the teens’ reactions while exposed to marketing communications. The research found that teens were using Instagram as a communication channel with their friends; they were not interested in what influencers were promoting. Although the teens showed some interest in some of the popular brands, they were always careful with how they reacted to the products they saw. It was mentioned by all the teens that they understood brands were directing advertising at them to encourage them to purchase products. The teens made it clear that they were not easily convinced or pushed into making a purchase. They also stressed they always performed background research on a website and promoted brand before actually buying a product online. The teens were aware of marketers’ intentions and skipped through most marketing communication activity they saw on the app. Managers need to rethink their marketing strategy and make sure that they are not forcing their promotions onto teenagers. Today’s teenagers are technologically savvy. They need to be communicated to in a way that shows a promotion relates to their lives – the type of promotion that gets them thinking and wanting to know more. A limitation of this research is that all participants were from one secondary school in Auckland, New Zealand. The school is a high decile school. A high decile school means that the students come from a high socio-economic background where communities are more financially well off than communities attending lower decile schools, who have less economic opportunities. The educational setting could be one of the reasons why the teens that participated in this study were aware of the different approaches used in marketing communication. It is likely these teens were well educated about technology and more exposed to online marketing communication. Future research could compare a high decile school with a lower decile school to investigate the different reactions of the two different groups of teens to online marketing communications.