Meet the “tweens,” the moniker that media and advertising applied to the high dollar, ages eight to 14 set. They may be too young to have an income, but they’ve got purchasing power, courtesy of two working parents or doting grandparents.
Estimates peg this group – formerly known as preteens – at 27 to 30 million strong. Packaged Facts, a market research company, forecasts that aggregate spending by tweens is expected to reach nearly $41 billion by 2005, with 8 to 11-year-olds spending $14.6 billion and 12 to 14-year-olds spending nearly $26.4 billion.
Current toy marketing targets boys up to age eight, a dramatic shift from the age 12 cut-off that baby boomer marketing followed. Now it’s commonly held that eight is the age when boys begin losing interest in toys like action figures and gravitate toward electronics and video games. Psychologists call this tendency for kids to abandon playing with traditional toys at a faster pace than previous generations “age compression” or KGOY (kids getting older younger).
In response to this shift in interest, marketers are increasingly targeting boy tweens in response to their love of the video and gaming industry. Tween boys want products that have an electronic, Internet, video or sports component; and there’s a premium for portable toys and electronics because most tweens spend time traveling to after-school activities.
Tweens are in a hurry to grow up, and above all, they want what’s cool and they want to fit in with their circle of friends. And what exactly is the elusive cool product? This puzzle certainly can keep many retailers awake at night. But one thing’s for certain: celebrity endorsements are golden in the tween industry.
According to a 2003 survey by Buzzback, LLC, a New York-based market research firm, younger tween boys were more likely to say brands used by famous people are cool. Seeing their favorite TV, music and athletic idols using a brand made 72 percent of tweens surveyed more likely to want to use it.
Unlike their teen counterparts, girls do not yet influence tween boys’ buying. Many tweens are embarrassed by romance. They are not captivated by the love interest sub-story of action movies, for example. Instead, they want lights, camera, action, power and movement. Expect to see tween boys in the electronic section of department stores, playing with video-game consoles such as Xbox, GameCube or PlayStation2.
Although tween boys are easily influenced, they do their fair share of influencing as well. From computers to cars, the MediaDaily News reported in April that male tweens influence $145 billion in bigger-ticket purchases. Tween boys’ relationship with their parents is not lacking in power of the purse – the voice of the hip and cool child isn’t always silenced during deliberations over the next SUV or entertainment center purchase. Tweens don’t mind asking their parents to foot a $100 bill for the latest Nikes. It only goes to prove that Tweens may not be able to drive, but their constant requests for the latest cool product can surely drive their parents crazy!