Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management
Emerald Article: Youth identity ownership from a fashion marketing perspective Tracy Diane Cassidy, Hannah van Schijndel
To cite this document: Tracy Diane Cassidy, Hannah van Schijndel, (2011),"Youth identity ownership from a fashion marketing perspective", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 15 Iss: 2 pp. 163 - 177 Permanent link to this document: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13612021111132618 Downloaded on: 15-05-2012 References: This document contains references to 25 other documents To copy this document: firstname.lastname@example.org This document has been downloaded 2001 times.
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Social networking sites. This tribalisation may be inferred in a growth in the teenage clothing sector (Mintel. It aims to explore the extrinsic identity and the intrinsic identity using Erikson’s model of identity versus role confusion. Marketing strategy Paper type Research paper
Youth identity ownership
Received January 2010 Revised January 2010 Accepted May 2010
1.The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www. the evaluation of the ﬁndings offer some interesting and valuable indications of support and contradictions to the theories discussed. Youth. show that the majority of the sample was identiﬁed as being passive. 15 No. Fashion. some indication is given of the quest for identity of the youths of today in a UK locality. Design/methodology/approach – The views of developmental theorists are discussed and correlations between teenagers characterised as active. However. Manchester Metropolitan University. for marketers. Keywords United Kingdom. a concept arguably used by marketers who wish to encourage notions of the empty self through negative references to being uncool. the primary research provides only a snap shot of the tastes and personality traits of individuals taking part in the survey at that point in time that are susceptible to change as is the deﬁnition of cool. Findings – The ﬁndings.com/1361-2026. In addition.emeraldinsight. Data were gathered from a questionnaire survey comprising 79 secondary school teenage pupils. those lacking “cool” are drawn. Research limitations/implications – The localisation and survey sample size impose limitations on the generalisation of the ﬁndings for a national or even a regional location. The study suggests that marketers. though limited to only one locality. those who would be identiﬁed as being “cool”. This is then applied to the theories of the self and the empty self. more of the participants felt a part of web-based communities such as Bebo than of their local community. Originality/value – Through an understanding of the strength of the inﬂuence marketing has on a teenage demographic and the importance that the teenagers surveyed attached to social network sites. ethically or otherwise. to identify passive and active personality types within adolescents. 2003). 2006). This study therefore provides a small but valuable stepping stone for a much larger investigation of this concept on a regional or national scale. Identity. and passive characters. teenagers would still appear to be increasingly lucrative
Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management Vol. with style usually indicating membership of a group or “tribe” (Balet. are able to target the passive majority by encouraging feelings of being un-cool encouraging the empty self to then proﬁt from the sales of a cool fulﬁlling product. Manchester. Even though this growth was later predicted to shrink again due to the more recent economic recession.1108/13612021111132618
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the inﬂuence that marketing has on teenagers and their development of identity and question the ethical implications of this inﬂuence. and to establish the importance of local community compared with web-based communities. with the aim of stimulating a demand for the cool sustenance that they supply. 2. Also. 163-177 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1361-2026 DOI 10. Consumer behaviour. 2011 pp.htm
Youth identity ownership from a fashion marketing perspective
Tracy Diane Cassidy and Hannah van Schijndel
Department of Clothing Design and Technology. implying that the majority of these teenagers were aspirational in their quest for cool. Introduction It is thought that a teenager’s expression of identity is largely through the clothing they wear.
before evaluating the ethics of such practices. The study suggests that marketing methods promote Cushman’s (1990) concept of the empty self. thus imposing a limitation in the depth of this research. the self and the empty self concept. 2004).JFMM 15.
. The inﬂuences that shape a teenager’s choices and the wider challenge that they face to conform to the concept of being “cool” are explored. and correlates these views with the role of the cool-hunter and that of marketing in general. 2009). In addition. The notion of commoditised cool is further explored through an example of an advertising campaign observed on a social networking site. 1996) and Goldsmith et al. at least within the selected teenage demographic surveyed.1 Aim and objectives The aims of this study were to investigate the inﬂuence marketing has on a teenage demographic as they develop their identities and to question the ethical implications involved. What identity is and why the quest for identity is most prevalent during adolescence is highlighted. music tastes and social community groups that participants of the survey identiﬁed themselves with. Early ﬁndings suggested an apparent need for teenagers to feel cool and appear cool and that the industry responds to this supply and demand opportunity. The short. thus exploring in theory. cool is interpreted in its broadest context in relation to being fashionable through clothing. though it is acknowledged that other models exist including those by authors Herbert Blumer and Ted Polhemus. that essentially encourages feelings of emptiness before offering a sustenance that may appear ﬁlling. 1. thus suggesting that cool is a commercial commodity. (1999) self-concept study were the key models used to explore the intrinsic development of identity within adolescence. The extrinsic development of identity was considered through the impact that popular culture. While attempts were made through the survey to ascertain individuals’ understanding of the meaning of cool due to its subjective nature and transient associations with aesthetic style and appearance. This study explores the teenagers’ quest for identity in a local community and how they redeﬁne themselves as adults through the constant change in trends imposed by the fast paced fashion industry. product availability and societal inﬂuences at any one time. it can be argued that this sustenance is under-nourishing and thus creates a perpetual hunger for what is deemed by marketers as cool.2
consumers (Mintel. The evaluation draws upon the theories discussed to evaluate the signiﬁcance of the intrinsic and extrinsic factors in the development of identity in adolescence. the intrinsic inﬂuences identiﬁed as personality traits. the meaning still remains ﬂuid and superﬁcial. In this study. the study looks at the role of the cool-hunter and internet marketing techniques used to inﬂuence teenagers. teenagers are a target for considerable marketing investment as fashion companies attempt to gain long-term loyalty from potentially afﬂuent emerging adults. Erikson’s identity versus role confusion model (Kroger. However. the strength of the inﬂuence marketing has on the teenage demographic and the ethical implications of this. the role of the family and social groups have on a teenager’s development. Moreover. and attitudes and behaviours which may often be attached to or implied by marketing. through a literature review. The secondary research considers the views and suggested concepts of developmental theorists such as Erikson and Loevinger (Kroger. This was achieved through exploring: .and long-term inﬂuence that marketers have on this highly receptive group is undeniably powerful (Solomon. 1996).
The questionnaire is shown in Figure 1. All three
4. The questionnaire
. I can tell what sort of person they are by looking at them 1 2 3 4 I9. break time is rubbish if I can’t find my friends 1 2 3 4 H8. Rock / Heavy Metal C. I don’t like having to make a decision. active/passive identities and. I feel very much a part of web communities such as Bebo. . What type of music do you like best? Please circle one A. 2008).
the extrinsic inﬂuences identiﬁed as family. The type of graphic design that teenagers are generally exposed to on popular social networking sites was used for the questionnaire design using a similar font to that used on the highly popular site Bebo (Cellen-Jones. 1992). Pop I. My friends and family are equally important to me 1 2 3 4 F6. Hip / Hop / Rap G. 2 = Agree. Personality B. 1 = Strongly Agree. the importance of community. My friends can usually persuade me to go out. Other O. even when I don’t feel like it 1 2 3 4 E5. Other F. I feel very much a part of my school community 1 2 3 4 M13. social groups and popular culture. . Skater F. they understand me more than my family 1 2 3 4 B2. I’m indecisive 1 2 3 4 C3. I’m a good judge of character. Clothes C. I don’t care 1 2 3 4 G7. Goth C. Please state how strongly you agree/disagree with the following statements. Please circle the relevant number using the following key 1 = Strongly Agree. and of mixed gender. Garage O. 4 = Strongly Disagree K11.
Youth identity ownership
1. A questionnaire survey was conducted in a large UK secondary comprehensive school using a sample of 79 pupils aged 12-18. The questionnaire used a Lickert scale and a funnelling technique with the ﬁrst question being very general enquiring into the participant’s musical taste and each question thereafter probing further and deeper (Oppenheim. What group do you think your friends and class mates would describe you as being part of? Please circle one A. My friends are really important to me. It would be embarrassing if people in my class criticised my clothes and hair 1 2 3 4 D4. Soul E. Name: Form:
Please answer the following 5 questions by circling the relevant bullet points or numbers 1. 3 = Disagree. 2 = Agree. I feel very much a part of my local town/village community 1 2 3 4 L12. measure the intrinsic and extrinsic development of teenage identity in a suburban locality through three key factors: identity and group association. Indie / Guitar B. Emo D. I don’t need friends or family. 3 = Disagree. Punk O. 4 = Strongly Disagree A1. Greb G.. Music preference
3. Chav E. The length of the questionnaire was deliberately short and appropriate popular teenage
Who I Am …. Facebook and My Space 1 2 3 4
Figure 1. people either like it or not. Please read the following statements and circle the relevant number using the key below. ethnicity and social grouping. I have my own unique style. and The key marketing methods used to reach teenagers and their quests for identity with consideration to the ethics behind the commoditisation of the concept of cool. Drum & Bass J. the affect of these factors on the development of identity during adolescence. Dance / House H. Emo D. I’m happy on my own 1 2 3 4 J10. I talk to everyone even if they are much younger/older or from a different social group than me 1 2 3 4 5. R&B
2. Why do you think this is? Is it your… A.2 Methodology A questionnaire survey was used to explore and in part. Trendy B.
suggesting that adolescence is a construct of western culture. secure attachments. Chaplin and Roedder (2005) investigated the development of self-brand connection in children and adolescents. tradition and shared meaning” having created conditions for an empty self. 2. socially active and capable of probing and expressing feelings (Archer. limited analytical ability. Developmental theorist Erikson (1970) proposed identity versus role confusion with passive or active sensibilities as the stage of identity development in adolescents (Kroger. 1996). or to be perceived as being cool as a means of gaining acceptance by a group. Their study concluded that the use of clothing brands was the preferred method of answering the question “who am I?” and demonstrates how a teenager makes a direct link to the self and clothing. Furthermore. ethically consistent. The characteristics of a passive adolescent include traits such as: low self-esteem. In contrast. The search for sustenance in the quest for identity becomes a quest for cool resulting in the passive adolescent buying products modelled by their cool active counterparts. Kroger cites Cushman (1990) who suggests that the only way to “ﬁll up” this void is through consumer products. Passive is deﬁned as the acceptance of role confusion or foreclosed acceptance of others’ choices. An adolescent from a secure background could therefore be identiﬁed as active according to Erikson’s (1970) model and one could deduce from the active proﬁle that the characteristics encapsulate what it is to be cool. Observational research was also carried out on web-based social networking sites such as Bebo to explore the type of marketing that teenagers are generally being exposed to. Identity Identity is viewed as a process that develops through one’s life span and is heightened at the stage of adolescence. recommendations or expectations. Their ﬁndings support the case that identity is intrinsically linked. Papini suggests that the quality of the parent/adolescent attachment can affect the identity exploration of a teenager. 2.1 Intrinsic development of identity – the self and the empty self The intrinsic development of identity can be examined through the concept of the self and the empty self. Kroger’s (1996) argument that adolescence is a construct of Western culture is based upon a concept lacking “community. compassionate. the active adolescent is described as warm. Kroger (1996) questions the concept of adolescence and the quest for identity during this period of development. and even deﬁned by consumer products in adolescents. with high self-esteem. socially mobile.2 Extrinsic development of identity – the role of the family According to Papini and Sebby (1988) the role of the family has a large inﬂuence on teen identity (Archer. 1994). lack of family interaction and affection. 2. a correlation between the cognitive developments of an early adolescent and their understanding of brands on a deeper conceptual level is suggested.
. it is the active adolescent that would appeal more to a marketer to promote their products. low social adjustment. and that advertising and psychotherapy are the two professions responsible in an individual’s attempt to heal the empty self. the passive adolescent is the most susceptible to marketing as they search to become cool. 1994).JFMM 15. By default.2
terminology was used. where a secure background provides the adolescent with a safe foundation in which to explore and make self-chosen commitments. Furthermore.
2. even if it is merely a difference in colour or pattern. Young adolescents are only concerned with their own interests and needs. 1996). labels and icons also reﬂect the code of the “tribe” to which that individual belongs to.3. When describing the shopping habits and trends of teenagers. the balance returns back to an emphasis on the self (Kroger. Whilst clothing and hair are crucial to provide a sense of belonging in terms of being part of a clique. It is through cliques that one can identify a similarity in clothing and appearance. the individual will seek some differentiation within the parameters of the groups’ dress code. In late adolescence. Concurring with popular developmental theorists’ concepts that teenagers require a secure and safe foundation from which to explore and experiment with their identity. For the mid-teenage demographic. such as peers and friends and vertical social relations. the literature suggests an increased reliance on group membership. Barnard (1996) argues that “individuals are able to construct an identity by means of communication”. This would suggest that the most accessible method to teenagers is on a peer level. This is supported by Kegan’s (1982) view that through adolescence identity formation is lost. ideals and ethnic sensibilities as some of the inﬂuences. however the mid-adolescent can reﬂect on their own interests and co-ordinate them with others. such as a type of clothing. Brakes (1985) suggests that subcultures
Youth identity ownership
. Loevinger (1976) describes the identity quest in teenagers as the shift back and forth between self-interest and conformity within social groups.4 The role of popular culture and subcultures A third extrinsic factor is the role of popular culture and the formation of subcultures.2. This type of group is thought to be prevalent between the ages of 10 and 14 (Cotterell.1 Types of social groups. Mintel (2003) reported that only 13 per cent are likely to buy the same item as a friend. Brakes (1985) discusses the reasons behind youth culture and cites Murdock (1974) when he suggests the importance placed on popular culture. From the safe platform of belonging to a group. it becomes evident that the speciﬁc signs. such as teachers and parents that are seen as secondary. There is therefore a contradiction between wanting to express individuality and having the strong need to “adopt the codes of their group” which underlines their quest for identity.3 The role of social groups A second extrinsic factor believed to inﬂuence the development of identity during adolescence is social groups and the shift in balance between the self and others throughout the progressive stages of adolescence. There are different factions of groups that a teenager may belong to. Balet (2006) explores the concept of reference groups through trends adopted by teenagers from European schools and suggests that when studying individuals. Balet (2006) touches on what inﬂuences each tribal group listing music. 2. models. Through the shifts in balance the needs of the teenager change through adolescence and therefore marketing approaches need to adapt to ﬁt this changing nature of the teenage identity development. Cotterell (1996) supports this and suggests that during adolescence relationships can be viewed as horizontal social groups. Cliques are tight knit groups of around three to six members of generally the same age and sex. looking beyond the relationship between school and youth culture to a “commercial youth subculture”. then reformed. a process he suggests that ﬂuctuates between a balance of emphasis in the self and others. An important group in terms of marketing is the reputation-based group. the membership of which is communicated through the extrinsic factors. 1996).
arguing that due to underdeveloped analytical skills and the lack of ability adolescents have to discern the “empty promises” of advertising. which in turn feeds back to the group that made it cool in the ﬁrst place. they are the source from which new trends and fads are interpreted as being cool. To assist with the analysis. This context relates to Cushman’s (1990) concept of fulﬁlling the empty self through the signiﬁcance of a brand and the consumption of cool. therefore being cool. 2. Brands pay cool-hunters to pursue cool in order to fuse cool onto the persona of their product (Southgate.JFMM 15. school or occupation for a temporary period. Those scoring 50/50 were appropriately labelled as being active/passive. to the importance on the experience of buying. resulting in a cycle that ultimately creates a proﬁt for the fashion industry from the quest to be cool. Cool-hunting can be interpreted as a process of taking concepts from teenagers. 2. with a greater focus on the brand ´ itself. The survey ﬁndings In the ﬁrst instance. Bergadaa refers to the fashion retailer Zara and their constant pursuit and promotion of new fashion trends. adapting them to instigate commercially viable products. becomes more interested in the kudos of the brand which gives them access to a group or the perception of “belonging to a certain tribe”. but to create new cool products. Bergadaa claims that this form of marketing deﬂects the importance away from the purchase of the product. services and experiences.1 Other marketing efforts. The results shown in Figure 2 clearly show that the majority of the respondents were passive and the hierarchy shown in Figure 3
. encouraging young people ´ to consume.5. Designer brands commonly use positive recognition as a form of marketing in the form of celebrity endorsements. the statements in questions 4 and 5 were allocated a letter and a number and are referred to by their allocations here-on-in. preferring to perpetuate the shrouding myth that it deﬁes analysis”. 2003). then commercialising them into mass market products. both strategies appear to prey on the vulnerability of a teenage demographic by perpetuating the importance of being cool and providing a proﬁtable commercial product to ﬁll-up a teenager’s quest for identity. In a report on children and the ethics of marketing. Southgate (2003) goes on to dispel the role of the cool-hunter claiming that the role “fails to provide an understanding of the underlying dimensions of cool consumerism. ´ Bergadaa (2007) concurs with the view that encouraging young people to consume cool is ethically questionable. the statements given in question 4 of the questionnaire (Figure 1) were used to determine each participant’s characteristics as being either active or passive.5 Marketing – the role of the cool-hunter Cool-hunters identify new and cool trends emerging on a street level. Southgate (2003) describes the cool-hunter as appearing to be a “manipulative and preternatural cultural puppet-master”. thus shifting from “buying to own” to “buying to buy”. ´ marketers have the potential to exploit. He argues that the real challenge for brand owners is not to observe cool people. a school environment are using positive recognition on a more local level. While adolescents are not the cool-hunters’ only intended market. for example. In a similar way. The consumer.2
provide a space to express one’s identity free from the restrictions of class. This suggests that the role of a cool-hunter can be interpreted as preying on vulnerable target markets. marketers who highlight the cool groups within. associating the cool kids with products that will become cool through the very fact that the cool kid is being seen in it. 3. However. claims Bergadaa.
32 per cent favoured R&B. 70 per cent of which were identiﬁed as being passive. 16 per cent preferred Rock/Heavy Metal and 13 per cent Pop music. In response to question 2 (Figure 1). patterns could be observed in the strength of answers given by the participants. Diagram representing the hieracy of active. Figure 1). The Pop music contingent consisted of 70 per cent passive. The results and relationship of characteristics are shown in Figure 4.Active
Passive 5% 0%
Youth identity ownership
Figure 2. none were active/passive. 58 per cent were characterised as being passive and 42 per cent as being active. Total percentage analysis of active. Of the 16 per cent who selected Rock/Heavy Metal. 53 per cent of the sample associated themselves with the social group “trendy”. The passive participants also agreed or strongly agreed with statement F6. 19 per cent as active and 6 per cent as active/passive. 21 per cent as active and 4 per cent active/passive. 21 per cent selected “other” and did not associate with the listed social groups. In a more in-depth exploration of the completed questionnaires. Only 1 per cent of the sample
. whilst consistently disagreeing with statement C3. passive and active/passive in the sample
Active Active/passive Passive
Figure 3. 23 per cent as active and 7 per cent as active/passive. Referring back to the questions shown in Figure 1. When asked what type of music was preferred (question 1. 75 per cent of the respondents were identiﬁed as being passive. 30 per cent active and none were active/passive. 75 per cent of which were characterised as being passive. passive and active/passive within the sample
clearly depicts the broad base of the passive majority against the fewer. and arguably more select actives. active participants strongly agreed with statement F6. From the 32 per cent who chose R&B music. yet contradicted this statement by always agreeing or strongly agreeing with statement C3.
Figure 7 shows the percentage of the sample that agreed or strongly agreed that they felt part of their school community. it was found that 32 per cent of the sample attributed this association with their personality (intrinsic). The percentage of passive. The results are shown in Figure 6. web community and local area (question 5. all but one of which highlighted personality and clothing as the two attributes. Conversely.2
Number of respondents
25 20 15 10 5 0
In di Ro e/ gu ck ita /h ea r vy m et al Em o H ip ho p
Figure 4. 12 per cent with their clothing (extrinsic) and 7 per cent exclusively to their music preference. About 5 per cent of the sample attributed all three options (intrinsic. passive and active/passive
ba se G ar ag e O th er
. active and active/passive respondents that agreed or strongly agreed to this statement is shown in Figure 8. When asked (question 3. Social group percentages. Analysis of music categories and adolecent characteristics
R D an &B ce /h ou se
Po p D ru m
associated with the Goth social group and was identiﬁed as being active. A comparison of the groups and their active/passive characteristics is shown in Figure 5.
40 35 Number of respondents 30 25 20 15 Active 10 5 0 Trendy Other Chav Emo Skater Goth Active/passive Passive
Figure 5. extrinsic and music preference) and 2 per cent indicated two relevant choices.JFMM 15. Figure 1). Figure 1) what aspects the respondent felt likely to make them a part of the group they identiﬁed with in question 2. all the 9 per cent who identiﬁed with the Chav group were found to be passive. active.
Figure 7. passive and active/passive characteristics correlated against community data
. Statistical analysis of intrinsic. extrinsic. Community
70 Number of respondents in agreement 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 School Web based Local area Active Active/passive Passive
Figure 8. music and other attributes to participant’s identity
.Number of respondents
25 20 15 10 5 0
ic ic ic ic ns ns us us tri tri M na m tio n
Active/passive Passive Active
Youth identity ownership
Figure 6. Percentage analysis of active.
adolescents with passive characteristics were found to be the intended audience for the marketing of cool in the literature review. Exploring this theory further. The self-concept studies suggest “fashion innovators do have a unique self-image” which would support the possibility that active adolescents will go on to become fashion innovators. it is the late adopters that are the audience. They cite Malhotra’s (1981) self-concept scale that deﬁnes the characteristics of female fashion innovators as being: excitable. However. the research carried out in this study focuses on the theory that marketers are in fact focusing on the passive adolescents who. In a study by Goldsmith et al. the late majority and ﬁnally the late adopters or laggards (Brassington and Pettitt. would be closely associated with the late adaptors in the self-concept theory. combined with feelings of ambivalence of how others perceive this unique self. it was found that the majority of research into the characteristics of fashion innovators focused on variables such as “demographics. whilst Goldsmith et al. dominating and vain. Evaluation The ﬁndings were evaluated in relation to the intrinsic and extrinsic development of identity. by default. when breaking the sample down into smaller subsets then many groups have insufﬁcient numbers to make generalisations. (1999) focus on studies that highlight fashion innovators as the audience for marketers. lifestyles. the ﬁve stages generally begin with the innovator category. Goldsmith et al. 2006). contemporary. The smaller percentage highlighted as active adolescents in the survey further supports the theoretical argument that the actives are used for the portrayal of cool as they are identiﬁed as the popular people and thus used to promote cool to the passive audience. the early majority. thus encouraging the empty self of the passives rather than promoting adverts that are aimed at encouraging the self image of the actives. The ﬁndings are therefore only signiﬁcant to this particular sample and a much larger scale survey
. impression leaving and drama”. (1999). formal. 4. One could draw a correlation between the characteristics of the passive with that of the late adopter and the active with that of the fashion innovator. family and social groups.2
4. indulgent. friendliness. attitudes and social communication”. (1999) also cite Gordon et al. and rather than marketers developing advertising for the teenage market that appeals to the fashion innovators. However. 4. followed by the early adopters. which supports the general theoretical argument that the majority of the teenage demographic are passive.2 Extrinsic development of identity The extrinsic development of identity was evaluated in relation to the roles of popular culture. it must be taken into account that the survey was localised and that while a sample of 79 respondents can be considered a relatively signiﬁcant sample size.1 Intrinsic development of identity The ﬁndings revealed 68 per cent of the sample to have passive characteristics. The identiﬁable attributes of fashion innovators are akin to the characteristics of the active adolescent as there appears to be a strong correlation between the active adolescent and their self-perception of uniqueness. correlations can be made with the adopter categories of the diffusion of innovation concept that is popular with marketing theorists that has evolved from consumer purchasing behaviour drivers and the product lifecycle. Furthermore. colourful.JFMM 15. (1985). who deﬁned the characteristics of fashion innovators as being “self perceived animation.
2. The ﬁndings show that the intrinsic factor. when comparing the percentage of active and passive participants within the two music genres of those choosing R&B music 70 per cent were passive and only 28 per cent were active compared to those with a preference for Rock/Heavy Metal where 58 per cent were characterised as being passive and 42 per cent were active.2. Therefore. 1996). Both music categories are considered to be relatively mainstream however. who is aiming towards the majority mainstream. The extrinsic factor. further analysis of the results showed 23 per cent of the sample felt that both intrinsic and extrinsic factors attributed towards how they identiﬁed themselves. The emphasis on having friends may
Youth identity ownership
. 4. however they have a need to be seen as individuals on a personal level and are perhaps more aware of a sense of self than the self-brand study allows.2 The role of the family. personality. It should also be noted that the results are real-time providing a snap-shot of what was happening in that locality at that point in time. no one disagreed with statement I9 (question 4. for the purpose of this study was represented through the music preference of the participant.2. a genre currently popular in the UK. Goths and Chavs. the actives highlighted within the R&B group are more likely to be the sought after targets. whereas fans of Rock/Heavy Metal music tended to have a much more distinct and radical appearance having long hair and wearing dark clothing. as a means of accessing the larger proportion of passives within this mainstream group. clothing. the evaluations of the ﬁndings in relation to the theories show some interesting support and contradictions that are valuable considerations in themselves. Rock/Heavy Metal music also proved to be popular amongst the sample. However. Popular culture.is needed to make general inferences. The majority had preferred R&B music. It cannot be presumed that the tastes of the teenagers surveyed will remain constant for any given period of time nor can it be assumed that the sample is typical of all UK localities. they would not necessarily appeal to the marketer. The increased percentage of active participants in the Rock/Heavy Metal genre supports Papini’s theory that identity exploration is more prevalent in teenagers who have a more secure background (Archer. a distinct difference in style and appearance for the two groups was evident through observation. Figure 1). although people who reside on the fringes of the mainstream in music taste and dress code may be more likely to conform to an active proﬁle. which would seem to contradict Chaplin and Roedder’s (2005) self-brand connection study that teenagers identify themselves predominantly through clothing and brand names. 1994). However. This is further reﬂected in the fringe social groups. 1996) suggest a ﬂux between the self and others in the development process of identity during adolescence. The responses from the questionnaire clearly show the importance of friends. Developmental theorists such as Loevinger (Kroger. Clothing and physical appearance is important to teenagers. The role of the family was measured through the analysis of question 4 and used as a signiﬁcant identiﬁer of whether a participant was categorised as passive or active. 4. However. The ﬁndings show a high proportion of participants identiﬁed with a social group. for example wearing well-known sports and designer brands. where the Goth was characterised as active and the mainstream Chav characterised as passive. was the most common choice. However. It is at the mid-teen stage (aged 13-14) that developmental theorists suggest adolescents experience an increased need for acceptance and approval from peers (Cotterell.3 The role of social groups. People who listened to R&B music tended to dress relatively mainstream. in terms of marketing one could argue that.1 The role of popular culture. scored lower than anticipated. 4. above all other genres listed.
The ﬁndings of this study appear to support the developmental theorists’ view that the teenager changes their emphasis between self and other through the development of their identity. as with other proﬁles you can also make Lynx deodorant your “friend”. etc. This is supported by 72 per cent of the sample who agreed with statement M13 (question 5.JFMM 15. However. dislikes. These sites enable teenagers to feel a sense of belonging to a social group through having a proﬁle and thus appealing to the teenagers’ need for acceptance from their peers. having many friends and expressing personal interests. 21 per cent selected “other” when asked to choose a social group which could imply a rejection of being categorised or pigeon-holed into a preconceived social group and thus question the view of teenagers placing importance on belonging to a group. the idea of choosing a branded “skin” arguably encourages teenagers to identify themselves with brands in order to achieve cool status from their peers. However. just me”. through videos and on-line series such as. etc. Only one respondent could be seen to be rejecting the notion of being part of a social group by responding to question 2 (Figure 1). such as intermitting video clips with adverts and offering prizes. a characteristic of the passive proﬁle. and therefore would suggest the appropriate method of access to the mid-teen age group would be “horizontal”. certain brands have a Bebo “proﬁle”. rather than a reﬂection of feeling personal marginalisation.. these “proﬁles” create a virtual personality for the brand. The Lynx deodorant “proﬁle” could be seen as an example of how marketers access and manipulate
. Nike Women and Lynx deodorant. etc. which suggests a large audience for such sites. The audiences’ entertainment is through social interaction with personal friends.e. through peers and social groups. For example. for example. placing the brand at the forefront of the proﬁle and facilitating wide reaching access by the brand to speciﬁc target markets. This is supported by ﬁndings that 75 per cent of those who selected “other” were passive. Evidence that marketers respond to this sensitivity and increased receptiveness to social groups and peers can been seen on social networking sites such as Bebo.. the selection of “other” could reﬂect an aspiration to be cool. These changes appear to relate to their age. Figure 1). However. 4. It is through this additional entertainment that advertising appears to play a key role. Bebo offer additional entertainment.2
have resulted in a high proportion of the sample associating with a social group. “none. “normal” and “gangster”. If adolescents are conscious that individualism is associated with being cool. which would suggest feelings of alienation from a social environment. such “skins” are endorsed by brands such as Nike. stating likes. Social networking sites emphasise the importance of being social. Soﬁa’s Diary and Kate Modern and applications offering “free gifts” and other reward incentives. Adidas and football clubs. the Lynx deodorant “proﬁle” adopts the same format as a regular proﬁle. Individuals with a Bebo proﬁle can create a “skin” for their proﬁle which enables the expression of identity through the personalisation of one’s proﬁle. i. activities. First. interests. Furthermore. Observations from the Bebo web site highlight suggested methods employed by marketers to gain access and inﬂuence teenagers. Some of the “other” responses were “weird” and “random”. However. other methods have been observed offering another dimension of interest to this study. Additionally. advertising appears through what can be perceived as an open and regular approach.3 The marketing methods and how is cool commoditised Cool appears to have a high value to both the marketer and the teenage demographic. The other respondents giving alternative answers categorised themselves within alternative groups for example “casual”.
However. Cool-hunting of the teenage demographic suggests a stealthy pursuit of up and coming trends from cool teenagers and a process of commercialising these trends for the majority of hungry teenagers aspiring to be cool. However. However. rather than ﬁt and healthy. as stated by Erikson (1970). The “proﬁle” goes further to promote cool by stating that “his” greatest fear would be “not having the coolest. thus striking a cord with the passive reader and encouraging the empty self by making them feel uncool. To reinforce the point. The Lynx deodorant “proﬁle” is not hiding the fact it is a brand. in-keeping with the product. It claims that a male teenager will not succeed in ﬁnding a girlfriend.the teen market on two levels. nor is it a pop-up message. buying “cool” clothes and of course. there appears to be a grey area in deﬁning who is responsible for initialising concepts of what is deemed cool. one could argue that by targeting teenagers on a one-to-one personal level. This is supported by ´ Bergadaa (2007) who suggests that teenagers lack the ability to discern “empty promises”. applies Cotterell’s (1996) view that teenagers in mid-adolescence are most receptive to the inﬂuence of peers and friends. whilst simultaneously offering a “ﬁlling” commercial solution. Conclusion The aim of this study was to investigate the inﬂuence marketers have on teenagers in their quest for identity and to examine the ethical implications of this possible inﬂuence. by accessing teenagers horizontally and by using active adolescents to promote to the passive adolescents. therefore it does require an element of optional participation to open the advert. and by association inferring that not buying it will make you uncool. Superﬁcially this would appear to be a self perpetuating cycle of supply and demand. targeting the vulnerable in their own domain. First. within their personal domain. In-depth analysis of the Lynx deodorant “proﬁle” enables an evaluation on how marketers target the passive adolescent through the use of the active. in order to promote cool consumerism. its signiﬁcance to both teenagers and marketers became even more apparent from the interpretation of advertising that featured on social networking sites such as Bebo. as well as the inherent problems imposed by the mutability of a deﬁnition for cool. 5. for example getting “buff” at the gym. what is perceived to be cool into their products. and indeed incorporate. Cool is a lucrative commodity and is greatly sought after. there is an image of an alternative cool lifestyle. which is in keeping with the active’s characteristics. Accessing teenagers “horizontally”. The very existence of the role of the cool-hunter highlights the importance of cool and the necessity for brands to be aware of. This direct marketing on the cyber playground is an example of ´ the ethics questioned by Bergadaa (2007). Furthermore. rather than “vertical social relations” such as teachers and parents. This approach could be seen as a shrouded marketing approach. passive adolescents have weak analytical skills and will be less likely to be able to analyse the advert as a piece of marketing. most girl-friendly pulling tools” a direct statement that buying the product will make you cool. the brand is appearing as their friend and as peer relations are seen to have greater inﬂuence in this age group the angle could be interpreted as rather sinister. The concept of cool had an important role in this study. This was achieved through an investigation into the intrinsic and extrinsic inﬂuences on a teenager’s identity development and the methods used by marketers to manipulate the teenager demographic. the theme of the advert is highly masculine and sexually conﬁdent. this study questions who
Youth identity ownership
. the interaction with friends and possible love interests is predominantly via e-mail and wall-posts. the emphasis based very much on the superﬁcial. As this is advertised on a social networking site.
M. Vol. Comparative Youth Culture: The Society of Youth Cultures and Youth Subcultures. M. Sage. S. Balet. When the sample were questioned about what was cool. (1985). they appeared to place a high value on being cool as it would lead to acceptance from their peers. London. Imposing restrictions and encouraging an insatiable appetite for commercial products in order for teenagers to feel a sense of belonging. Society and Business Review. London.JFMM 15. tradition and shared meaning” (Kroger. Barnard.2
is actually deciding/determining what is cool? The “prey” of the cool-hunter is rather subjective. this approach could be seen as imposing a pernicious inﬂuence on a teenager’s quest for identity. Finally. it is important to highlight the increased impact such an approach could have. This would suggest that being cool is more about being accepted and less about a speciﬁc product. is a result of the absence of “community. 2007) through a stealth approach to advertising. 53-73. (2007). The manipulation both overtly and covertly of the teenage demographic seems to continue unchecked and to be increasing an apparent psychological need for consumerism in adolescents. Interventions for Adolescent Identity Development. M. pp. “Children and business: pluralistic ethics of marketers”. If this is indeed the case. and supply that need with the other. arguably denies teenagers the possibility to explore their identity organically. through the manipulation of how the consumer sees themselves. and therefore one could begin to draw conclusions upon how cool is commoditised. 2 No. However. forming their foundations of their identity on superﬁcial and commercial considerations. which as Loevinger (1976) suggests is very important at the stage of adolescence. First. (1996). The theory of the empty self. but rather a wide spread appreciation amongst teenagers for the need to be cool. The empty self-concept was discussed in this study as a possible basis from which marketers manipulate the path taken by teenagers on their quest for identity.
. However. Routledge. 1996) a void which is conveniently ﬁlled through consumer products. cool after all is based on personal opinion which leads to the conclusion that there is no set formula. Identity. (2006). the empty self is arguably an ideal status from which marketers can manipulate and access the teenage demographic. 1. interestingly the participants were more easily able to identify what was not cool and appeared to have strong views on this. Second. it is suggested. Routledge. however due to the relatively small scale survey in one location larger scale surveys covering many locations are now necessary in order to make strong generalisations about the topic.L.
References Archer. If cool is not formulaic. ´ Bergadaa. They are in the position to create the need with one hand. London. Gottingen. Brakes. the marketer has a much greater degree of control. (1994). This process is arguably a valid means of marketing a product. when applying this approach to teenage demographic. through the use of the empty self. C. Steidl. the marketers’ covert approach through social networking sites arguably plays on the teenagers’ lack of analytical understanding ´ (Bergadaa. then the role of the cool-hunter could be perceived as rather hit or miss and their success would appear to be reliant on the whim of the consumer. it is arguably exploitation of their increased vulnerability and their sensitivity to being accepted by their peers and society. Fashion Communication. However. This study has attempted to address the issue of youth identity ownership.
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Youth identity ownership
To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight. (2008). Gordon. Mintel Group. London. Questionnaire Design. NJ. Cambridge. pp. S. N. Vol. Teenage Shopping Habits UK: Attitudes towards Shops and Shopping. available at: www.M. Interviewing and Attitude Measurement.K.. Mintel Group. N. and product concepts”.uk/blogs/technology/2008 (accessed 28 March 2008).ac.com/reprints
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