Tina Wells, Founder & CEO, Buzz Marketing Group: Technology Enables Me to Keep in Touch with Thousands of Teens Across the Globe

The NextWomen DWEN Interview Series continues with Tina Wells, CEO and founder of Buzz Marketing Group, a full service marketing and research provider whose goal is to help companies build prosperous connections with youth.

Currently a Wharton School of Business student for marketing management, Tina creates innovative marketing strategies for numerous clients within the beauty, entertainment, fashion, financial, and lifestyle sectors. She has worked with clients including Maidenform, SonyBMG, PBS, P+G, Sesame Workshop and American Eagle Outfitters.

Tina’s long list of honors includes Essence’s 40 Under 40, Billboard’s 30 Under 30, and Inc’s 30 Under 30, amongst many others. She is the author of the tween series Mackenzie Blue, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, and the youth marketing handbook Chasing Youth Culture And Getting It Right, which was published in Spring 2011.

A celebrated blogger on The Huffington Post, Tina also serves on the board of directors of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, The Franklin Institute, Symphony in C and The Young Entrepreneur Council.

We spoke to Tina about how technology enables her to keep in touch with thousands of teens across the globe; and how attitudes to female entrepreneurs have changed since she launched her own business whilst still a teenager herself.

TNW: What was the inspired moment that led you to launch Buzz Marketing Group?

TW: When I was in college, I was discussing my work as a product consultant with one of my professors. At that time, I had been consulting since I was 16 years old, so I had some years of experience under my belt. My professor was shocked that I was doing this for free! That was the moment I realized: I can turn this talent and insight for understanding what consumers want into a business. 

TNW: How important is technology to the success of your company?

TW: Technology plays a crucial role in the success of my company.  I’ve worked with clients throughout the United States, and the world, with ease given the technological advances afforded to us today.  

With technology, I have the world at the touch of my smartphone and I can talk to thousands of Millennials in our buzzSpotter network where they are the most: online!

With technology, Buzz Marketing Group has no barriers about whom we reach.

TNW: What has been your biggest challenge throughout the history of your company, from planning to funding and execution, and how could others learn from it?

Starting any company includes taking risks but if I’ve learned anything throughout my 15 years as a business owner and marketer, it’s that consumers want quality in their product and services.

Fortunately, the research Buzz Marketing Group conducts on the Millenial generation is current, at times controversial and always thought provoking.

It garnered the attention needed for my company to take off and once I began working for clients like Dermalogica, the funding came in.

Of course, as a CEO it is important to be cost conscious. The money I earn goes right back into the company, the research and programs. I am also grateful for the employees I’ve hired, including my own family, who continue to represent Buzz Marketing Group’s mission through their work and insight. I encourage others to realize when they have a business idea, to take risks, and to surround themselves with quality people.

TNW: Is there a moment in the history of your company which you remember as the highlight so far?

TW: O Magazine did a cover story on me five years ago. That was an exciting time and certainly a highlight in the history of Buzz Marketing Group!

TNW: What is next for the Buzz Marketing Group? How do you see technology as a key growth driver?

TW: It’s been a tremendously busy season for Buzz Marketing Group! We recently finished a successful campaign with Mead Five Star, the creator of the fantastic notebooks we all had growing up. We’ve also worked with LifeTuner.org, an AARP property to encourage financial awareness for the under 30 market. Now, we are gearing up for 2012!  For example, in the spring, Buzz Marketing Group will work with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts of the USA. So it’s a busy time for us here and technology continues to play a crucial role in the success of these campaigns.

We’ve been working with people scattered throughout the country and the world, but with technology it can feel as if they’re right next door to us. Distance is not a barrier for us here at Buzz MG; In fact, it promotes growth.

TNW: How would you describe your leadership style? How has your leadership style changed over the years, and why?

I’d say I am a “clockmaker” and not a “time teller” by empowering my staff to devise their own solutions in their work. 

After all, I want to see those around me succeed. There are always methods to improving our work and it’s gratifying to see my staff members create a design or plan that’s better than the original. I also believe in being a fair leader and having a balance between life and work.  So when there’s downtime, which is a rarity at Buzz Marketing Group, I encourage my staff to rest and recharge for the next big project.  Over the years, and after 15 years of running my own company, I understand vacation time is needed!

TNW: What are the key differences between marketing to adults and marketing to teens?

TW: For adults, particularly the Baby Boomer generation, they are accustomed to marketers telling them what to buy and why. We are all bombarded with hundreds of advertisements each day, but for teens and Millennials as a whole, they want to be involved in the process and discussion. Millennials love and want smart marketing! It’s about marketing to their mindsets rather than to their age with this generation. They’re eager to purchase and adopt trends that suit their interests and what they believe will benefit them.

TNW: How do you keep abreast of the changing trends and requirements of the teen generation? Do you see big cultural differences in their behaviour and tastes, or do teenagers want the same things the world over?

TW: Through Buzz Marketing Group’s research, surveys, and network of buzzSpotters, I’m able to stay current with issues that matter to the teen generation. In “Chasing Youth Culture and Getting It Right,” I discuss what matters to the teen consumer: inspiration, disruption and value. They need to be inspired by what’s being sold to them, products to disrupt and grab the attention of its teen consumer and added value in their lives from the product. No matter where the teen is in the world, this is what matters to them.

TNW: What is the most common misconception about the Millenial generation? What concerns you about this generation and which of their general traits give you hope for the future?

The most common misconception about the Millennial generation, I believe, is that they are overly wired and technology has too prominent of a position in their lives.

However, when I was researching material for my marketing book “Chasing Youth Culture and Getting It Right,” interviewing and surveying 2,200 Millennials, I discovered this is just untrue! They love and appreciate technology, but they are not consumed with it. Since they’ve been raised with the technological boom, they’ve always had emails, smartphones, DVRs, etc., whereas older generations remember a time without these amenities.

Because this generation has always lived with these technological advances, they are able to adapt to the creation and recreation of devices. They are able to learn quickly and use these tools to start their own businesses and effortlessly stay connected with friends and family. In the same respect, they are accustomed to fast action and instantaneous results. I call this “instanity.” I am concerned that instanity leaves room for errors in the working and professional world. While the ability to send a text/email rapidly is great, this generation needs to take a step back and think before they act.  

TNW: You’ve been an entrepreneur since you were a teenager yourself. Have you seen attitudes towards female entrepreneurs change in that time?

TW: I’ve noticed over the years that female entrepreneurs are increasingly common and prominent in their respected industries.  I participate in events and organizations that encourage women to be enterprising because I believe any woman can accomplish whatever she puts her mind to.  While there are still struggles for women in business, attitudes toward female entrepreneurs are positive and respectful.

TNW: How has Dell or the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network enabled you to grow your business? What do you see as the benefits of all-women networks such as DWEN?

TW: The Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network introduced to me a spectacular group of like-minded women with incredible talents. When I attended the conference in Brazil for DWEN in 2011, I had no idea what to expect and it was truly amazing to see what a select group of women could do together and what they can achieve through sharing their business accomplishments and insights on being a women in business. 

TNW: Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you’d like to share with our community?

TW: My parents and my family have been a tremendous source of support and encouragement since I started Buzz Marketing Group. 

In particular, I live by a phrase that my Father always said to my five younger siblings & myself: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

The Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) celebrates the wonderful accomplishments of women in business, whilst looking forward at how we can progress and learn from each other. Natural networkers and relationship builders, women have innate flair for entrepreneurship. With DWEN, Dell is helping women in business to expand their networks while offering technology capabilities designed to help them innovate and grow their businesses.

The NextWomen is in partnership with DWEN to bring you a series of 40 interviews with the world's most influential female founders, investors and decision makers: The NextWomen DWEN Interview Series.

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