The photo messaging app, snapchat is popular among teens. Image via

The photo messaging app Snapchat is popular among mobile-loving teens. Image via

I recently spent six months living with my cousin and her 13-year-old son – let’s call him Jason. Jason owns a top-of-the-line, gaming-quality laptop and a high-end smartphone.

Whenever I used Jason’s laptop, I marvelled at its speed. But I noticed that Jason hardly ever used his marvellous laptop. Instead, he would spend hours in his room watching videos on his little smartphone.

Jason took his phone everywhere with him. He was constantly texting his friends, checking social media and watching videos on it. The only time he used his laptop was to do homework assignments.

He was not alone. It turns out that the majority of U.S. teens who own cellphones have a smartphone as their cellphone and Nielsen was already reporting in 2010 that teens send more than six texts for every hour that they’re awake!

Meanwhile, according to the Pew Institute’s Teen & Technology 2013 report, “One in four teens are ‘cell-mostly’ internet users, who say they mostly go online using their phone and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer.” And of the teens who own smartphones, half are cell-mostly users.

So what does this all mean for you? Here are a few things that brands and marketers who want to connect with young consumers – now or in the near future – should keep in mind.

Remember that teens are influential

Teens today significantly influence decision-makers in their household. In the U.S., they have more than $200 billion in purchasing power. They are also the ones who will be attending college and/or joining the workforce in a few short years, earning their own money to spend on your products and services.

Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy starring in WarGames, a film about teens' mastery of digital technology.

Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy starring in the 1983 film “WarGames.” Today, teens are far more likely to socialize with cell phones.

Think holistically

What is your company doing to ensure that you grab teens now or gain their interest later? I’m not just talking about advertising your products and services to them. I’m also talking about attracting them to your companies and organizations as employees and keeping them, thereby building your brand reputation in their eyes.

What productivity tools and communication methods will you have to think about as these kids of today enter the workforce tomorrow?

Embrace new marketing channels

Most teens own mobile phones. Zack Morris from the 1980s show, "Saved by the Bell" was ahead of the curve.

Most teens own mobile phones. Zack Morris from the 1990s show Saved by the Bell was ahead of the curve.

In marketing, how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate.

You can safely bet that today’s teens are sending more than 10 text messages per hour when they are awake.

Keep in mind that 98 percent of text messages received in the U.S. get opened. Yet last year, only one in five marketers reported having run an SMS campaign. With teens using their cellphones and text messaging at an extremely high rate, SMS is still a largely untapped channel that can make a difference for your brand or client.

Also, think about the endless hours Jason spends watching YouTube and movies on his phone. Nielsen reported that teens aged 12 to 17 watched 18 percent more video on their mobile phones than 18- to 24-year-olds and 46 percent more than 25- to 34-year-olds (my generation) at the end of 2012. This even though my generation leads the way in online video watching overall.

Smart brands will want to use videos to increase their brand image with teens and to attract them both as customers and as future employees. And they better make sure their video content is mobile-friendly.