Tweens Take Over: Y Generation is the
Wunderkind of Brand Marketing
By Paul A. Paterson
Since the 1960s, baby boomers have been credited for driving many sectors
of the economy. Now, as this demographic ages, marketers may have found
a new engine, the Tween market, that will drive the economy throughout
the next half century. Generally defined as children between the ages
of 8 and 14, Tweens are ready to become as influential as their boomer
parents by all estimates.
The subject of a flurry of books over the last five years, Tween spending
is pegged in the billions of dollars. Research by the Canadian television
network YTV cited purchasing power in that country alone
totaling $1.8 billion, with projected increases of 10 percent each year.
Reyne Rice of the research firm NPDFunworld credits Tween
spending with bringing $3 billion of new money to the marketplace.
Author and consultant Anne Sutherland believes Tweens are much more than
simple cash cows. They are sophisticated, savvy and influential.
“Tweens have been raised as consumers,” said Sutherland, co-author of
the book Kidfluence: The Marketer’s Guide to Understanding and Reaching
Generation Y—Kids, Tweens and Teens and partner of the consulting
firm Planning Ahead Inc. “Their buying behavior will
be important as they become adults because they are part of the new North
American population bulge. Their size alone will impact the marketplace.”
This impact, Sutherland notes, comes in two ways. Thanks to allowances,
birthday money, generous grandparents and other sources, Tweens have a
significant disposable income of their own. Secondly, Tweens influence
family spending patterns both subtly and directly every day.
“They are a very vocal group,” Rice said. “They tell you exactly what
they do and don’t want. Parents don’t want to buy something their kids
“Families are busy and kids are being involved in things more and more,”
Rice continued. “They influence the family car, what food you are going
to buy. Families decide where they want to go on vacation together.”
Rice believes some of this consumer culture is behavior learned from parents.
“It’s also everybody’s love of gadgets,” she said. “Teens and Tweens see
their parents getting new gadgets and they want new gadgets too.”
“As long as we live in a commercial, consumer oriented society, not surprisingly,
they will act in a commercial, consumer oriented way,” agreed Paul
Kurnit, founder and president of Kidshop.
And Sutherland argues it goes beyond gadgets.
“Our research shows that over 60 percent of Tween boys make their own
choices for fast food and over 70 percent of boys and girls at age 13
make their own clothing choices,” she said.
Companies are learning to exploit the Tween group by building identification
at a much earlier age than ever before, Sutherland says.
“General Motors believes that boys under 10 know what cars they want to
drive when they graduate to driving status,” she said. “Banks who encourage
Tweens to deposit and invest with them will benefit as the Tweens age
and their financial needs expand. Clothing retailers are looking for ways
to grow with their Tween base to capture their style dollars as teens
and young adults.
This branding is something Kurnit believes to be a very strong marketing
“Brand is very powerful with kids, and if you can build brand, you can
build price,” he says. “I think you want to get to them when they’re eight
or nine. You want to get to them at the cusp of Tweendom.”
This long-term loyalty is something Sutherland believes is critical to
“Companies who develop a positive relationship with this group will be
better positioned for future success,” she said.
Most marketers agree that the rise of Tweens is indeed much more than
a fad, and that they will continue to be an important target for marketing
“I think they have much more influence at an earlier age, and they can
wield that power,” Rice said. “And they are going to continue doing that
throughout their lives. They are learning to be savvy consumers and that
is going to be very important.”
Writer's Bio: Paul A. Paterson is a freelance writer
living and working in Southern Ontario. He has worked for, among other
publications, an Ontario based family magazine and a start-up online service.
His household includes four children, three cats, a dog and one wife.