Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tween marketing – a dream or nightmare?

Tweens are (mainly) girls in the age group six to twelve.
They want to look older and hotter, like their idols Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie.
Where did this market niche come from?
As with the teenage concept in the 20th century; smart marketers identified the gap in the marketplace between the girl who is still a child under the age of about nine, and a real teenager of 13 or 14 who has reached puberty. These girls are getting older younger – hence a profitable new market niche was born.

The tween customer group has some unique characteristics.

  • Tweens have their own budget, but most of their items are bought for them by parents and relatives.
  • Their taste flips between those of a child and a young adult.
  • The highest goal is feeling accepted by a peer group.
  • They are more logical in their thinking about right/wrong and what is in/out of style than previous generations.
  • Their favorite media to stay in tune are chat rooms and television commercials.

What are the market drivers?
  • Image building by TV channels such as MTV .
  • Globalization of brands, just look at the global success of Bratz.
  • Spending power – the tweens have money and love to spend it.
  • Peer pressure – no group is so susceptible to social pressure of their fellow tweens .
  • Urge to grow up fast and to be an independent individual.

The Bratz dolls are the ultimate tween success story.
Created in 2001 by the US manufacturer MGA Entertainment, global sales reached 125 million dolls accounting for $US2 billion.
Archrival Mattel (the producer of Barbie) struck back with its line of My Scene Barbie dolls, that includes “totally blinged out and super fabulous fashionable” My Bling Bling dolls. Mattel also hooked up with cosmetic brand MAC.

Cosmetics and clothes designers quickly followed in the footsteps of the doll makers.
The Italian designer Anna Molinari showed her tween collection in Florence, choosing 6-year old Anna Ermakova (Boris Becker’s little girl) as the star model.
Tween fashion is nothing to sneeze at: padded bras for eight- to ten-year-olds and My Little Pony bandeau bras for two- to three-year-olds are bestsellers.

The marketing channels used to attract and keep these young customers are Internet and subscription TV channels.
Advertising in kits’ magazines is less popular due to declining circulation.

The best way to reach this consumer group:

  • Target both the tweens and their (grand) parents - shopping is a family event, where the adults like to spend money on their tweens.
  • Use chat rooms to keep abreast of tween consumer behavior.
  • Use TV channels for promotion and product placement.
  • Use models and spokespersons in the same (tween) age group.
  • Recognize and respect the unique characteristics of the tweens.

The biggest challenge for companies is to build brand loyalty with the tween consumers.
The “get them early” part might be manageable, but what about “keeping them for life”?
It will be interesting to see how tween consumer behavior will change overtime.
Since tweens are “consumers in training”( and can therefore still be deceived), it’s the job of marketers to stay ethical. It will pay off in the long run.
The biggest mistake is to underestimate them. They are savvy and want to make decisions about the things that impact their lives.
It's wise to keep in mind: once burnt by a brand, they will not forget, let alone forgive – for the next seven or so decades!

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