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Judgment call: Are teenagers more business savvy than 40-year-olds?

David Elton
PA Consulting Group
Financial Times, page 14
22 July 2009

Judgment Call

The question:

A Morgan Stanley research note written by a 15-year-old Matthew Robson on his peers' media habits has caused a stir among media executives and investors. Is this yet another example of experience losing out to youth? Or can a 15-year-old tell us more about future consumer habits than a 40-year-old executive?

The answer:

Can a 15-year-old tell us more about future consumer habits than a 40-year-old executive? Yes. A 15-year-old can tell the oldies how a teenager thinks better than any oldie can guess it. That Matthew was able to write it down is the best bit - what 15-year-old would otherwise dream of unloading to an oldie? More likely: "You want to know what I think? Yeah, right." So in Matthew Robson's excellent piece we learn about the way a market segment living on pocket money and Christmas presents thinks. Waiting until you are home for the internet is better than on the move over your mobile; chatting over your game console is better than picking up your phone. Pirating and illegal downloading also become acceptable ruses. But let's not get too dazzled. The boy wrote good. The bank spots it and the press picks it up, adding the apocryphal theme: "Teenager understood banking in a week." It's a great story. Would I want my marketing (or my bank) run by someone whose moral compass is still being tuned and whose understanding of world affairs comes from the freebie press? There is still room for oldies, as long as they have big ears.

The writer is an IT and change management specialist at PA Consulting Group


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