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Teen Consumer: The Teen Shapeshifter and Consumer Product Innovation

As the teen consumer grows and changes, she looks for products and services that can grow with her.

Shapeshifter and Consumer Product Innovation Teen consumers demand personalized products. Like a shapeshifter, teens morph from time to time and expect the products they use to change with them.

In the world of fiction there is a character archetype called the shapeshifter. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a shapeshifter is “a person or being with the ability to change their physical form at will.” Think of the beast from Beauty and the Beast or Mystique from X-Men.

Teen Consumers Demand Personalization of Products

While most consider shapeshifters to exist only in books and movies, they are a very real phenomenon. Writer Christine Frazier writes, “Shapeshifters embody a typical teenage desire to be able to change their looks and personalities on command.”

Surprise! Shapeshifters are not exclusive to the worlds of Harry Potter and X-Men. They’re sitting in your living room, eating you out of house and home!

Along with their shapeshifting fantasies, teen consumers also expect the products they use to morph with them as they evolve. As teens and their worlds develop and change, they look for products that can grow with them. If they are going to establish a long-term relationship with a product or a brand, it must have the ability to transform and grow as they do.


“I never thought about it, but looking back at my youth, I was a total shapeshifter wannabe,” said BOLDFACE founder Randy Fenton during a recent interview at his Hermosa Beach, California home. “That experience must have been sitting in the back of my mind when I conceived the interchangeable face on BOLDFACE products. I guess if we’re being honest, we all have a desire at times to do a little shapeshifting. Giving our teen customers the ability to shapeshift their backpacks just seemed like the right move.”

Market Response to Teen Consumer Demands

BOLDFACE is one of the new generation of backpack makers looking to disrupt the traditional backpack market. While decades-old backpack makers, such as Jansport, possess the lion share of domestic and international backpack sales, startups like BOLDFACE are giving consumers options that better meet their needs. And with $2.7 billion in annual domestic backpack sales, there is plenty of incentive for this new wave of innovators to take on the Goliaths.

“We think of our products as more than just backpacks. We consider BOLDFACE backpacks as a form of self-expression,” says Fenton. “How you dress and groom defines who your are and how you feel. The backpack you carry around with you everyday should fit who you are today and tomorrow.”

According to Verbalisation CEO Alex Van Gestel, “In today’s ever-shifting world, marketers can no longer dictate what their brand stands for. Your brand is whatever your customers say it is; the emotional relationship is between the consumer and the product.”

Long gone are the days when a consumer goods company said, this is product X and this is how you use product X, and this is how you relate to product X and this is how you will refer to product X. If a product can’t meet the evolving needs of the teen consumer, it is of little use.

Matter Creative Group‘s Suzette Percival frames the challenge presented by youth consumers like this: “How do we hand over so much control to consumers and other stakeholders when we have spent our time working toward the organization’s mission and objectives?”

Successful marketers “are reacting to a consumer’s demand for products, goods, and services that are tailored to their specific needs at the moment they specify,” writes Percival.

Teen Consumers Want to be Original

According to Dan Berthiaume in Chain Store Age, a 2014 study of teens and young adults conducted by Alexander Babbage found that, “Young shoppers seek an experience that delivers individuality, authenticity and uniqueness. Nearly 65% of respondents said the ability to personalize their clothes, shoes and accessories had a positive impact on their overall shopping experience.”

“Young shoppers seek an experience that delivers individuality, authenticity and uniqueness. Nearly 65% of respondents said the ability to personalize their clothes, shoes and accessories had a positive impact on their overall shopping experience.” – Dan Berthiaume

“Teenagers love having something in their hands that no one else has, or that only the right people have,” says Marc Cowlin, director of marketing at CafePress, in an interview with Deseret News.

Samara Anderson, retail strategist for ad agency Red Pepper, says about teens in an interview with MarketingDaily, “Customization and personalization are so important. They don’t want to see themselves in anything that is one-size-fits-all.”

Teen Consumer Demands Require Innovation

To address the evolving needs of teen consumers, BOLDFACE provides the ability to customize the appearance of their backpacks. This personalization allows BOLDFACE to meet the changing needs of customers – whether that evolution takes place over minutes, hours, days, weeks or years. The objective is to provide a product that meets their customers’ current mood and their mood 10 minutes later.

Utilizing what Fenton calls the “interchangeable printed face panel” or “face,” for short (patent pending), BOLDFACE owners are able to swap out the face of their backpack in seconds. Consumers can match their changing mood with a backpack face tailored to their mood at that point in time.

“We have made it easy for BOLDFACE customers to change the look of their backpack as quickly as they change their mood or wardrobe,” says Fenton. “Our customers can sport an ocean-themed look during their day at the beach and a rock-themed look at night, when out and about.”

Consumers can purchase backpack “faces” featuring stock images, including many licensed designs from bands such as Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Wu-Tang Clan, Coldplay and others. Or, consumers can choose to design their own backpack face or use a digital image from an iPhone, GoPro or other device, and upload it using the BOLDFACE design widget.

Teen Consumer

Teens want a personalized experience. That’s the point that Klaudia Tirico makes in Retail Touchpoints. As consumers, personalization and control over the product and experience is of significant importance. In fact, its’s the most important.

Storefront CEO Erik Eliason says, “Consumers expect it their way. In the era of Facebook stalking and self-aggrandizement, consumers view products as another form of expressing their uniqueness.” This move towards personalization means greater relevancy for innovative startups like BOLDFACE, among teen shoppers.

“Our typical teen consumer is someone who wants to be noticed; whether it’s by rocking licensed band art, a custom varsity team design or a recent image with best friends. BOLDFACE provides teens with a canvas to say what they want and show who they are. It’s about mass customization and not being lost in the crowd,” says Fenton.

Why Do Teen Consumers Matter?

Targeting teen consumers is a smart move for startups like BOLDFACE. The teen market is a niche that can support growth. According to experts, this segment is blowing up and is showing no signs of a slow down in the near term.

According to ReadyPulse, teens represent over $200 billion in annual spending. On average, teens receive an annual allowance of approximately $780. Piper Jaffray Companies found that 78% of teens have more than $50 in monthly purchasing power. Included in teens’ overall annual spending budget is $91.1 billion in wages earned, according to FONA International.

Forrester Research cities 62% growth of teen online purchases purchases between 2011 ($202 billion) and 2016 ($3278 billion). This growth is supported by Pew Research’s finding that 95% of all teens are online, 75% of which access the Internet via mobile device. Pew Research also found that the percentage of male and female consumers is relatively close at 76% and 79%, respectively.

“Our most profitable channel is online. According to our analytics, the substantial majority of our online customers visit us using  a mobile phone. So having a robust online site is critical to our success,” says Fenton.

Teens Consumers Want to Feel Good About the Business

Mallory Schlossberg writes that teen consumers have a preference for companies that have “A social cause, and represents who they really are. According to Mallory, teens “Want to see if the brand is authentic and is worthy of their time, money, and values,” ”

BOLDFACE is a type of shapeshifter itself, as it does not behave like the typical corporation. “Before we sold our first backpack we gathered as a company to discuss how we wanted to be recognized in the world. We all agreed that we wanted to find a way to play a role in developing the communities from which we benefit,” said Fenton.

In an effort to give back to the communities it serves, BOLDFACE works with schools and nonprofits to create customized backpacks for the organizations. BOLDFACE returns 30% of each sale to the organization. This practice provides financial benefit to schools, contributes towards improving school pride and strengthens BOLDFACE’s brand by demonstrating it’s commitment to its core market segment.

Teen Consumer

“Our schools’ budgets continue to get ravaged at the local, state and federal levels,” says Fenton. “Schools should have an opportunity to share in the revenues they drive to backpack companies. Our business model allows us to work with schools and other nonprofits to return a portion of those revenues to PTAs and others, for the benefit of the community.”

If Christine Frazier is right about the overwhelming desire of teens to shapeshift then BOLDFACE products should be a welcome innovation to the country’s youth seeking a form of self-expression. The ability to change the look of the backpack as quickly as a change in mood makes BOLDFACE invaluable to those looking to set themselves apart from the crowd and show the world what they are all about.


Teen Consumer

1. Custom Nation: Why Customization Is the Future of Business and How to Profit From It by Anthony Flynn and Emily Flynn Vencat. Smart brands such as Chipotle, Zazzle, Nike and Pandora are ditching the outdated 20th century model of a one-size-fits-all approach to providing products and services. From a Netflix movie night to a marriage courtesy of eHarmony, customization is changing every corner of American life and business.

2. Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition by Stan Davis and B. Joseph Pine II. “Mass Customization” – the trailblazing book that showed companies how to mass-produce and individually customize their products and services. New ways of managing, together with new technology, make possible the seeming paradox of providing each customer with the “tailor-made” benefits of the pre-industrial craft system at the low costs of modern mass production. As author Joe Pine makes clear, businesses that learn to embrace mass customization are able to create greater variety and customization in their products and services at competitive prices, or better. This insightful book shows how it’s done.

3. Product Customization by Lars Hvam, Niels Henrik Mortensen and Jesper Riis. For the majority of industrial companies, customizing products and services is among the most critical means to deliver true customer value and achieve superior competitive advantage. This book presents an operational procedure for the design of product configuration systems in industrial companies. It is based on the experience gained from more than forty product configuration projects in companies providing customers with tailored products and services.




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About Jesse Torres (44 Articles)
Jesse Torres has spent over 20 years in leadership and executive management positions. Jesse maintains a wide range of skills that include risk management, internal audit, operations, information technology, marketing and public relations. Jesse has written books and articles related to entrepreneurship, marketing, and social media. Jesse is a contributing writer for Entrepreneur, a frequent speaker at conferences and is often interviewed by business publications. He holds a B.A. from UCLA and is a graduate of the Pacific Coast Banking School. He holds several certifications, including Certified Information Systems Auditor, Certified Internal Auditor and Certified Information Systems Security Professional.

1 Comment on Teen Consumer: The Teen Shapeshifter and Consumer Product Innovation

  1. Companies that wish to capture more teens should focus on mobile advertising. As Google predicts, 99% of online consumers will go mobile by 2020

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