The real insight from 15-year Morgan Stanley intern – LISTEN

14 July 2009

Yesterday it made international news that a 15-year old intern at Morgan Stanley has “shocked the industry” by reporting on the “real” media consumption habits of teens. By around the world – I mean Tokyo, New York, London and Sydney. Not sure how this is breaking news but the report by Matthew Robson titled How Teenagers Consume Media found “Twitter is for old people, teenagers do not listen to the radio and a mobile phone is used for talking to girls”. Mr Robson researched via his networks of friends and says he believes the data represents the collective wisdom of about 300 teenagers. His research method — “I texted a few friends to get ideas,” he told the Financial Times. Edward Hill-Wood, executive director of Morgan Stanley’s European media team said: “His report was one of the clearest and most thought-provoking insights we have seen – so we published it.”

As we know Mr Robson’s “network” are probably all kids like him, so in reality provides more of an insight into his specific demographic than the world as a whole – in fact read the barrage of comments on each and every news site and everyone apparently has an opinion about the validity of his findings. Groundbreaking stats to shock the world, I think not. But I do think that it is great that this report has generated interest in Listening to Gen Y. Listening with Capital L and Big Ears.

Often we make our market research overly strategic, and in reality it is often framed by people outside of the target which therefore influences the results. Mr Robson’s view – straight from the horse’s mouth. I think a really interesting insight that comes from this is not the media habits, because (hopefully) most people in Youth marketing would have a grasp of that. More it’s that you can spend $200 and give a kid a camera and it will give you more insight than $25,000 worth of data. Insight is funny like that – it needs to create that “aha” moment for you to make it relevant.

My point is if it’s you are in Youth Marketing and it’s been a while since you have spent a day at a music festival, chilled out on university campus or even chatted with a teen-something at a local Surfing event – maybe you would be better placed to spend a day in the life as a bit of a reality check then spend another day reviewing market research in your boardroom. This is why Youth brands such as Red Bull – which are on the ground with kids every day – get it. By get it I mean youth marketing but also marketshare. And really, is this only a “youth” thing or could all marketers take a page from this manual?

One final note – and to no discredit to Mr Robson who I could only imagine is a very confident, well spoken and interesting kid – but not sure why exactly he is labeled a whiz kid? Why do the established always fail to recognise the potential of the unestablished – aka their own workers? This is not a Gen Y versus “old people” argument – this is a theme throughout history. Why do companies not harness the value of the insight that younger generations bring to the table as opposed to groan about their attitudes and expectations?

Hope this an “aha” moment amongst all my 50-something CEO’s CMOs, Recruitment Officers, etc.

PHOTO CREDIT, Financial Times: Matthew Robson, 15, says teenagers don’t read newspapers, use phones to make calls or go to the cinema.

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One Response to “The real insight from 15-year Morgan Stanley intern – LISTEN”

  1. Tania McCartney

    Really interesting piece, Meghan.

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