Capture The Elusive Tween Market

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, September 25, 2009
Tweens. They're not young children anymore. Nor are they teens. But, please, don't call them "Tweens." Kids aged 8 to 12 see themselves as teen wannabees. Besides, they dislike being called Tweens.

Marketers have increasingly focused on this demographic for good reason. Between their own growing purchasing power, and the influence they exert on family purchases, Tweens account for a staggering $240+ billion in spending. Peers have enormous influence, of course, but parents and guardians are still the gatekeepers, although Tweens are acquiring more freedom and more input into their choices.

The skinny: Tweens are very brand-conscious, highly impressionable, and use favorite brands to define themselves. Tweens favorite category purchases include food, music, fashion, entertainment, toys and games.

Reaching Tweens isn't hard; this demographic responds favorably to traditional media, including TV, radio, and age-appropriate magazines. However, the Internet and cell phones are rapidly becoming Tweens' favorite communications platforms. Reaching Tweens with marketing messages isn't hard, but selling them is another matter.



Tweens present an interesting demographic. They have an amazing ability to multi-task. Tweens can engage in a conversation, have one eye on the TV, or their ears plugged into their favorite tunes on the iPod as they instant message friends on the Internet. These kids can do many things simultaneously, including their homework, without skipping a beat.

Since they're growing up in a media-rich environment, Tweens are adept at using more features on the Internet and cell phones than adults are. They love electronic communications since they are highly interactive and offer a quick, easy way to keep in touch with their friends. Web sites that are interactive and allow Tweens to have control over their own experiences, giving them maximum enjoyment and a sense of freedom, are absolute favorites.

According to researcher Millward Brown Optimor, there are six core values tweens respond and aspire to: fantasy, mastery, love, fear, stability, humor. Hence, Tweens' love of brands like Harry Potter and "American Idol"; myTego, Hasbro's Tiger Electronics, American Girl, and so on. These brands embody some, if not all, of Tweens' core values.

Hard-sell techniques are not appreciated by Tweens. In fact, that tack will result in a complete push back. When Tweens adopt brands, they'll market to their circle of friends via WOM. Word of Mouth, viral or buzz marketing is a hallmark of this demographic.

According to industry statistics, over 60% of Tweens find out about hot new brands or products from their friends, inside and outside of school. They love to experiment and try new things. New fads, trends and ideas that meet with peer approval shape their attitudes and gain acceptance. But be prepared to see these accepted trends or ideas become shaped in a manner Tweens can make their own.

Tweens respond very favorably to being able to have control over, or being able to create, their own experiences. Mass personalization enables them to take control of brands and truly make them their own. "Mass customization" is nothing new, of course. Yet, for this specific demographic, the concept especially resonates. Business models that cater to mass personalization are a hit with Tweens, including myTego, American Girl and Build-A-Bear.

By specifically gearing brands for them in a relevant and authentic manner, and marketing them as "just for you", companies find acceptance for their products with Tweens. When companies acknowledge who Tweens are, respect their intelligence, wants and needs, Tweens will return the favor by becoming true brand adherents.

Remember: the key to success when marketing to Tweens is to let them define what their brand experiences will be, rather than trying to deliver the experiences as companies think they should be. This generation of Tweens has learned how to create their own experiences - in their online and offline lives, and they expect to be able to personalize their brands, as well.

Letting tweens adopt brands as they wish to, making them an integral part of their lives turns them into brand ambassadors. And that is the most desirable kind of marketing for any company trying to reach this active, multi-tasking, totally connected demographic.

1 comment about "Capture The Elusive Tween Market ".
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  1. Mickey Lonchar from Quisenberry, September 28, 2009 at noon

    Ted, your last two paragraphs could serve as a course syllabus for the new approach to marketing: invite consumers to define their own brand experiences and allow them to adopt brands that help define who they are.

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