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May 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 5
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Caught Be-Tween Promotional Lines

Manufacturers Share 10 Tips for Marketing to Tweens


“Don’t underestimate the value that tweens can find when it’s made for them and marketed for them.” Sharon John, Hasbro
Tweens are a potential nightmare for marketers. They identify with a social group, but want to be seen as individuals; desire aspirational product, but like their kid-ness; and want to be empowered, but need a safety net, General Manager Sharon John of Hasbro said at the Youth Marketing Mega Event in Huntington Beach, Calif., in late March.

TDmonthly Magazine wondered how smaller companies dealt with these dichotomies, so we also spoke with DuneCraft and B*tween Productions. The experiences of these three manufacturers yielded the following tips on finding unique ways to make your mark:

1. Respond to Buying Patterns. In the late 1990s, Hasbro noted that 8- to 12-year-olds were leaving the toy aisle and spending more money on fashion, entertainment and “real” consumer electronics. According to John, the company used newly acquired Tiger Electronics to reach that increasingly influential group of kids who “want to fit in and stand out at the same time.”

2. Research Your Target Market. “Don’t just accept what everyone else is saying. Find out for yourself,” John said. Through research, including work with a tween advisory panel, Hasbro learned characteristics of tweens that helped shape their campaigns.

3. Communicate With Your Customers. B*tween Productions sends out a bi-weekly email newsletter with games, contests and activities. “It's the major benefit of becoming a member of BSG [Beacon Street Girls],” Director of Marketing Bobbie Carlton told TDmonthly, and it occasionally includes surveys about the club.

4. Fit Your Audience. Carlton pointed out that B*tween Productions tackles the "between" nature of tweens in its "Beacon Street Girls" book series by "offering up a wide range of diverse primary characters." Though they're all 12 years old, they're designed to account for the variations in maturity levels among 9- to 13-year-olds.

5. Have an Online Presence. B*tween Productions' online components are "the key to the whole kingdom,” Carlton said. “When kids are out looking for things to do, they're often looking for things online. Hundreds of thousands visit our site every month, and many of them have never heard of the Beacon Street Girls."

6. Find New Ways to Promote. Dunecraft, known for its preschool-to-adult product lines, realized it needed a new way to target the growing tween population, so the company recently extended its online reach through an advergame marketing its Fly Trap Fiends kit. According to Owner Grant Cleveland, the Fly Trap Game offers fun facts about the carnivorous plants as well as “opportunities between levels to go visit our site.”

7. Seek Affordable Strategies. Cleveland called advergaming “a fairly inexpensive way to increase product awareness.” DuneCraft used a free trial of a listing software, Public Relations Specialist Alicia Borley explained, so the company’s current game is downloadable, free of charge, on thousands of gaming and shareware sites. “The listing is free, so you pay a one-time development cost,” Cleveland told TDmonthly.

8. Cross-Promote. "We get a lot of [online] placement … through our partnerships," Carlton said. The Internet Keep Safe Coalition is one such partnership, she noted, and A Girl’s World provided a link to the Beacon Street Girls site in exchange for BSG books.

9. Challenge Conventional Wisdom. Although the electronics market says, “If it’s not better than what’s out, it shouldn’t come out,” Hasbro utilized a downstreaming concept to successfully release Hitclips discs, the black-and-white-screened VideoNow player and cell-phone-like ChatNow Communicators. “Don’t underestimate the value that tweens can find when it’s made for them and marketed for them,” John said.

10. Be Willing to Shift Your Strategy. Hasbro had utilized a profitable downstreaming approach with three lines, but had to re-evaluate when the mp3 player debuted. Instead of releasing a Tiger Electronics version, the company partnered with the competition — launching instead i-Dog interactive speakers. Cleveland agreed that change can be good: “I don't think marketing today is something where you come up with one formula and year after year it works,” he said.



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Julie L. JonesWriter's Bio: Julie L. Jones has written articles for both newspapers and magazines. Before joining the staff of TDmonthly Magazine, she worked as a communications writer and provided editorial support for a market research company. Read more articles by this author

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