Marketing to Tweens
Our research into the tween market led to many discoveries about this group of current and future purchasers. We looked at statistics, marketing approaches, and responsibilities of those involved with this demographic group. Who are the tweens, what do they like, and how do they spend their time and money were areas where we probably gained the most insight from the research. Other areas looked at included how marketers target tweens, ethical responsibilities involved, what are the responsibilities of the parents of tweens, and the future of marketing to tweens.
Children between the ages of seven and fourteen make up the consumer market known as the tweens. About 75% of them have dual-income parents and about 50% of them have divorced parents. The tweens are very brand oriented, requesting brand-name clothing like Nike, Levi, and Calvin Kline. This group of young people have a significant amount of money to spend and influence an even larger amount. A survey of 2.5 million Canadian tweens show that they spend $1.4 billion a year on themselves and influence the buying decisions of their parents to an astronomical ten times that amount. This age group is an emerging market for financial services. Many of them already have their own bank accounts and ATM cards. The top three things the tweens spend money on are food, entertainment, and clothing. They are influencing family decisions on everything from what to watch on television to what type of car to purchase. The title of one of the articles says it all, Todays Tweens Are in the Money –$1.5 Billion and Have Major Kidfluence on Household Purchases, Says YTV Survey. This generation is media-wise, sophisticated, technically-savvy, and influential trendsetters who are growing up much quicker than previous generations.
Tweens spend 50% of their waking hours in school and are very involved in after-school activities. The majority of tweens plan to attend college and research shows that some are actually saving to help finance their college education. Todays kids are putting away the traditional toys like Barbie and action figures by the age of eight and moving on to what most of us would consider more adult type entertainment. Fun, friends, and fulfillment are very important to these children who are interested in music, fashion, video games, computers, and on-line chat. They frequently socialize with friends via e-mail instead of face-to-face and some Internet forums offer chats among tweens only. They are attending concerts and having a direct impact on the popularity of groups like the Spice Girls. These children are maturing earlier which leads to earlier sexual activity and struggling with appearance and self-confidence. The tweens are taking on adult-like responsibilities while still dealing with normal teen issues.
Marketers are spending a lot of time and money targeting the tweens. As James McNeal, Professor of Marketing at Texas A&M puts it, Tweens have more market potential than any other demographic group simply because they have all their purchases ahead of them. Marketers are hoping that by selling these kids on ideas now they will become loyal consumers who continue to respond to their products. There are many of the typical media such as television, magazines, in-store advertising, and private label catalogs used to attract the tweens. However, some marketers are producing products aimed specifically at tweens. Some of these include cruise lines which offer them their own program of activities, hair care products targeted at tweens, and the new Burger King Big Kids Meal which offers more food along with the toy which research shows is still important to this age group. Marketers realize how financially powerful this demographic group is and that they need to continue to focus on reaching them.
As marketers target the tweens, they have to keep in mind the ethical responsibilities that come along with marketing to them. They must not only get the attention of the children but must also get the buy-in of the parents. If the marketing aimed at their children is unfair or unduly enticing, it may result in alienating the parents. Marketers need to avoid seductive advertising and be careful to protect childrens privacy, especially when advertising on-line. Another ethical responsibility of marketers is to help educate young shoppers about financial responsibility. New technologies and products permit teens to make purchases without credit cards. Online checks, debit cards, and different types of accounts are a few of the ways children are gaining the freedom to purchase products. Merchants are taking a risk of a lot of returned items if these purchases are made without parental consent. The important thing for marketers to remember is that even though the tweens are the purchasers of the future, right now they are just children who need guidance and they must help to develop them into the savvy consumer they want to attract as adults.
Parents need to take responsibility for what their children are doing, how they spend their time, and what they are purchasing. The first thing parents need to ask themselves is Whos in charge? If the answer to this is the parents, then they are off to a pretty good start. It is very important to the tweens to be heard, so parents can keep the lines of communication open by asking for their opinions and listening to them. If the children want to go to a concert, a parent can go along. This is what Stuart Rosenstein, Nickelodeons director had in mind when he sponsored the All That Music and More Festival. As Rosenstein said, Its a family experience. Its a great thing for parents to have their first live musical experience with their kids. The great thing about this festival is we see 11, 12, and 13 year-olds rocking out with their mothers. To me thats a success. Parents should be watching their children for signs of inappropriate behavior such as early sexual activity and eating disorders. They also need to reduce the amount of time children spend alone and closely monitor their activities. Parents need to realize they may not be able to control how the marketers are targeting their children but they can control the amount of influence they have on their children.
Marketers realize the tremendous marketing potential youth present and want to find ways to capitalize on this in the future. They are increasing advertising to tweens as they grow up and in some unusual ways. In the United States there is a program called Channel One which offers closed-circuit newscast with commercials included. Marketers use these commercials to promote products while the newscast teach regular lesson objectives. So, lesson objectives are being met while absorbing consumer values developed by marketers. As stated earlier tweens, spend the biggest portion of their time at school, so marketers are taking advantage of this by infiltrating the school system with product promotions. Marketers realize that the trend of maturing earlier is likely to continue so they will keep looking for ways to reach this demographic group of financially powerful individuals.
The research we did opened our eyes to just how influential this group of seven to fourteen year-olds, known as the tweens, have become. They influence their parents buying decisions, what products are being produced, and how marketers are marketing. In-school hall-talk plays a big role in whether new fads, trends, and brands will succeed or not. For these kids to be successful future consumers, parents and marketers alike need to realize that they have the responsibility of helping them to learn about financial responsibility. Kidfluence is running rampant and there is no slow down in sight. So, marketers need to buckle up and settle in for the wild ride of the future being piloted by the group of young people known as the TWEENS.
Marketing and Advertising