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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Teenagers cannot help being a pain they enjoy it

14-18 year olds seem programmed to “contra-hedonic motivations” – in words us poor marketers can understand they want to either to maintain or enhance negative affect or to dampen positive ones. Basically, they want (need) to be miserable.This is unlike the reactions of the 70+ who have exactly the opposite reactions.

Methinks it has something to do with ‘hormones’ – the explanation of parents the world over.

This is a fascinating study (Seeking Pain: Differences in Prohedonic and Contra-Hedonic Motivation From Adolescence to Old Age" in the journal Psychological Science) that you can download for free or alternatively read a simplified version on the Harvard Business Review blog.

The graphic shows how adolescents are more likely than individuals of older age groups to experience episodes of “mixed affect”, that is to simultaneously experience positive and negative affect of high intensity. Sounds to me like it all part of the same phenomenon.

If adolescents do have a propensity to want to be in bad moods some of the time, then aiming products at this emotional need is no different than aiming products at people's desires to be happier.

Maybe this research is well known to youth marketers but it is news to me. The message about marketing to older people is that they want to be happier and will do more than any other age group to be so. Dick Stroud

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