A new survey out of London from global market research leader TNS (a Peppercom client) shows that teenage boys, aged 12 to 18, are spending record amounts of pocket money on computer games. In fact, fully one-third of the average British boy’s chump change now goes to purchasing the ‘Grand Theft Autos’ of the world (note: teenage girls in Britain have little interest in computer games, opting instead to shell out their moola on music).
While there are many disturbing elements to these findings, what troubles me is the parallel trend acompanying the money spend: teenage boys are spending inordinate amounts of time online, whether it’s playing video games, surfing MySpace or doing god knows what else. As a result, they’re literally not interacting with the world at large and gaining the requisite social skills they’ll need to succeed later in life.
Such a scenario is fine if the lads all aim to work in isolated cubes sorting through some kind of research. But, I can’t imagine any positive outcome for game-playing zealots in the business world of tomorrow. Futurist Watts Wacker has researched teens and pre-teens and says many of them count ‘virtual’ friends as among their closest buddies. Our youth are deeply engrossed in conversations with people they’ve most likely never met, and confiding their most intimate secrets to literal strangers. What would Dr. Phil say?
To me, it’s a mind-boggling trend that not only has significant implications for the day-to-day social interactions of the next quarter-century, but for marketers as well. How will traditonal approaches possibly resonate with the Grand Theft Auto crowd when they don’t send or receive information the way we do?
It seems to me the best answer will be to market via relationships built on trust. Reaching and having a dialogue with a future consumer’s ‘circle of influencers’ will become even more important than ever. Marketers will be forced to figure out totallly different ways to not only break through the clutter, but to connect with a guy who grew up choosing his friends and entertainment from in front of a keyboard. And, a guy who, sad to say, spent one-third of his discretionary income on video games. Yuck. Whatever happened to whiffle ball, stickball and bubble gum cards?"