The purpose of this paper is to investigate the influence that marketing has on teenagers and their development of identity and question the ethical implications of this influence. It aims to explore the extrinsic identity and the intrinsic identity using Erikson's model of identity versus role confusion; to identify passive and active personality types within adolescents; and to establish the importance of local community compared with web‐based communities.
The views of developmental theorists are discussed and correlations between teenagers characterised as active; those who would be identified as being “cool”, and passive characters; those lacking “cool” are drawn. This is then applied to the theories of the self and the empty self, a concept arguably used by marketers who wish to encourage notions of the empty self through negative references to being uncool, with the aim of stimulating a demand for the cool sustenance that they supply. Data were gathered from a questionnaire survey comprising 79 secondary school teenage pupils.
The findings, though limited to only one locality, show that the majority of the sample was identified as being passive, implying that the majority of these teenagers were aspirational in their quest for cool. In addition, more of the participants felt a part of web‐based communities such as Bebo than of their local community. The study suggests that marketers, ethically or otherwise, are able to target the passive majority by encouraging feelings of being un‐cool encouraging the empty self to then profit from the sales of a cool fulfilling product.
The localisation and survey sample size impose limitations on the generalisation of the findings for a national or even a regional location. Also, the primary research provides only a snap shot of the tastes and personality traits of individuals taking part in the survey at that point in time that are susceptible to change as is the definition of cool. However, the evaluation of the findings offer some interesting and valuable indications of support and contradictions to the theories discussed.
Through an understanding of the strength of the influence marketing has on a teenage demographic and the importance that the teenagers surveyed attached to social network sites, some indication is given of the quest for identity of the youths of today in a UK locality. This study therefore provides a small but valuable stepping stone for a much larger investigation of this concept on a regional or national scale.
Diane Cassidy, T. and van Schijndel, H. (2011), "Youth identity ownership from a fashion marketing perspective", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 163-177. https://doi.org/10.1108/13612021111132618
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