American Teenagers: How to Authentically Engage

Are you effectively engaging teenagers, one of the youngest, most diverse, and tech-savvy consumer segments in America?  

Reading Time: 5 minutes

December 5, 2022
Katya Skogen – Director, LGBTQ+ & Gender Insights

Do you know how teens’ behaviors and attitudes compare to the mindset of older Gen Z and the rest of the U.S. population? If not, then you are missing an opportunity to connect with the cohort that’s going through the most crucial formative years, gaining spending and decision-making autonomy, and actively looking for brands that share their values and sensibilities. Keep reading to learn more about how Collage Group can help you win over teens now.

Read on and fill out the form for an excerpt from our
American Teenagers: How to Authentically Engage presentation. 

American Teenagers - How to Authentically Engage

There are currently more than 25 million teens in America. Brands have an exciting opportunity to connect with these consumers who are making more independent spending decisions for themselves and even influencing some family shopping choices along the way. But since teens are among the most diverse cohorts of Americans to date, the goal of authentically connecting with them is becoming increasingly hard to attain. To fully capture the attention of today’s teens, organizations must learn to speak their language fluently, follow their lead into the digital spaces they inhabit, and better understand their priorities, hopes, and dreams.

Collage Group offers organizations the insights they need to fully understand today’s teen consumers and how they differ across race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual identity on important issues and topics — at both the consumer and category levels. This presentation dedicated to teens provides insights and inspiration for organizations looking to better understand and appreciate their teen audiences. Watch this webinar replay and download the PowerPoint presentation to explore:

    • External and internal drivers that shape teens’ values and behaviors
    • Their media and entertainment preferences with a special focus on social media and gaming
    • Teens’ decision-making and priorities in several product categories, including apparel, footwear, personal care, skincare, and beauty.

Several key findings and next steps from this presentation include:

Key Insight #1: Today’s teens are coming of age with an expectation of greater diversity in all aspects of life. They emphasize individuality, appreciate cultural differences, and prioritize staying true to who they are.

Teenagers reward authentic individuality


The demographic shift to a majority multicultural society, the rise of non-traditional households, and a more open discourse around sexual and gender identity recalibrate the lens through which today’s youth see themselves and others. Teen girls and LGBTQ+ teens have especially high hopes for brands to commit to better representation of people of all backgrounds in marketing and advertising.

 Action Steps:

    • Reflect America’s growing diversity in your advertising. Start working now to win and build relationships with teens by learning to connect with culturally diverse Americans.

Key Insight #2: Many teens are keenly aware of the issues poised to shape their current and future reality. They are compelled to act and many will reward or punish brands for the social stances they choose to take.

Teenagers are worried about the future
Teenagers reward brands for social activism and diverse representation


While they are still in the early stages of life and lack tangible political power, game-changing teens feel the urgency to actively advocate and take charge of their futures. They are concerned about many important issues of the day: from racism and gun violence to women’s rights and abortion laws. Many perceive adults as inert, and the decision-makers as completely disconnected from the views of future generations of Americans. Armed with instant and constant access to news and via social media, teens feel an even greater urge to act.

 Action Steps:

    • Look for opportunities to be an ally to these young Americans. But to earn trust, engage in issues that are authentically aligned with your brand values.

Key Insight #3: These young Americans expertly navigate the rapidly shifting tech and media landscape. They enjoy crafting a unique digital culture, but they struggle with the mental toll of social media use.

teenagers worry about social media affects on mental health
Social media amplifies teenager insecurity


Today’s teens are true digital natives. Digital media plays a key role in teens’ lives: For example, social media is both a creative and learning outlet while gaming is as much about social connection as it is about pure fun. Teens, especially Asian and LGBTQ+ teens, are used to being “always online.” But many also crave IRL (in real life) interactions. This dichotomy puts the need to balance and reconcile the images they project online and IRL in sharp focus, further exacerbating their concerns about how they present themselves to the world and the pressure they feel to impress.

 Action Steps:

    • Create consistent and coherent brand experiences across channels — both online and IRL. Deepen brand connections by tapping into their interests offline and in person.
    • Connect with teens in culturally relevant and specific ways but beware of the risk of alienating this segment by demonstrated lack of fluency or by trivializing teens’ digital culture.
    • Model and encourage authenticity to cultivate genuine connections and mitigate the negative effects of social media on teens’ mental health.

Key Insight #4: Despite their relative youth, teens are actively making personal purchase decisions. They do extensive research before purchase: referencing multiple sources, including customer reviews and influencer recommendations.

In-store browsing affects American teenagers purchases graph


Teens highly value their individuality and get creative in curating their looks to reflect their personalities. This is especially true for Black and Asian teens who express their personalities through elaborate and intentional style choices. But it’s also driven by the pressure they feel to keep up their appearance for fear of judgment. How they look bears on their day-to-day confidence.

 Action Steps:

    • Offer a variety of unique items to inspire teens to experiment with their style and express their individuality.
    • Provide comprehensive information and assistance — in-store and online — to help teens navigate the purchase process.
    • Utilize guided selling tools and user-generated content to create more personalized recommendations.

Other Gen Z Research Articles and Insights from Collage Group

Katya Skogen

Katya Skogen

Katya leads Collage Group’s LGBTQ+ and Gender research. Her other interests include multicultural segments as well as consumer behaviors and attitudes in the context of media, technology, food and beverage, and retail industries.

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