The New Voice: Today's Teenagers Have A Lot To Say, It's Time We Listened To Them

17/08/2016 15:08 | Updated 17 August 2016

Back in May, as teenagers and young adults were preparing to sit their exams, I wrote that this age group are the real education, as they embrace healthier lifestyles, are more socially conscious, hyper-connected and have a greater global outlook than any generation before them. Now, as we approach exam results day, the point at which many of the older members of this born-digital generation will be completing school or university, we will see these young people - their opinions, world views and aspirations - come increasingly to the fore.

The results of the EU Referendum in the UK saw crowds of under 18 pro-Remainers, who were too young to vote in a decision that is likely to affect the rest of their lives, gathering outside the Houses of Parliament in London to demonstrate against Brexit. If that demonstration tells us one thing about today's teenagers it's that they know they have a voice and have no hesitation using it.

This is a generation that's been living in the shadow of their Millennial older brothers and sisters - that holy grail age group that marketers and brands around the globe work so hard to reach and engage with.

Just doing a simple check on Google Adwords shows that for every time someone searched for 'Generation D' (those aged 14-21) in the last month, there were nearly 1,000 searches for 'Millennials'.

But what about the generation coming up behind their Millennial siblings?

While Millennials are frequently seen as the digital generation, today's teenagers and young adults are in fact the ultimate early adopters. They are the first to try new technologies, experiment with their identities, challenge the status quo and ultimately drive new trends. They may not be your consumer today, but they will be in years to come. And even if your brand is not thinking about your future consumers, they are most certainly thinking about you; taking in your products, behaviour and marketing; forming opinions and preferences that may, in time, be a great benefit or a great burden.

On top of their openness to new experiences, teenagers and young adults have a huge spending power, estimated at £139bn when factoring in their influence on parental purchasing decisions. Indeed, one in 10 adults say their children influence all buying decisions - up from 7.6% in 2014.

And yet, for industries like media, advertising and entertainment, those with the greatest impact are often not even old enough to apply to university. This is leading organisations to start taking on youth teams who truly understand and know how to communicate with their generation.

The Tate, for example, has invited young adults aged 15-25 to take part in its Tate Collective youth engagement team, to rethink how people access the gallery's collections.

As a generation they are most acutely aware of the growing trust gap as politicians, brands, sports bodies and other institutions sacrifice positions of trust and authority, teenagers are more likely to put their faith in peer-to-peer recommendations from their social media networks or celebrities they relate to. If you don't find ways to listen to what they think they will certainly find ways to tell you.

As teen activist Glacier Girl says, "Anyone can make a change ... You don't have to be a pop star to get your voice heard."