Are Big Brands Doing Enough to Support Teenagers?

Are Big Brands Doing Enough to Support Teenagers?

As the mother of a teenage daughter, I’m all too aware of the power of advertising, particularly on social media. Think social network influence such as Instagram, streaming platforms and reviews from platforms like YouTube, this is a generation that grew up with the internet. And how they are advertised to is incredibly important. Companies need to ensure ads targeted at teens don’t impact on how they feel about body image or impact their mental health in a negative way for example.

Here’s some companies getting it right:


Skincare is of course a hot topic among teens. And there are some big household names that have been around since I was a teen myself. Clearasil is one of those brands, the go-to name in facial scrubs for the acne-prone.

So it was a bold move for the brand to release a campaign admitting they “didn’t know teens”. Perhaps more triumphantly, the brand’s ad campaign rose from their incorrect use of a meme, which was duly torn apart by teenage viewers saying Clearasil clearly didn’t know what teens liked. The campaign consisted of a series of videos in which employees of Clearasil presented themselves as being woefully out of touch with teen culture. The employees admit that they while they know teen acne, they don’t know teens. The campaign’s success lay in the sense of honesty, which teenagers would connect with, rather than attempting to present themselves as “cool”.


My teen is certainly a Dorito addict. I’ve lost count of the amount of times she’s sent me a message while I’ve been at the supermarket asking me to pick her up a bag of Doritos and a pot of salsa. It seems she isn’t alone in her love of all things Doritos. A Google study of 13-17 year olds placed Doritos higher than the likes of Apple and even Instagram in terms of “coolness”. So how is this brand reaching out to support teens?

Doritos have nailed it in terms of showing their support for LGBT campaigns with their limited-edition rainbow-coloured snack. To get one of these colourful packs, a donation had to be made to the It Gets Better Project. Naturally, this resonated hugely with consumers and the limited-edition Doritos quickly sold out.

What other companies can learn from this is that Doritos showed support for a world concern that teenagers today value, without claiming to be the entire solution.


Starting your period is an important time in your life, but it can be an anxious and often embarrassing time too. However, Lil-Lets has created their own teen range which is perfect for breaking the stigma around periods.

With pastel colours and love-heart sketches on the packaging, Lil – Lets have created period starter kits with teens in mind, making sure that everything is designed to reflect what appeals to young girls. The discreet design reinforces the idea that periods don’t have to be a scary thing to encounter and will allow young girls to carry products around without feeling embarrassed when the time comes.

And it’s not only the packaging that is designed specifically for teens, Lil-Lets teens pads themselves have been created so that they are smaller and narrower which means they are often a better fit for a young girl’s body. While being just as absorbent and comfortable to wear as adult products.

River Island

For its 30th birthday River Island created ads featuring a range of body types to highlight inclusivity. In partnership with anti-bullying charity, Ditch The Label, River Island launched its ‘Labels Are For Clothes’ campaign to champion self-expression and reject stereotypes.

Shopping at big high street brands like River Island is part of growing up and to see different people being represented on a national scale helps them to accept our differences as the norm. Promoting its AW18 collection, it is arguably their most diverse campaign yet and uses people from different backgrounds — including those with disabilities. River Island has acknowledged its responsibility to project the world around them, seeing as everyone wears clothes.


Dove are famous for championing diversity through their ads. And since 2004 its Self-Esteem Project has changed 40 million lives since 2004 through educational programmes. Their research discovered that nine out of ten girls with low self-esteem put their own health at risk by not seeing doctors or missing out on meals.

They also offer free parent, teacher and youth leader resources to help adults talk to young people who may lack in confidence. As well as this, their blog allows you to learn more about key areas that influence a teens life — from social media and reality TV pressures to school bullying and mental health.


Like Doritos, Nike hasn’t shied away from supporting movements teenagers value. For example, their classic “Just Do It” campaign recently featured Colin Kaepernick, the American Footballer who started the “Take a Knee” protest against racial and social injustices by kneeling during the national anthem. Nike continued to show their support for sports stars who were standing up against racial injustices with their latest campaign, featuring Raheem Sterling. This willingness to “speak out” in defence of equality has a huge value to teenagers in particular, who have a greater appreciation not only for what a brand sells, but what it stands for.

Major brands are waking up to the demands of modern culture and cater to their newly found audience who will soon become their main consumer base. By capturing their custom at an earlier stage, they’ll be able to focus on retention and ensure loyalty as they transition from teen-to-adult in the near future.

*In collaboration with Lil Lets

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