Why teens are the ~best~ at digitally branding themselves online.

Last month, we all saw the above video of teenagers reacting to Windows 95. One important thing this brought up (besides the existential reminder of how quickly time passes and how fast technology evolves) is the important FYI that the world now cares about what teens think.

As a generation that has grown up in the “digital age” with an innate understanding for technology and the nuances of various social networks, it’s no wonder that the opinion and approval of teenagers is so sought after. From big businesses to local brands, everyone wants to know “what the kids are saying these days.

And although this article in no way will tell you how to get “with it” (I’m sorry), it will garner some insight on how teenagers digitally brand themselves. And perhaps by understanding their techniques, brands can gain further insight into their own digital marketing. 

As a recent former teenager (full disclosure: I’m 21) with a cousin who is 15 years old and much cooler than I am, here are all the things I have learned from our collective experiences on social networks, on things we have found to be interesting online, and on how teenagers create personal brands.

They are very mem(e)orable

From Damn Daniel to How to Write an Alt-J song, teens are creating viral video content that is funny, catchy and most importantly, relatable. What makes these two videos alike is one simple thing — they are repetitive without being annoying. Both offer a simple and sticky catchphrase that’s even shorter than a tweet, creating a sense of immediate satisfaction and understanding for all audiences.

These catchphrases (the former being obviously “damn Daniel” and the latter being, well, just watch it) are so short and sweet that although you know they will be short-lived, you can’t help but repeat them. Their relatability is also a big factor in their fame — everyone knows what it’s like to want to document an outfit that’s on point and everyone knows how every Alt-J song sounds. In short, both these videos create perfect memes.

Another interesting observation I had about both videos is the organic opportunity for a brand to partner with the content creator. Daniel (who already went on Ellen and is receiving a lifetime supply of white sneakers) is a clear candidate for the future face of Vans. And the two boys eating rice crackers make the snack look so tasty that even Alt-J noticed. Both products are so authentically ingrained in the videos that it doesn’t feel like advertising, because it isn’t — it’s an organic promotion.

What does this mean for teenagers? That the power is in their hands. If there’s a brand or product that they enjoy, they have the opportunity to leverage social media and their network to benefit themselves and to (hopefully) earn some free merch.

What does this mean for brands? They have unprecedented access to authentic endorsements that reach farther and faster.

They feel personal

There are no fancy cameras, flashy transitions or high budget production values when it comes to the content produced by most teens. In fact, most viral content looks like any old high schooler put it together in a few seconds on their smartphone in between class.

This is another way teenagers have succeeded. The content is so “regular” that it seems like you or I could have made it, which is why it resonates with audiences.

Take recent Twitter sensation Papaw, for example. His situation is so relatable and the tweet is so personal that it feels like he could be anyone’s grandpa. And now, that’s what he has turned into— everyone’s grandpa who also hosted a burger cookout that everyone was invited to.

Teenagers create content that feels personal. It’s about the story, not the frills.

They understand the nuances of each channel

Another thing that teens understand and really abide by is Marshall McLuhan’s ye olde adage of “the medium is the message,” something that holds true even in the age of Snapchat and Bitmojis. Essentially, the idea is that the channel that you choose to send your message through is just as important as the message itself and, in turn, becomes the message.  

What does this mean for teenagers? That certain messages can (and should) only be sent via certain channels to certain people. Here it is broken down simply.

About the Author:

Vicky Liu is a Canupy content creator, blogger and social media enthusiast. She studied RTA Media Production at Ryerson University in Toronto. Her interests include digital design, concert-going and stalking assorted bakeries on Instagram. 


Vicky Liu

Vicky Liu is a content creator, blogger and social media enthusiast studying RTA Media Production at Ryerson University in Toronto. Her interests include digital design, concert-going and stalking assorted bakeries on Instagram.