TRU Watches Teens Teen
Research Unlimited (TRU) keeps companies in touch with the thinking of some very important consumers—teenagers. That helps the companies forecast trends and remain a step ahead of their competition. TRU has been doing this since 1982, when Peter Zollo started it as the first company to specialize in teen-focused market research. Cellphones, surfing gear, extreme sports, and video games are just some of the lucrative markets where companies focus major marketing dollars on teens.
Understanding youth trends and dynamics in the constantly changing teen market remains an ongoing challenge for companies needing to know how best to spend those dollars. TRU is based in Northbrook, Illinois, and has worked closely with many of the world’s leading youth brands and advertising agencies, playing a key role in groundbreaking advertising and marketing campaigns, and the development of successful goods and services. It has been named one of the best Gen-Y (roughly, those born in the 1980s and early ’90s) employers and has worked with more than three million teenagers worldwide to put together data for use in advertising campaigns, product development, store designs, and other strategic business activities. In an average year, TRU conducts more than 1,000 quantitative studies (which have results that can be expressed in useful statistics), as well as many quantitative research projects. TRU also applies its skills to lobbying on important social issues and high-risk youth behaviours, such as tobacco and drug use, sexual assault, life safety, education, crisis management, and skin cancer. So how does TRU gather its data and help its clients create effective marketing strategies? When a growing fashion retailer needed cultural research to learn more about its target consumer, it asked TRU for help. TRU spent months searching malls, sitting down with shoppers, and carrying out a comprehensive national quantitative analysis to gain a well-rounded view of the client and its competitors. At the end of the project, TRU was able to give the client a strategically sound plan that it could put into action, building on previous strengths, addressing areas requiring improvement, and setting a point of reference for the future. Worldwide research in the teen markets is an industry. TRU now undertakes research in more than 40 countries on five continents. One study showed that United Arab Emirates teens spend about $71 a month each on clothes, more than three times the global average. In the same study, TRU found that North African teens plan to spend more at a higher rate than teens in other areas. More than half of them plan to spend more on clothes next year. There’s a more serious side to recent research. Since the early 2000s, teens have been responding negatively to the standard survey statement “Things are going really well for me.” More and more youth are saying they disagree or strongly disagree with that. Analysts believe that this may mean more teens will become involved in social action. There may be more protests like the Occupy and Anonymous movements. The 1980s were called the “Me Generation”; it appears that the 2020s may become the “We Generation,” as in We want a better share, and we don’t want to pay for our parents’ and grandparents’ mistakes. TRU’s prestigious clients include PepsiCo, Nintendo, and Nokia. With more businesses than ever focused on marketing to teenage consumers, companies count on the kind of research that TRU provides to remain in touch with what teenagers want.
1. How does TRU help its customers understand their target market and create effective marketing strategies?
2. What makes TRU’s research so important? How are teens today different from the teens of 1982, when TRU started?
3. Is it possible for a company that began in 1982 to stay in touch with youth? What steps would TRU have to take to keep up?