Stop Thinking For Tween Girls

The tween girl. To marketers, she is perplexing, mysterious and highly sought after. Advertisers spend countless hours imagining what she wants, what will appeal to her, what will work. They agonize over how they might reach this enigmatic, elusive and highly lucrative market. The answer is simple - listen to her.

We must give up our preconceived ideas of what she wants and simply ask her. Once you find a tween girl, you'll discover she has a voice and is only too eager to tell you what she is thinking, doing, saying and dreaming because, frankly, she wants adults to stop thinking for her.

Let's clear up a few common misperceptions.

1. TRUE or FALSE? If we declare it to be cool, she will buy.

Answer: FALSE. A recent example: The March 6 Forbes.com headline read, "The Next Jonas Brothers: Eight new tween stars are about to hit the big time."

While the adults who chose the top eight new stars might want them to hit the big time, according to a recent survey of 400 tween girls on AllyKatzz.com, they have a long way to go before they will earn mega-stardom. The girls were asked to comment on the list and rate the boys Forbes selected as "Hot" or "Not." A majority of the girls voted 7 out of the 8 boys, which included Sterling Knight, Kelly Blatz and Frankie "Bonus" Jonas, not hot. In fact, the "hottest" of the bunch? Lucas Cruikshank, a 15-year-old YouTube phenom from Nebraska, better known as Fred, was the only one rated "hot" (by 72% of the girls). Interestingly, Fred doesn't even have the marketing power of a media company behind him -- he captured the attention and imaginations of tween girls all by himself.

2. TRUE or FALSE? She is tech savvy and online at all times.

Answer: FALSE. Although she is computer literate and familiar with much of the latest technology, she is not tied to her computer the way adults are. Tween girls have definite opinions and preferences regarding how they want to be reached.

If you are thinking of an email blast, best to skip it. AK Tweens Pulse-Check Research reports how girls want to get mail: 58% text, 27% email and 13% snail mail.

Have a Twitter idea for them? Forget it for now because they aren't tweeting. Our research shows that 84% of girls don't even know what Twitter is and, of the girls who know it, only 5% use it.

3. TRUE OR FALSE? The only thing she cares about is her friends.

Answer: FALSE

While it is survival of the fittest in the tween girl world, and "friends" do rank No. 1 for them, this doesn't mean that's all they care about. They care about education -- mainly about testing and the pressures of school. They care about Iraq and Afghanistan. They care about driving, the legal drinking age, drugs and the peer pressure they face. They care about the economy and they care about being bullied - online and off.

Tween girls are complex and are concerned about a range of topics many adults may not even have realized they are aware of. They think a great deal about the world around them and don't want to be talked down to. It's the marketers' job to stop making assumptions about what tween girls want and instead, ask them.

Tween girls will answer loud and clear, and marketers will be able to make better decisions as a result. They have voices. They want to use them. We simply need to give them the platforms to be heard.

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3 comments about "Stop Thinking For Tween Girls".
  1. Bobbie Carlton from Carlton PR & Marketing , March 17, 2009 at 9:10 p.m.

    Hi Denise,

    Good piece! Just wanted to jump in on one item -- #2 -- we all have to remember that just because the media has declared a specific social medium "hot" doesn't mean kids are using it. Or that it is appropriate for kids. Twitter asks users to declare they are older than 13 when they sign up for an account (although it doesn't do this in an neutral manner like a COPPA-compliant site should. Maybe they think it doesn't appeal to kids.)

    With all of the media attention for Twitter (the fastest growing social media tool, I even see Twitter mentions on the funny pages), maybe it is time for Twitter to institute a new sign-up form which asks for age and turns away the younger kids who shouldn't be there. Do it BEFORE they start to arrive in droves.

    And marketers, if you want to reach tween girls via Twitter, forget it, period, not just for now. Twitter is a site for kids over 13.

  2. Wesley Day , March 19, 2009 at 12:01 a.m.

    Denise is right on the mark here. I have worked with tween companies and with tween girls in various capacities, and they are incredibly opinionated, articulate and enthusiastic about communication. They WANT to be asked their thoughts and opinions. They are typically more insightful and interested in the world around them than adults give them credit for.
    The smartest thing any marketer can do is find a way to get direct communication from the tween girls themselves rather than guess about what they are going to find interesting, or worse still, underestimate their intelligence. Thanks, Denise for the great reminder. And for providing a platform for the girls to get their thoughts across. Its a win/win for everyone.

  3. Jill Golick from Story2.OH , March 28, 2009 at 1:21 p.m.

    Great piece. But I'm not sure that making better rules for keeping kids out of Twitter (as Bobbie suggests) is a good strategy. They are on Facebook in the thousands and they will be on Twitter too soon (altho I think 12seconds.tv is a better microblog for kids). I think the key isn't to build fences to keep kids out, it's to teach them to use the social networks responsibly and safely. The title of this post is true for this as well. We need to stop thinking for these kids and equipping them with the tools, rules and resources to allow them to think for themselves.