Children between the ages of eight and 14 make up the consumer market known as "tweens." There are more than 20 million kids in this age group in the United States (U.S. Census), and altogether they influence or are directly responsible for $335 billion in annual spending (Yankelovich, Nickelodeon Youth Monitor 1999). 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." Media people are hoping that by selling these kids on ideas now, they will become loyal consumers who continue to respond to their products.
According to Robbin Jaclyn, SVP of C&R Research and one of the key presenters at "Targeting Tweens," a seminar held in New York in July, spending power varies by gender, with girls spending slightly more than boys. The 2002 "Tweens and Spending" survey conducted by C&R Research’s KidzEyes Group showed that age influences spending to an even greater extent, with kids six to eight years old spending only an average of $4.12 a week compared to those 12 to 14 years old, who spend an average of $14.58 a week. Their overall average spending power (ages 8–14) is $8.87 per week.
When asked how they find out about cool new stuff, 76% of tweens reported that it was through advertising, with television advertising the most effective (70% reported TV was the main advertising vehicle that influenced them). Meanwhile, 59% said their peers inform them of cool new items, and 15% said that relatives influence purchases. The Internet (14%) and shopping in stores (10%) also influence purchases, but to a lesser extent.
With kids’ TV viewing declining and becoming more fragmented, however, advertisers have to look for other ways to reach children. Tweens spend the biggest portion of their time at school, and marketers are taking advantage of this by infiltrating the school system with product promotions. According to What! A Magazine promotional material, schools aren’t cluttered with advertising, so an advertiser’s message is more likely to stand out. What better way to target "future consumers" than in this familiar and trustworthy environment? Products can also be featured as part of lesson plans. M&Ms, for example, are apparently interdisciplinary, and have been used as the subject of a variety of lesson plans. 3rd Planet Science Kits and Experiments provide information for K-3 students on how to construct a "candygraph" for math class: "Melts in your mouth not on your graph. Count and sort M&Ms by color. Record the data on a chart, nibbling as you go…"
Tweens are very brand-oriented, requesting brand-name clothing like Nike, Adidas, and Old Navy when they shop. Nike was the most requested for both boys and girls (40% of boys and 26% of girls reported it was the brand that most appealed to them). Second most requested for boys was Nintendo (24%), and third was Adidas (12%). Second most requested for girls was Old Navy (17%), while the Gap was third (13%). Some marketers have even started producing new products aimed specifically at tweens. Examples are cruise lines that offer tweens their own program of activities, kid hair-care products, and "Big Kids Meals," like the one launched by Burger King that offers more food along with the toy.
Tweens are still attracted to toys: 36% of the 8-to-14-year-olds surveyed by C&R Research reported spending the most money on toys. In second place, gum and candy (25% of tweens reported spending here), then clothes and shoes (12%), computer and video games (11%), music (11%), and food and snacks (10%).
Pizza was the favorite food of this market by a landslide (56% of tweens claimed that if they could have their choice of anything at all to eat or drink, it would be pizza). Soda was the next favorite choice (36%), before ice cream (15%) and macaroni and cheese (10%). When at the supermarket with their parents, the purchase that tweens influenced the most was breakfast cereal (58% reported choosing the cereal that their parents buy). Next came snacks (52%) and beverages (27%). The aisle at the grocery store that tweens like the best, however, is the candy aisle (27% report that it is their favorite).
Tapping Tween Thirst
In-Zone is the company behind Bellywashers, a non-carbonated fruit drink packaged in plastic bottles featuring the heads of licensed characters such as Scooby-Doo, Spider Man and the Power Puff girls. It has targeted the 6-12 market almost exclusively, and has won big accounts with Target, Kroger and 7-11. Kathy Ver Eecke, In-Zone marketing VP said the launch strategy for the product focused on advertising in-store and at point-of-sale. It also worked directly with the target audience.
"You have to listen to kids and you have to answer them," she said. "That’s the key to developing brand loyalty here. We introduce new products every quarter and we let kids know that the Scooby-Doo bottle in stores now, won’t be there in a year."
The company has assembled a BellyWashers Kids Board. Kids Board members, hailing from 10 different states and ranging from 8-12 years old, were chosen by In-Zone Brands in a national search/application process earlier this spring. The Kids Board serves as a mini business unit within the BellyWashers marketing team, helping the company develop a signature line of BellyWashers beverages and acting as ambassadors for the BellyWashers brand in their own hometowns by organizing kid-focused community service events. Next spring, one member of the Board will receive the BellyWashers Best $5,000 Scholarship to further his/her education.
The Kids Board worked as a team to help In-Zone Brands update the line for next summer’s 2nd edition release. (Every BellyWashers bottle design is retired and refreshed after one year on store shelves). Board members will cast their first vote on the 2nd edition line at the Summer Summit, and will communicate with the company for the rest of their term through a password-protected website.