The Multi-channel Prom Proposal

Snow proposalFriday night, Christina, a local high school student found Prom: Yes?  No? written colorfully in the fresh snow outside of her friend’s house. She also received a hand-written note (the full contents of which I cannot reveal) that began with “Christina, Look Outside!” and ended with “Please circle Yes or No in the snow and text me the picture.”

There are a lot of myths out there about teens: they all have smartphones, they are constantly absorbed in multiple electronic channels, they shun the physical world for the virtual one, and they don’t talk on the phone. Based on that, one might have expected a texted invitation saying simply “Prom?” Instead there was:

    • Snow;
    • A hand-written note;
    • Multi-media with Text (for response).

While this is not the old-fashioned, in person, aw-shucks prom proposal of my youth, it is au courante with the trend for today’s more stagey invitations. The young man behind this multi-channel prom invitation strategy knew his audience. He had done the research to find out where Christina would be on Friday night and made the extra effort to make sure that his message would get noticed. He even included a “call to action” using media convenient to his target audience.

In reality, teens (considered the 12 – 17 age group by Pew Research) are less likely than adults (ages 18-64) to have a cell phone at all, and only 23 percent have a smartphone (31 percent for 14 to 17 year olds). While for most teens texting is the preferred method of communication with friends (versus phone or email) according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project surveys, only 49 percent of teens text with their friends on a daily basis – a statistic that has remained flat since 2009. It might seem intuitive that teens who are texting are not talking, but the heaviest texters are also the heaviest talkers.

So back to our real life teen Romeo, did he stalk his Juliette using geolocation services on her smartphone? No. He collaborated with her friends to coordinate his efforts rather than using tech or analytics. While only 6% of teens use location based services on their phones, I have no doubt that when Prom rolls around there will be pictures on Facebook, SnapChats, and constant tweeting. I’ve already seen lots of Printerest pins on prom dresses. Meanwhile it’s good to know that not all teens fit into the ready-made stereotypes of media use and that romance is not dead.

By the way, she said yes!

Elizabeth Gooding

Elizabeth Gooding is the editor of the Insight Forums blog and president of Gooding Communications Group

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