How Brands Can Inspire Teens’ Journeys of Self Discovery

It’s easy to talk about teens as a series of demographics: ages, income levels, and buying habits. But they’re more than the numbers. They have a desire to connect with others who share their interests, and they’re curious about the world. Unlike previous generations of teens, who built relationships offline, teens look to online spaces to start conversations, discover new passions, and find people who want to share the same content and experiences.

If teens are going to take the brave step of venturing into new communities, then these communities have to provide a judgment-free environment for exploration and expression. There are plenty of places for teens to broadcast their best selves, like Instagram and Snapchat. We believe that teens are increasingly seeking environments where they can be curious, meet new people and try new things without the need to broadcast to the masses. At Kik, we are focused on being a place where users have the freedom to let curiosity drive their choices.  

Brands can play a role in teens’ journeys of curiosity and self-discovery. Teens have many interaction points in chat, such as expressive content and group chats. More recently, bots are playing a role in igniting conversations and facilitating introductions to new friends and content. These conversations trigger imaginative and informative give-and-take sessions that can quickly gain traction with Kik users.

Brands can encourage users to bounce questions and ideas off each other in bots. To engage teens thinking about the first big “beauty moment” in their lives, Sephora created a custom prom bot, which invited Kik users to submit makeup questions to the brand’s professional makeup artists. Sephora responded to teens’ desire for content that helps them move along on their journeys of self-discovery, while also providing a place for teens to share their thoughts on beauty and proms.

The questions to Sephora’s makeup pros were authentic to the teen prom experience – like how to keep makeup looking good while dancing, or how to cover up acne. The custom bot drew 1,500 questions and 618,000 interactions, helping Sephora build a strong emotional connection to this teen audience.

The same concept works when the subject matter is a bit more serious, proving that once teens start the process of discovery, they’ll stay engaged. During the 2016 presidential election, CNN encouraged teens to chat with the CNN bot and share branded emojis, stickers, and GIFs – all as a way to tap into teens’ curiosity about their world, and connect with others who share their interest in politics and news. The extremely high engagement generated by the campaign told us that teens need communities where they can take a stand and learn about issues that affect them. By Election Day, Kik users had exchanged 4.5 million messages with the CNN bot, and shared one million emojis.

Teens crave exploration and experimentation that deepens interactions and makes them meaningful. Brands can meet this desire for meaning in online interactions, and embrace the opportunity to play a larger role in teens’ lives and in chat.

By Erin Clift, CMO at Kik

Erin Clift, CMO at Kik will be joining a panel discussion on navigating the digital language of youth at YMS17 NYC this October.

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