Market Focus: Tweens
The Between Market
To be a “tween” is to be part child and part teen. This is an adventurous and often challenging time for pre-adolescents who are becoming more self-aware and starting to reach for more independence.
But it’s important to remember that the word tween is a marketing term used to help define this audience, explains Kristen Harmeling, partner, Yankelovich Youth MONITOR/Yankelovich MONITOR, a New York marketing consultancy specializing in lifestyle trends and customer-targeting solutions.
You won’t find tween listed as a developmental stage, says Harmeling.
As such, one marketer’s definition of a tween can differ slightly from another’s. For example, Harmeling offers, an electronics marketer might characterize tweens as children between the ages of 12 and 15, while a snack food company might classify 8-year-olds to 12-year-olds as tweens.
On the whole, most marketers agree that tweens fall somewhere between 8 and 12 years of age. For the purposes of this article, that’s the measure we’ll use as a basis for comparison.
How Big Is the Market?
According to the most recent U.S. Census, the tween market numbers 20.9 million.
And while the majority of this group has yet to start doing odd jobs, such as mowing yards and baby-sitting, to earn income, it still wields a considerable amount of spending power. The 2003 Yankelovich Youth MONITOR study—based on interviews with 748 8-year-olds to 12-year-olds—reports $20 billion in annual income for tweens. They receive this money from gifts, allowances, extra spending money given by a parent (for, say, going to the movies) and payments for picking up extra chores around the house.
In addition, tweens greatly influence household spending, says Tracy Donohue, director of sales and marketing, Mal Dunn Associates Inc., a list brokerage and management firm in Brewster, NY. This influence represents another $170 billion in spending power, according to research conducted by one of Mal Dunn’s clients that serves the tween market.
What Makes Them Tick?
The beauty of this age group, says Harmeling, is that while they are already starting to think about college, they still have the freedom to be little kids.
The products and services that will appeal to this market are those that help tweens define themselves. The Youth MONITOR study, Harmeling points out, shows a big jump in brand preference between 6-year-olds and 7-year-olds, underscoring that tweens will only continue to become more brand-conscious.
Donohue notes that while books and music appeal to most tweens, girls skew toward apparel, beauty products and magazines, and boys are more interested in electronics and games.
Apparel is always a draw for girls, but boys are showing more interest in clothing these days, says Harmeling.
Another important characteristic to know about tweens is their comfort with technology. Today, this market has access to much of the technology that teens and adults use, such as e-mail, the Internet and cell phones.
“This group is definitely savvy about the Internet,” says Donohue. Tweens use the Web to research products and services that interest them … and their families.
In fact, 62 percent of tweens are online, says Harmeling, and according to the 2003 Youth MONITOR, of these, 29 percent say their parents have asked them to research products and services online.
The familiarity of this market with the online environment and parents’ tendencies to draw all family members into household purchasing decisions parlays into tweens having input on everything from which restaurants to frequent and what movies to see, to what cars to buy, and even what clothing styles parents should wear.
Marketing to Tweens
As for media preferences, tweens have not yet begun to change their viewing habits, explains Harmeling. “They’re still primarily watching the same kids’ channels and reading true children’s magazines,” such as SI for Kids and Nickelodeon, she says.
Understandably, because of this group’s age range, there is no such thing as direct marketing to tweens. Lists for the tween market typically are slugged at the household level or to the “parents of” the tween.
“There is a lot of heightened sensitivity to marketing to this audience,” says Harmeling, “so the safest approach is to talk to the tween’s family as a unit.”
You can use demographics, geographics and psychographics on the parents of tween children to more accurately target this market, says Harmeling. By looking at the parents’ education level, the magazines they subscribe to and their hobbies, for example, you can get an idea of their lifestyle and thus the lifestyle of the tween.
And don’t forget grandparents and other gift-givers who buy for tweens, says Donohue. This strategy works well for catalogers and education-related marketers.