Exclusive: Teens' take on brands

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Fast-food, phones and cars-three of the essentials in any teen's life. And three categories that aggressively pursue the young consumer. Alloy Media & Marketing conducted six focus groups for this Special Report, in which a total of 33 teenagers shared their insights about the categories and the brands that dominate them.

The 90-minute focus groups were conducted last month in New York, Los Angeles and Boston. Alloy recruited participants whom it perceived to be influencers and leaders within peer groups.

"The teenage years are so unique because these people are becoming self-sustaining," says Jake Garber, Alloy consumer investigator, who attended all six focus groups. "They're involved in random product exploration and adoption."

This product search is crucial to teen-oriented brands, as well as those brands that want to be known to young people after they reach adulthood.

The demo is a moving target, whose youngest members' brand preferences can differ from those of teens nearing adulthood.

"What you see with the teen group is different habits," says Alisha Kolski, VP-insights at Alloy. For a marketer trying to reach the teen demo en masse, she advises speaking to the mind-set of a 17-year-old.

Marketers can't be rigid; they must give teens the leeway to adapt the brand to their own lifestyle. "The last thing [teens] want to be is a copycat," Mr. Kolski says.

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