The difficulty of discovering what makes Euro-teens tick

European teenagers are notoriously difficult to classify, but major brands do their best to target them. A new study attempts to track them down. Adam Phillips is managing director of Euroquest MRB.

The single European market encourages companies to treat the European Union as a homogeneous business opportunity and many are already marketing common brands to teenagers across several countries. But teenagers are complex individuals, with increasingly sophisticated tastes, and there has been a lack of accurate and comparable data which can be used as a strategic planning tool.

Is there really such a thing as a Euro-teenager, or should companies treat each country as a different market? New research from the Euroquest network of market research agencies aims to provide some answers.

Teenagers Europe is the first multi-country, single-source survey of teenage product use, media consumption and attitudes. Questionnaires were completed by 11- to 19- year-old groups in Britain, France, Germany and Italy. They covered topics ranging from TV viewing to fast-food chains, from sportswear purchasing to views on key social and political issues.

The survey yields a mass of information which is comparable across all four countries, some of which confirms existing hypotheses and some of which surprises.

In terms of market size, the survey base represents a teenage (11 to 19) population of 27 million (64 per cent of the teenage population of the EU). This group has a total disposable income of about 24.8bn.

The average weekly income differs significantly from country to country (chart 1). British teenagers, for example, enjoy an income more than twice that of their French and Italian counterparts.

But while income levels differ, patterns of expenditure show marked similarity (chart 2). Clothes are the top priority for teenagers in all countries with the exception of Britain, where most is spent on going out. Music is important in terms of spending and it is worth noting that 60 per cent of teenagers in Europe agree with the statement that they “couldn’t live without music”.

Personal appearance is equally important to teenagers in all four countries – nearly half agree that they like keeping up with the latest fashions, and some two-thirds feel that they take a lot of care with the way they look. Shopping habits confirm this. About a fifth of Italian and British teenagers go shopping for clothes at least 26 times a year. Germans are less keen: 40 per cent go clothes shopping less than six times a year, and they are also more likely to agree that “shopping for clothes is boring”.

Teenagers Europe shows that “pester power” varies markedly across the four countries. The toiletries market is a good example. It is not the kind of product that teenagers would necessarily expect to buy for themselves. But they do have views on the brands they prefer. Just under half of Britain’s teenagers use spot cream, a slightly higher proportion than in the other three countries. Of these, three-quarters decide what brand to use themselves, in Britain and in Germany while just over half the teenagers in France and Italy make that decision, with a third leaving it entirely to their parents. Similar patterns can be seen across other markets.

The strategic value of the survey’s information on product and brand use is greatly enhanced by the media consumption data. Some of the most revealing statistics in this area relate to TV viewing and computer use. British teenagers watch TV for more than four hours everyday – more than any other country surveyed.

This figure is probably helped by the fact that three-quarters of British teenage TV viewers have a set in their bedroom, well ahead of Germany and Italy, and more than twice the proportion measured in France.

Computer use is also more widespread in Britain – nine out of ten teenagers use one, compared with less than 60 per cent of German teenagers. A sixth of the British sample use them to access the Internet – a market currently growing faster in Britain than elsewhere in Europe.

Perhaps reassuringly, about half of the teenagers across the four countries agree that they “really enjoy reading books”.

Given the extensive consumption of broadcast media and the relative consistency of expenditure patterns across the four countries, does the study reveal evidence of pan-European branding at work?

There are some impressive examples: over 70 per cent of all teenagers prefer to drink Coke; and more than six in ten have visited a McDonald’s in the past three months. But there are some surprises too: ten per cent of respondents claim to use Clearasil spot treatments – a market of nearly 3 million loyal users across the four countries surveyed. Impulse deodorant shows strongly, as does Sensodyne toothpaste, despite not being the top brand in the UK.

The research also opens up a further dimension for planners, with the inclusion of 160 attitude statements. Six clusters of teenagers have been identified and it may yet prove possible to characterise the elusive “Euro-teenager” – and to reach that audience through his or her favourite media.

Teenagers Europe was conducted among 10,000 11- to 19-year-olds across Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

The questionnaire was developed by BMRB International in Britain.

International brand and media lists were included for each country. Fieldwork was conducted by Euroquest agencies:

BMRB International in Britain, CSA in France, BasisResearch in Germany and Eurisko in Italy.

For more details, contact Adam Phillips at Euroquest MRM on 0181-840 9264.

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