Researchers explore teenage market

YOUTHFUL EXUBERANCE: Even though they don't earn their own money, those aged between eight and 19 are a huge potential market, analysts said

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thu, Aug 21, 2003 - Page 11

Materialistic teenagers offer myriad commercial opportunities for business in Taiwan and China, pundits said yesterday.

"The teen generation is a pleasure-seeking generation, indulging in an innovative lifestyle using various high-tech electronic appliances," Jacob Chiu (邱高生), research director at Taipei-based consumer behavior research company Eastern Online Ltd (東方線上), said yesterday at a seminar to discuss marketing to youths.

According to Chiu, teenagers in Taiwan spend most of their time in Internet chat-rooms and playing online games, while using their multi-function mobile phones to live sophisticated lives.

Although they earn no income, they can be exorbitant spenders on name brands. Nearly 7 percent of them have credit cards, paid off by their parents.

Teenage consumption in the mobile phone, credit card and entertainment markets is, therefore, growing quickly, Chiu said.

Eastern Online chairman Jan Hung-tze (詹宏志) -- a well-known Web innovator and chief executive officer of the PC Home Publication Group -- yesterday said that teen-agers can be motivated to spend on people and things they want to identify with.

"When teenagers think something or someone is superb, they buy anything related to it," Jan said at the seminar.

Jan used the examples of local pop singer Jay Chou (周杰倫) and Japanese diva Ayumi Hamasaki. He said that after they became famous, both artists regularly launched all types of peripheral products to remain popular among their fans.

Describing the phenomenon as "recognition economics," Jan said that "buying Hamasaki" had created an industry in Japan worth ?33.3 billion a year.

But you have to be hip enough to attract the attention of young people, he said.

As well as teenagers, "tweens," as Jan called those aged between eight and 14, have also become big spenders.

He said that young consumers have developed tastes for brand-name products and read fashion magazines that cater specifically to them.

Paul Tsai (蔡鴻賢), chief executive officer of Eastern Online, said that buying brand-name products gave teenagers "face," which was worth more than the price of the products they bought.

The 2 million young people in Taiwan represent a market of great potential, Tsai said, although it was prone to fads.

But the youth market in China is even bigger, at 150 million, although they spend on average just 100 yuan (NT$415) per month -- half the consumption of their Tai-wanese counterparts, according to Tsai.

Unlike Taiwanese youngsters, teenagers in China are more career-oriented and pursue business success, he said.

"Benefiting from the market liberalization of the 1980s, teenagers [in China] hope to travel abroad and strive to plan for their careers," Tsai said.

Chinese teenagers spend more time on reading and cultural activities than their Taiwanese counterparts, who enjoy playing video games, singing karaoke and going to movies, Tsai said.